Clubs out to spoil all-England Champions League finalApril 1st, 2008 - 12:37 pm ICT by admin
Hamburg, April 1 (DPA) English football fans are already excited about the prospect of an all-England Champions League final, but at least four clubs are hoping to prevent that from happening. England are assured of one team in the semi-finals after the draw for the quarter-final pitted Liverpool against Arsenal, but German club Schalke 04, Spanish giants Barcelona, Serie A club Roma and Turkish outsiders Fenerbahce are hoping to spoil the English party.
Schalke, who have never progressed this far in the competition, go into their clash Tuesday against Barcelona as underdogs - a fact that does not worry defender Christian Pander.
“I will prepare as if it was just any Bundesliga game. I do not care about the names on the shirts. The most important thing is that we win,” he said.
For Barcelona, the game in Gelsenkirchen will offer an opportunity to make amends for a disappointing 2-3 defeat against Real Betis in the Spanish league on the weekend, a result that has put coach Frank Rijkaard’s future with the club in jeopardy.
Another man in the eye of the storm is technical director Txiki Begiristain, most of whose signings have proved to be a flop.
Begiristian told TV-3 Sunday night that “we are worried about the inconsistency of the team”. He denied that Rijkaard had offered his resignation and said that he would like the Dutchman to continue.
The good news for the embattled coach is that defenders Rafa Marquez and Gabriel Milito are fit again.
However, wayward Brazilians Ronaldinho and Deco will not make the trip, both continuing to claim injuries that the club doctors fail to see.
Striker Samuel Eto’o will travel to Gelsenkirchen, though a pulled muscle in his left calf means that he will be touch-and-go until right before the match.
The last remaining Italian club in the competition Roma, face Manchester United Tuesday in a replay of last year’s quarter-final. Then Roma won 2-1 at home, but were slaughtered 1-7 in Manchester.
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti said that his players needed to find the qualities that they showed while twice beating Real Madrid in the last round.
“Roma exalted themselves against Real Madrid and will have to do the same with the Red Devils.
“These are particular games, when players can give a little more than what they have inside, because there is great participation and expectation.”
Spalletti, however, will face United without captain Francesco Totti, who injured himself on the weekend and could even be out for the return leg.
The Premiership is assured of having at least one team in the round of the last four as Arsenal and Liverpool face each other at the Emirates Stadium Wednesday in a competition that probably provides both clubs with the only chance at silverware this season.
Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez believes the tie is wide open.
“When you play a ‘local’ team in the European Cup it is a test of character. We know we can do it, but who wants it the most?” he said.
“We know each other well, so there are two things which will make the difference - the quantity of the mental strengths available in the teams and how well the players who can make a decision perform.”
The other game Wednesday sees Chelsea travel to Istanbul for a difficult task against Fenerbahce.
Turkish winger Ugur Boral is confident that his side can spring an upset. “We are talented, fit and strong, so there is no reason for us to fail,” he told uefa.com
The return legs will be played April 8 and 9, with the final scheduled for Moscow May 21.