United go into the quarter final tie with Chelsea having the rare feeling of being the underdogs in many people’s eyes. The bookies seem to favour the West Londoners, with the average odds being around 2/1 on them to go through, while United are priced around 9/4.
Quite why a team that sits top of the league, has been there done that and bought the t-shirt in the Champions League, should be underdogs against a side who’ve only ever reached the final once-where they were beaten by the Reds is beyond me.
Not that I’m complaining about United being less fancied than their London counterparts as being underdogs could well work in our favour, it just strikes me as a little strange that a club who’ve yet to win the competition and are enduring their worst season in seven years, are favourites.
Scanning through this morning’s newspapers, it seems almost all of the so called ‘experts’ feel the bookies have it right. Here’s a selection of what the pundits had to say:
David Pleat :
“Chelsea have the power but have been underperforming lately. The superstitious will point to this being an opportunity to gain revenge for Moscow. But United do have the comfort of the second leg at Old Trafford. Squad strength will be key.
“United will need Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand available, whereas Carlo Ancelotti will be seeking to generate more threat from his front men.
“They will certainly need to be far less wasteful than they have been since Fernando Torres joined the club. The manager must also settle upon a forward partnership. By the time the second leg approaches, Torres should have regained form so Sir Alex will need Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to be perfectly rested and fighting fit. Yet it should be noted that this competition provides Ancelotti with his only remaining opportunity to secure silverware this season. An intriguing tie awaits.”
Verdict Chelsea to win 2-1 on agg
“An all-English tie to savour but, with Inter or Schalke awaiting the winners in the last four, there is much more at stake than national pride. I am with most in believing the winners of this clash will progress to the final.
“The players and staff at both clubs will be thinking this too, even if they do not admit it publicly, and that will crank up the tension even more.
2Both teams were far from spectacular in booking their last-eight berths, but nobody could ever accuse them of being ineffective and they have experience of competing on this stage.
“No more so than on that rainy night in Moscow in 2008 when United beat Chelsea on penalties in the final to win their third European Cup and continue their decent record against domestic rivals.
“That was the closest Chelsea have come to lifting the trophy that has become their holy grail and they will be gunning for revenge.
“Neither have set the world alight this season, but Wayne Rooney is returning to form for United and Chelsea’s £50million signing Fernando Torres has previous against the Red Devils and will surely come good soon.
“Yet, despite the attacking prowess that will be on show, I think it will be the defences that ultimately decide this showdown, which is a 50-50 call.
“Just one mistake or lapse in concentration could make the difference, but with Chelsea fast improving, I’ll go with them.
“MY PREDICTION: Blues to scrape through.”
Brian Woolnough writing for The Star:
“Chelsea’s focus this season has always been the Champions League. They have never won it and believe it’s their destiny before an aging squad is broken up in the Summer.
“How incredible it would be for captain John Terry to be given back the England armband and lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley in the space of three months.
“Terry remians haunted by his missed penalty in the shoot-out at the 2008 final in Russia that robbed his side of victory and handed United their triumph.
“He said: “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that penalty.”
“Sir Alex Ferguson is just as keen to to get to Wembley. The United manager knows he hasn’t won the Champions League enough (twice) with the teams he has built, although I just think Chelsea will be too strong for them over the two legs. “
Being the underdogs in the eyes of the media and former managers is no great surprise really as many of them live in and love all things West London and would be ecstatic if Chelsea were to knock United out.
As Fergie and United have proven time and time again, no matter what the odds and what the pundits say, more often than not it’s us who are left smiling.
“We’ll keep the red flag flying high…….”
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