Man Utd and Arsenal one step closer to Rome

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
The Champions League final will take place in Rome at the Stadio Olimpico

The Champions League final will take place in Rome at the Stadio Olimpico

There is no doubt that Chelsea will be energised by the prospect of inflicting revenge on Manchester United for what happened in Moscow last May, but there is also little doubt that most will expect the Champions League final in Rome to be a showdown between Manchester United and Barcelona.

There will be at least one English side in the Champions League final for the fifth year running.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliant 40-yard strike sealed United’s progression into the semis – a goal worthy of winning any game and enough to give the Red Devils a narrow 3-2 aggregate win.

And despite going through nervy patches against Villarreal, Arsenal – with only one first-choice centre back available and both full backs missing – eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory in north London.

On Tuesday, Chelsea were almost on the receiving end of another magical European display from Liverpool as the visitors to Stamford Bridge stormed into a 2-0 lead in the first half. Sadly for the Merseysiders, strikes from Drogba and Alex levelled the scoring in the second. Steven Gerrard and John Terry were mere spectators to this gripping encounter – it must have been an emotional rollercoaster for both.

And Barcelona’s 1-1 draw in Munich secured a 5-1 aggregate win over the German side, meaning that the Spanish giants will have to overcome Chelsea if they are to play in Rome.

According to the latest odds, the favourites to make the Champions League final in May will be Man Utd and Barcelona at 13-8, with a repeat of last year’s Moscow showdown between United and Chelsea at 11-4.

Arsenal and Chelsea will of course first be looking to secure a place in the FA Cup Final at Wembley as the two sides meet on Saturday. It is the first time that the Gunners have played at the new Wembley, and with their current run of form, Arsenal fans will feel that Wenger’s young guns have a big chance against their London rivals.

Manchester United will play Everton on Sunday in the other FA Cup semi ahead of a return to League action when they tackle Portsmouth at Old Trafford on Wednesday – once again they play after Liverpool who face Arsenal at Anfield the night before.

One knows that we are approaching the end of the season when Champions League fixtures begin to once again kick-off with fading sunlight still glimmering above the grounds. So April is a busy month in football. It’s all about making it through to be in with a shout for it in May – the month when the trophies are finally dished out.

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