There are several notable absentees from this week’s intriguingly poised return legs in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, with Wayne Rooney, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin, Lisandro Lopez and Milos Krasic all sitting it out.
After keeping a clean sheet in last week’s first leg at home, Inter Milan will fancy their chances of advancing against CSKA Moscow, and Lyon look well placed to do the same against Ligue 1 rivals Bordeaux. Bayern Munich have a slender lead to defend at Old Trafford, albeit without Rooney to worry about, while Arsenal have a daunting assignment ahead of them in Barcelona.
FIFA.com looks ahead to the four ties as the quarter-finals come to a conclusion in Europe’s premier club competition.
The fixtures (first leg scores in brackets)
Tuesday 6 April
CSKA Moscow-Inter Milan (0-1)
Wednesday 7 April
Manchester United-Bayern Munich (1-2)
Match of the day
Manchester United-Bayern Munich, Old Trafford, 20.45
In majestic form up until a few days ago, Manchester United suddenly find themselves in danger of ending the season with a whimper. After going down to Ivica Olic’s last-minute winner in Munich last week, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side then lost 2-1 to championship rivals Chelsea, relinquishing the lead in the process. That defeat makes Wednesday’s return with the Germans all the more important, though they will have to overturn the one-goal deficit without their talismanic top scorer Wayne Rooney.
Bayern, who are chasing a return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2001, have altogether better injury news, with both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben set to return. The Bavarians should also be brimming with confidence after overcoming fellow Bundesliga contenders Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday, a result that allowed them to take over at the top of the table once more. Even the statistics are against the English giants. In the last three seasons, only once has a team managed to come from behind in the quarter-finals after losing the first leg.
The other matches
Barcelona-Arsenal: Arsenal’s gutsy second-half recovery at the Emirates has given them something to fight for, though their task has been made infinitely harder by injuries to Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas and Andrey Arshavin and the continued absence of Robin van Persie. Despite those handicaps, the Gunners stayed in the league title race with a stoppage-time win over Wolves at the weekend and are still hopeful of snatching a surprise result at the Camp Nou.
Despite injury problems of their own, Barcelona warmed up for Arsenal’s visit by strolling to a 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao. Pep Guardiola has the luxury of calling on Gabriel Milito and Yaya Toure as cover for suspended centre-halves Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, though the loss through injury of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the scorer of both Barça goals in the first leg, may prove harder to compensate for. That said Andres Iniesta will be making his return in the midfield, raising Barcelona’s hopes of killing the tie off quickly and thereby conserving their energy for Saturday’s winner-takes-all Liga meeting with Real Madrid.
Bordeaux-Lyon: Bordeaux’s season has taken a sudden turn for the worse. Beaten 3-1 by Marseille in the French League Cup final, they then lost by the same scoreline to Lyon in the first leg of their quarter-final before slumping to a 2-1 home defeat to Nancy in the league, which cost them their Ligue 1 leadership. So far this year the French champions have dropped 12 points out of a possible 21 at home in the league, which hardly bodes well as they bid to become the first side in six years to overhaul a two-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League.
On the bright side for Laurent Blanc’s team Lyon will have to make do without their Argentinian goalscorer, Lisandro Lopez, who is suspended, while stalwart Sidney Govou is also out. Boosted by their 2-1 win over Rennes at the weekend, Les Gones are nevertheless confident of claiming a place in the last four for the first time ever.
CSKA Moscow-Inter Milan: Inter have perhaps done the hardest part by not conceding an away goal to a CSKA side that had scored on every one of their away days this season, including trips to Manchester United and Sevilla. Under pressure to attack, CSKA could well leave gaps for the Italians, spearheaded by an increasingly sharp Samuel Eto’o, to exploit.
The Russian representatives will be hampered by the absence of two key players in Milos Krasic and Evgeni Aldonin, while Inter will be welcoming back central-defensive mainstays Lucio and Thiago Motta.
Player to watch
Theo Walcott’s entrance in the first leg against Barcelona helped breathe new life into Arsenal’s flagging challenge and give them a chance in the return. With his incisive and direct running, the speedy young winger punched holes in the Azulgrana rearguard and played an instrumental part in Arsenal levelling a tie that looked out of their reach. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ just weeks away now, the youngster has given himself every opportunity to earn a place in Fabio Capello’s 23-man England squad.
25 - The number of times Barcelona have qualified for European semi-finals in their history (11 times in the Champions League semis, six in the Cup Winners’ Cup and eight in the UEFA Cup). Should the Catalans beat Arsenal, they will move level with Real Madrid, who have reached more semi-finals than any other club in Europe.
What they said
“This is not a one-man team. Wayne Rooney has had a fantastic season obviously, and he’s an incredible player, one of the best in the world. But we have to believe in ourselves and believe in our team-mates. When you have some players missing the others have to be ready,” Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov
Have your say
Will the semi-final line-up feature any English teams?