Posted by Barrie on Friday, 18 December 2009

Champions League Draw Looks Good for English Sides

The Champions League is heavily favoured to come down between the English and Spanish sides once again as they were all kept apart in today's 2nd round draw.

The 3 remaining English sides and 2 of the 3 remaining Spanish sides make up the 5 favourites, with Barcelona being 3/1 favourites to become the first team to defend the Champions League. They were drawn out with Stuttgart in the second round today.

From the English perspective, 2nd favourites Chelsea have Inter Milan in their first knockout round match which will be one of top two most hyped matches in this round as it sees the current leaders of the Premier League facing the current leaders of Serie A and Jose Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving.

Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan have been knocked out by Liverpool and Manchester United in his two previous Champions League campaigns. He has faced pressure because he hasn't taken them far in this competition and this unfortunate draw is likely to see his side eliminated in round 2 after struggling through the group stage.

While his side possess some world class talents, including Samuel Eto'o, Wesley Sneijder, Julio Cesar, Lucio and Esteban Cambiasso, they still have weaknesses in their first team and aren't up to the pace of the likes of Chelsea. The Italian league is behind in that sense and that goes some way to explaining why they haven't been competitive in the latter stages of the competition recently. Patrick Vieira was too slow to keep up with Manchester United last season, suggesting Arsene Wenger sold him at the right time.

Jose Mourinho's management skills should make this a competitive two legged affair, but I don't see Inter being able to eliminate his former team. This match may also see someone falling to the ground easier than Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge, if Mario Balotelli plays.

To continue the Anglo-Italian affair, the teams currently positioned second in their respective leagues also meet head-to-head in this year's Champions League as Manchester United take on AC Milan. With David Beckham set to move back on loan to Milan, he is likely to play at Old Trafford once again. His Milan team weren't impressive in the group stage but for a comeback win against Real Madrid. While they too have some talent, they don't match up too well 11 on 11 on paper against any of the 5 favourites. Manchester United will need to improve their attack by then. They have 2 months to do that. Whether it's getting Michael Owen back into shape, a youngster breaking through or a surprise January signing, something needs to improve. Other than that they should be comfortable winners in this match against a what I call overrated AC Milan side, from the few times I've see them this season at least.

Arsenal got FC Porto in their match and are clear favourites to progress. Porto are an experienced side in this competition but have looked weaker season on season since Jose Mourinho lead them to glory in 2004. They took 6 points off both Atletico Madrid and APOEL Nicosia in the group stages but didn't score a single goal in their two defeats to Chelsea. As long as Arsene Wenger doesn't take them too likely or his side aren't going through one of poor runs and William Gallas throwing tantrums, they will qualify with ease for the quarter finals.

All-in-all, injuries permitting, as of now our 3 remaining English sides look set to qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League. This treble is currently 3.30 at bet365. Check out our Betting Blog for all of the Champions League odds following today's draw.

One final thing. If you're like myself and are relatively sure it's between the Spanish and English sides once again in this year's competition, there's a nice little arb currently available with any English side winning the Champions League at 13/8 with bet365 and any Spanish side winning the Champions League at 7/5 with Sportingbet.

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