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Barca-Chelsea tie tops Champions League bill
Rex Gowar | February 20, 2006 17:41 IST
Chelsea's Champions league tie with Barcelona once again pits continental coaching gurus Jose Mourinho against Frank Rijkaard in next week's showdown.
Mourinho's Chelsea, who won last season's momentous and controversial tussle in the same first knock-out round, start at home this time against favourites Barca on Wednesday.
Juventus, behind Barcelona but ahead of Chelsea in the odds from London bookmakers William Hill, should win their first ever tie against Werder Bremen as they bid to lift the European Cup for the third time. They could eventually face Barca or Chelsea.
The main focus, though, will be the Anglo-Spanish ties with Real Madrid, a lengthy 14-1 to add to their record nine wins, also meeting Premier League opposition in the shape of Arsenal.
The first ever meeting in Europe between the two historic clubs, who have suffered inconsistent domestic form this season, takes place at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.
The outcome of Chelsea's tie with Barcelona, the last winners in 1992 of the European Cup in its old format before it was changed to the Champions League, is too close to call for England midfielder Frank Lampard.
"The pitch will be full of players who are capable of changing the course of the game," Lampard, second behind Barca's Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho in last year's FIFA World Player of the Year award, said this month.
Mourinho suggested last season that the pitch was not the only place where the tie might have been decided when he accused Rijkaard and the referee of speaking to each other at halftime in Chelsea's 2-1 first leg loss at the Nou Camp.
The west London side came out on top, however, as they scored three goals in the opening 20 minutes of the second leg to absorb Barca's response and Ronaldinho's genius in scoring their memorable second goal in a 4-2 defeat.
The British-Iberian clashes are not confined to those two ties, however, with new boys Villarreal facing Rangers and holders Liverpool meeting Benfica.
Liverpool, shock winners against AC Milan last May to lift their fifth European Cup, look better equipped this season although odds of 11-1 make out them seventh in the betting behind Olympique Lyon and the two Milan teams.
Liverpool have won five and lost one of their six meetings with the Portuguese champions but they last met more than 20 years ago and the European champions will be wary now of the team that put Manchester United out in the group phase.
Milan and Bayern Munich, who between them have won the European Cup 10 times, play the first game of their tie in Germany where the Bundesliga champions will fancy their chances. However, Milan won both legs in the 2002/03 group phase.
Inter face Ajax in the only tie between teams that have met in the final, the Amsterdam side triumphing 2-0 in Rotterdam in 1972 for the second of their four titles. They also met in the 2002/03 group stage with the Italians winning both games.
PSV Eindhoven and 8-1 fourth favourites Lyon, who meet in the Netherlands on Tuesday, come up against each other for the second season in a row. The Dutch team won their quarter-final on penalties last April following two 1-1 draws.
Lyon, on course for a record fifth successive Ligue 1 title, are looking for France's second Champions League success after Olympique Marseille in the format's inaugural 1992/93 season.
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage