English trio can look forward to Champions League draw with optimism
Wednesday night saw the curtain fall on the second round of the Champions League and English fans can breathe easy with three sides still in contention for glory at Wembley. Once again English sides are on song in club football's biggest competition and this writer believes there is every reason for them to look forward to the quarter-finals, regardless of where they might be playing.
Looking first at the situation on the King's Road, Chelsea may not be firing on all cylinders at present but the situation is far from bleak. The increased focus following the mega-bucks arrival of Fernando Torres has seen the club's strike force come under pressure. Since El Niño made his switch to south London, Nicolas Anelka's double strike in Copenhagen are the only goals bagged by a Blues striker. It may not sound like a bed of roses at Stamford Bridge, but the positives are certainly there if you want to see them.
While Didier Drogba and Anelka may not have displayed their predatory instincts on Wednesday, the signs were there that the partnership is still highly effective. They linked well throughout with the Ivorian dropping deeper and knowing exactly where to play the ball to find his partner – bombing on and playing off the last man. Torres adds another equation to the Chelsea conundrum and although there will be calls for him to justify his price tag, Carlo Ancelotti already has a strong partnership at his disposal if he opts for two strikers.
Across London at White Hart Lane, it was an efficient if unspectacular performance from Harry Redknapp's men last week to see off Milan. Redknapp is of course highly ambitious and will not take kindly to the notion of Spurs making up the numbers, but come what may in the next round, his side can look back on what has thus far been a truly memorable campaign. Reaching the semi-finals would be incredible but even if the Tottenham story ends in the quarters, they will take their bow with heads held high.
The situation at Old Trafford seems to be somewhat of a contrast. Injuries plague Sir Alex's Ferguson's backline with the news on Rio Ferdinand not proving positive. The inclusion of Chris Smalling on Tuesday is testament not just to the youngster's meteoric rise, but also to just how stretched United are at the back. However, while Edwin van der Sar may lack in protection just in front of him, he can rest assured that there are goals to be scored further up the field. The return to form of Wayne Rooney could prove crucial for the Red Devils but more intriguing is the emergence of a fine talent in Javier Hernández. Relatively unknown in England before his summer move, “Chicharito” is proving to be one of the bargains of the season - quickly finding his feet not just domestically but also on the European front. He may not be the finished product yet, but a striker on form is a dangerous weapon and the Mexican could cause any defence problems on his day.
This morning’s draw is sure to provide both positives and negatives for the English representatives, but each club has reason to be optimistic in the hopes of reaching Wembley in May.