England’s quartet lead charge in Champions League

March 10th, 2009 - 1:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Hamburg, March 10 (DPA) England could have four teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League if the Premier League quartet can match their first-leg performances in this week’s return games.
None of England’s four - Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal - conceded a goal in their first-leg matches, but both Chelsea and Arsenal take narrow 1-0 leads to Italy.

However the last 16 remains in the balance, with four Spanish sides and Italy’s trio still strongly fancying their chances. Only German champions Bayern Munich look comfortable after a 5-0 demolition of Sporting Lisbon two weeks ago in Portugal.

Liverpool also have to protect a 1-0 advantage when nine-time European champions Real Madrid are the visitors to Anfield, while holders Manchester United renew the battle against Italian league leaders Inter Milan at Old Trafford following a goalless first leg.

The same English quartet also reached the quarter-finals last season, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are seeking to reach the semi-finals for a third successive season.

United are upbeat after Saturday’s 4-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Fulham, but centre-back Rio Ferdinand is a doubt for Wednesday’s match after turning his ankle.

If he is unavailable, Jonny Evans will return alongside Nemanja Vidic, who missed the first leg through suspension. John O’Shea is also a concern after coming off against Fulham with a hamstring problem.

United impressed in the first leg in Milan without managing to find the net, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest problem is deciding who not to pick.

“My biggest concern is picking the right team and I’m leaving out great players all the time and that is not easy for me,” he said.

Defensive mainstay Walter Samuel is due back for Inter after a long absence, but defenders Nicolas Burdisso and defender Marco Materazzi are doubts after taking knocks at the weekend.

Liverpool hope striker Fernando Torres will have recovered from an ankle injury to face Real Madrid on Tuesday. Torres sustained the injury in Liverpool’s first-leg victory at the Bernabeu, and has not played since, but his rehabilitation has progressed well.

“He is working hard with the physios and we now have two or three more training sessions before we have to make a decision,” manager Rafael Benitez said.

Real were fortunate to come away with a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Saturday, but go to Anfield in optimistic mood as they seek a first quarter-final place since 2004.

Portugal defender Pepe, who missed the derby through suspension, said: “Everything will be different in Anfield, because I do not believe that Liverpool will be so defensive as they were here.”

Spanish league leaders Barcelona seem better placed at home to French champions Olympique Lyon after a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but Atletico Madrid and Villarreal have difficult away trips.

Atletico were held to a 2-2 draw by Porto, while Villarreal are up against Greek side Panathinaikos following a 1-1 draw at home.

The Italy-England duels continue with last season’s losing finalists Chelsea at Juventus Tuesday, and Arsenal travelling to Roma Wednesday.

Forward Nicolas Anelka and midfielder Deco are injury doubts for Chelsea who have won each of their five games under Guus Hiddink, while Juve have lost midfielder Mohamed Sissoko to a foot fracture.

Former Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri may choose an attacking trio of captain Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Vincenzo Iaquinta, with Brazilian Amauri ready to come on.

“Chelsea are the favourites, but we are not giving up,” Ranieri said.

“When they play away, English sides are not as efficient as at home, even though things have changed and Hiddink is a master of tactics.”

Germany’s Bayern - fresh from a 5-1 win over Hanover - are likely to ring the changes against Sporting Tuesday after midfielder Hamit Altintop (calf muscle tear) joined Franck Ribery (shin), Luca Toni (Achilles tendon) and Tim Borowski (hamstring) on the injury list.

“It looks a formality on paper, but it’s not. We can take nothing for granted,” Klinsmann told the club’s television site FCB.tv.

“It’s the kind of match where we can have a look at one or two players, and that’s what we’ll do, although we won’t overdo the rotation. I want to maintain the flow.”

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