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Alan Hansen on the Champions League

Alan Hansen
By Alan Hansen
BBC Sport football expert

It still extremely difficult to predict the Champions League finalists after the semi-final first leg matches last week.

But I think Chelsea and Manchester United are slight favourites.

There is no doubt that Chelsea have the advantage over Liverpool after they were gifted an away goal when John Arne Riise headed into his own net in injury time.

Fernando Torres and Michael Ballack tussle for the ball
Torres (left) was kept quiet by Chelsea in the first leg

Make no mistake, the difference between what had looked like being a 1-0 win for Liverpool at Anfield and the actual 1-1 draw is massive.

What would have been a great result for Liverpool suddenly became a great result for Chelsea, but the Blues are a long way from being home and dry.

It must be said that Liverpool have not got a great recent record at Stamford Bridge, but remember that Chelsea have not got a great record in the semi-final of this competition, so that sort of evens itself out.

And Liverpool have a couple of players in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres who must surely play better in the return leg than they did at Anfield.

That must be a concern for Chelsea and they have to be aware that either of those two players can win the match with one piece of brilliance.

I was surprised by the quality of the game last week - I thought it was better than we have seen recently between these two teams.

But I think it will return to being tight on Wednesday and it will be one of those cautious affairs that we have come to expect.

It could be that one little bit of magic will win the match, and obviously the onus is on Liverpool to produce that as they have got to go and score to stay in the tie.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will surely instruct his players to keep it tight for 55-60 minutes and then you might see them play a bit more adventurously after that.

Torres has been a very exciting player for Liverpool, and he and Gerrard will have to play well if they are to get to the final.

At the back, Martin Skrtel has looked composed, confident and strong and he will need to be at his best again to keep Chelsea out.

Chelsea will have Michael Essien available again after suspension and he will be a huge boost for them. He is a great player, an absolute powerhouse and he can play virtually anywhere.

Before the first leg I felt Manchester United were certainties to go through but now I am not sure

As I've already said, this match is still in the balance.

You only have to look at the pattern of the second half last week when Chelsea played some decent stuff on the deck and looked dangerous but were also caught out as Liverpool created decent chances on the break.

It was when the game opened up that both sides had their opportunities - but I think there is too much at stake for that to happen again on Wednesday.

Don't expect a classic but it will be tense and dramatic.

And it will be similar at Old Trafford when Manchester United and Barcelona resume their battle following a 0-0 draw last week.

Barcelona were the better team for long periods at the Nou Camp but at the same time they never really threatened.

However, if Samuel Eto'o had gone down under challenge from Rio Ferdinand instead of staying on his feet he would have won a penalty and that might have changed the complexion of the match.

Ferdinand missed the ball and he definitely caught him. Eto'o did really well not to go to ground but if he had, it would have been a stonewall penalty.

Then shortly after, Barcelona produced the best move of the match to give Eto'o a chance and he should have done better than shoot into the side netting.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Messi (left) and Ronaldo go head-to-head again on Tuesday

Obviously Cristiano Ronaldo did win a penalty for United, but he missed the chance to score a vital away goal.

He should have had another chance to score from the spot when he looked to have been impeded by Rafael Marquez but nothing was given.

There is a chance Barcelona could struggle defensively at Old Trafford, but the danger is that if United open up against them, Barcelona will definitely create chances, there is no doubt about that.

People will say Barcelona did not create a lot at home but United had lots of men behind the ball, filling holes and working really hard.

It is a very even contest and almost impossible to call but I would just about favour United.

Ronaldo or Lionel Messi could prove the match winner - they are both top class players.

I thought Messi was absolutely fantastic last week, especially for someone who has not played a lot of football - he is an exceptional talent and bound to be dangerous on Tuesday.

Before the first leg I felt United were certainties to go through but now I am not so sure because of the way Barcelona played.

The Spaniards did not look like a team that are 11 points behind the leaders of their league.

They played really well, but United still managed to get a really good result.

Both semi-finals really are wide open.

Alan Hansen was talking to BBC Sport's Ian Hughes


see also
Riise vows to come back stronger
24 Apr 08 |  Liverpool
Barcelona 0-0 Man Utd
23 Apr 08 |  Europe
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
22 Apr 08 |  Europe


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