Last week’s action saw Manchester United, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Lyon make their way safely through to the quarter finals. Tonight two more teams will be added to the list as Chelsea take on Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow and Sevilla do battle.
Chelsea v Inter Milan (Agg 1:2)
Everybody knows Mourinho doesn’t lose at Stamford Bridge – Jose Mourinho
Following his dismissal in 2007, Jose Mourinho, never shy of referring to himself in the third person, makes his long awaited return to the Bridge as an opposing manager tonight as he brings Inter Milan to within ninety minutes of a last eight spot in this years Champions League. Mourinho’s welcome at the ground he used call home will be warm, both from playing staff and fans alike. During his time there, the Portuguese manager brought in two league titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and a Charity Shield whilst also making Chelsea essentially unbeatable on their home patch.
There is a lot of feeling that the self-proclaimed “Special One” still feels jilted by Chelsea and that his heart is still with the club. On his way to a press conference this morning Mourinho, in his own inimitable style of likeable arrogance and barefaced cheek, stopped by a cabinet where a staff member has repeatedly hidden a packet of custard creams for himself over the years. Rifling through the cupboard, he eventually pulled out the biscuits and began to eat them throughout the conference, stopping after answering each question to pop another in his mouth. Although surreal, the incident provided further proof if needed that no one knows the workings of the club quite like he does, a fact that he also hinted toward later as he sneakily made reference to Chelsea’s meagre trophy haul since his departure.
Mourinho has been relatively successful at Inter, like his time at Stamford Bridge, he has made the San Siro a fortress and based his two Serie A titles upon their dominance on their home turf. Despite these two league titles however, Mourinho may well be forced to nervously look over his shoulder should his side see their lead overturned tonight. His predecessor at Inter, Roberto Mancini was sacked despite winning three titles in a row, domestic success it seems is far from enough to satisfy Massimo Moratti and a demanding Inter boardroom.
If Inter are to hold on to their advantage tonight, a big improvement from their recent form will be required. The Nerazzuri have won just once in six games and have watched their eigh point lead at the top of Serie A disintegrate to a single point. The club have also failed to win any of their last nine Champions League knockout games away from home meaning that progression tonight is far from guaranteed, especially since Chelsea have netted in each of their last twelve European home games.
Carlo Ancelotti has been thorough in neutralizing the hype Mourinho’s retun has resulted in, claiming it will have absolutely no effect on his players. Like his opposing manager tonight, Ancelotti fully understands the importance of European success for his club and more so the implications that failure to gain it will likely bring. His side will feel hard done by following the result from the first leg, but the Italian will be confident that his side showed enough about them that night to feel that they will be able to overcome their opponents tonight. The Blues need only to scoe once and keep a clean sheet in order to progress, ironically it was this very scoreline that became like a trademark to Mourinho’s time there.
As always, Didier Drogba will be a key man for Chelsea. The Ivorian was excellently bottled up by Lucio and Walter Samuel in the first leg, something that few defences have been able to manage but to do it all over again for another ninety minutes will be a tough ask. For Inter, Diego Milito, who opened the scoring three weeks ago, may well pose their biggest threat. Amazingly, the Argentinan has taken seven shots in this years competition, each of them finding the net.
Chelsea will remain without Petr Cech, who picked up a muscle injury in the first leg and third choice goalkeeper Ross Turnbull will continue in goal seeing as henrique Hilario has also been ruled out. Aside from that Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns.
Inter Milan face also face no new concerns but will be without young striker Mario Balotelli having been left behind on “tactical grounds”. More than likely there is a story behind this, especially since the relationship between the striker and the club’s management and fans has been anything but rosey.
Sevilla v CSKA Moscow (Agg 1:1)
Regardless of the outcome of this tie, history is set to be made tonight as one of these two clubs will enter the quarter final stage of the Champions League for the first time in their history.
The sides could not be separated three weeks ago as a second half strike from CSKA midfielder Mark Gonzalez cancelled out Alvaro Negredo’s opener.
Sevilla hold the upper hand in the tie, having bagged an all important away goal and welcoming opponents who have only just kicked off their domestic season following the Russian winter to a ground where they have won all but one of their last seven European ties. They have also been boosted by the availability of star striker Luis Fabiano (pictured, right), who played last weekend’s game against Deportivo la Coruna in La Liga.
Despite the fact that CSKA have not kept a clean sheet in their last fifteen games in Europe, they may well take heart in the fact that they have never been beaten by Spanish opposition (two wins, two draws).