Champions League Reaches Semi Final Stages

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Once again the Champions League welcomes three English Clubs to the semi finals and all three have arrived playing some of the best football of their respective seasons. Under normal circumstances, bookmakers would make an English Club winning the Trophy an ‘odds on’ bet, but such is the talent of the Barcelona team, that they are finding it difficult to take them on, therefore, it is the Spaniards who are currently favourites to win the most prestigious trophy in European football.

Barcelona under coach, Josep Guardiola, have been breaking record after record this season. They have become a goal machine, scoring five times or more in nine matches and have broken the La Liga scoring record in the process with stillseveral games remaining in the season. If Guardiola is the inspiration off the pitch, then it is surely the brilliant Argentinian, Lionel Messi, who is the inspiration on it.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United might well be officially the best player in the world, but Messi is for many the unofficial version and will undoubtedly claim the crown from Ronaldo later in the year. Messi controls the tempo of the team and it appears that everything he touches turns to gold, whether it be shooting, passing, dribbling or just space making. There has not been one team this season who has found the answer to controlling him and if one is not found soon, then Barcelona may as well be given the trophy now and none of the remaining English sides will fancy facing him or his team mates, particularly Chelsea who face barca in the Semi Finals.

Chelsea will be the first of the English teams to take on them in the forthcoming semi final. They play the first leg at Nou Camp and Barcelona have already been installed as odds on favourites to win the leg. Chelsea however, under coach Gus Hiddink are a rejuvenated outfit, with a defence that on its day is second to none. They have players of the calibre of Michael Essien, who they will place on Messi in the same way as he was placed to great affect against Steven Gerard of Liverpool in the quarter final first leg at Anfield where they won convincingly 3-1.

If Essien can negate the threat of Messi then Chelsea will be in with a great chance to shock the footballing world, particularly as their key striker, Didier Drogba and key midfielder, Frank Lampard are back to their scoring best.

In the other tie, Manchester United will take on old rivals Arsenal in a two leg all English tie that quite frankly could go either way. United, barring a little glitch last month have been the most consistent and efficient team in the Premier League this season, while Arsenal, who have been injury hit have now got back most of their key players and are on a long run of 19 unbeaten games.

Whatever the outcomes of both matches, it is fair to say that the best four teams in Europe have all justified their presence and all are extremely capable. However, it looks like Barcelona will justify the faith of the Bookmakers and win the trophy for the third time in their history. However, with five fascinating games to go, including the final in Rome on 27th May their are sure to be plenty or twists and turns and excitement for the fans.

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