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Page last updated at 06:04 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 07:04 UK

Alan Hansen's column

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

The prospect of an all-English Champions League final was tantalisingly close last year - but I believe it will finally happen in Moscow on 21 May.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United have the weapons to hurt Barcelona and reach the final

Before that day arrives we have two contrasting semi-finals to contemplate when Manchester United face 2006 winners Barcelona and Liverpool and Chelsea meet in the last four for the third time.

Manchester United's clash with Barca is absolutely mouthwatering but I believe Sir Alex Ferguson's side have more than enough quality to get the job done.

This prediction must always come with a word of caution because Barcelona have the attacking riches to beat any side in the world when they get it right. Ronaldinho may be injured but Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o offer some fairly reasonable alternatives.

Manchester United have got everything to play for. It is a hugely exciting time for them and you can forget any notions about fatigue at this stage of the season.

Rest assured, if Sir Alex asks any of his men if they are not in the right mental or physical condition to face Barca, not many hands will shoot up.

United have match-winners all over the pitch but experience gained over the years has now given them the ability to grind out crucial results when it is not quite happening for them.

Barcelona have fantastic talent in their ranks but they are not great at the back and I believe United have the style and creativity to hurt them in the Nou Camp in the first leg then back at Old Trafford.

606: DEBATE
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Ferguson says United will be positive - he never does anything else - but it won't be gung-ho and he has a defence that has been outstanding this season.

United look unbelievably solid all over the pitch. They will hope centre-half Nemanja Vidic will be fully fit because his partnership with Rio Ferdinand has been awesome. Patrice Evra has been terrific and Edwin van der Sar is reliable in goal.

They also have strength in depth through midfield and in attack and have a great counter-attacking style that will serve them well on these occasions. United have players who can turn and win a game, and I expect this will see them overcome Barca.

Avram Grant
Avram Grant will try to answer his critics by doing for Chelsea what Jose Mourinho couldn't

So, while at no time suggesting this is a foregone conclusion, I expect United to reach their first Champions League final since their victory against Bayern Munich in 1999.

And so to Chelsea's semi-final with Liverpool - a case of "here we go again" after their meetings at the same stage in 2005 and 2007.

Chelsea will be hoping it is third time lucky after losing the previous two semi-finals - and there is an interesting change in the dynamic from the other clashes.

The second leg is at Stamford Bridge as opposed to Anfield, where Liverpool have been inspired to victory on the last two occasions in amazing atmospheres.

My theory on this is not so much the effect this has on the away team, more the galvanising impact on the home side.

I have to say I don't believe the Anfield atmosphere would have struck terror into men like Chelsea duo John Terry and Frank Lampard - when I played in similar games for Liverpool and the home crowd was hostile it never used to affect me.

The key to home advantage on the big European nights is the effect it has on the home players - and you could see the Liverpool players growing and being more inspired as they received the backing of fervent fans.

This is what Chelsea will hope will make the difference for them in the second leg.

There has been a lot of criticism of Avram Grant and yet here is a manager who still harbours hopes of winning the Premier League and has the opportunity to take his side into the Champions League final.

He will be hoping to do something that eluded his illustrious predecessor Jose Mourinho and guide Chelsea past Liverpool and into the final.

As for the games themselves, I feel they will be pretty well identical to the previous encounters. Both teams play in a cautious style and I do not see maybe more than two or three goals over the two matches.

When it comes to a prediction, it is almost the toss of coin, although if I was pushed I would probably just go for Liverpool but it is too close to call.

Either way, I'm going for an all-English Champions League final in 2008.

Alan Hansen was talking to Phil McNulty



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see also
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
22 Apr 08 |  Europe
Barcelona 0-0 Man Utd
23 Apr 08 |  Europe
When Bryan Robson tamed Barca
22 Apr 08 |  Europe
Zenden on Champions League
21 Apr 08 |  Europe


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