Chelsea v Arsenal
Arsenal resume their Champions League crusade against a Chelsea side that have not beaten their London rivals in their last 16 encounters.
Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, is under increasing pressure to win a trophy with Chelsea this season and having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Arsenal and trailing them by nine-points in the Premiership, this tie represents the club’s only realistic hope of success.
Despite their dismal record against Arsenal, Chelsea’s Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen still believes the club can progress into the semi-finals – where they will face either Monaco or Real Madrid.
“People may find it strange but it’s true, the fact that we still believe we can beat them,’ declared Gudjohnsen.
‘And that’s a big factor, if we don’t believe we can do it we are never going to do it.”
“We’ve had three games this season and they’ve all been close. Hopefully it will be even closer and it will go our way this time.”
For Arsenal, this first leg tie at Stamford Bridge could turn out to be their hardest test en-route to an improbable treble-winning season.
Gunners boss, Arsene Wenger is confident his side can win all three trophies.
“It is a big few weeks…when you reach February you can be in or out of it,’ said Wenger.
‘But we are in a position where we cannot complain about the number of injuries we have had, we are in a good mental state, we have a good record, good attitude and good spirit.”
Wenger also believes that his side’s 3-0 defeat at home to Inter in the opening round of the Champions League has spurred his side on to prove they can be successful both domestically and in Europe.
“People said we were out of Europe because we started so badly against Inter, then we were playing against Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool,’ added Wenger.
‘People were thinking that in that one month from then the season could be over.”
Chelsea’s Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini is still out injured leaving Ranieri to choose between Marco Ambrosio or Neil Sullivan. Ambrosio, the former Chievo stopper, has performed well in the last two matches for Chelsea as Sullivan recovered from a leg injury.
Arsenal have no injury worries and as an added bonus can call upon the services of their non-flying Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp, for the short trip to Stamford Bridge.
Real Madrid v Monaco
Real Madrid’s progression to their fourth Champions League semi-final in a row, could be halted by one of their own players, Fernando Morientes.
Madrid have given permission for Morientes, currently on a season-long loan at Monaco, to play in both matches against them.
The Spanish striker has already scored five goals in seven Champions League games for the French side this season. Despite the availability of Morientes, Monaco Coach Didier Deschamps, is under no illusions of the task facing his side and cannot see his side beating the Spanish giants.
“With Real we have got the best team in Europe,’ he admitted. ‘They have great players and enormous experience. For us it will be two great matches.
‘The players must take advantage of that encounter to learn and enjoy themselves. A Monaco defeat is expected but that means there is absolutely no pressure on our players. To get any further we will need a lot of luck.”
Madrid’s Brazilian striker Ronaldo is fit to start after missing the second leg victory of Bayern Munich in the last round with a thigh injury. The Champions League record goal scorer, Raul, is doubtful due to a thigh problem while Roberto Carlos sits out the last of his two-match ban.
Monaco defender Sebastien Squillaci could return after missing five games through injury but winger Lucas Bernardi is a doubt after picking up a knock in the 1-1 draw La Ligue match against Sochaux.