Manchester United /Chelsea/ Liverpool/Barcelona

He’s six foot four and athletic and comes from Peckham.

He played for West Ham and Leeds, then went to Manchester United and won everything.

As we saw last week, United are different team when Rio Ferdinand plays.

United are good enough to beat Chelsea tonight.  If not, still  good enough to draw.

Last week’s away goal by Wayne Rooney goal gave them a 1-0 victory that’s crucial to their ambitions.

But it’s not over. Nobody I know thinks it’s over.

Despite what Carlo said yesterday, I don’t think Torres will start or should start.

Chelsea’s best game is diagonals, flick-ons and penetration. They’ve lost the rhythm and fluency  that once allowed them to play Lampard in for shot after shot after shot.

Their biggest problem, apart from Torres not scoring, is how constipated their midfield has become. Essien and Lampard and Ramires are stodgy and don’t get the ball forward quickly enough.

Chelsea are a  big,  tough side, so  Sir Alex might play both Park and Brazilian bruiser Anderson, who can carry the ball forward at high speeds.

Valencia has been superb since he came back and has revived Rooney.

And Nani could give Bosingwa a rough ride, if he starts. Rooney missed the Fulham game through suspension., so he\’s had six days off and should be fresh. Chelsea will not be able to kick him as often as they did at Stamford Bridge.

It looks like a cracker, a game of thunder and lightning, a dramatic battle for a big prize.

First goal will be vital tonight. May the best team win. And without a storm of controversy.

Best team won last night, no doubt.

Caretaker Kenny\’s Liverpool smashed Manchester City with a vibrant first performance.

Andy Carroll sent a left-foot thunderbolt swerving past Joe Hart in 12, skipper Tevez went off with a hamstring in 14, Kuyt sidefooted across Hart for 2-0 in 34. When Raul Meireles crossed from the left in 35, left back Kolarov headed the ball against Carroll\’s head and it flew in for 3-0.

A  tremendous collective effort by a competitive Liverpool side who worked ceaselessly for each other, closing down, giving stuttering City few passing options.

If this is Monday night football, I want more. And if Liverpool play like that on Sunday, Arsenal will get pulverised. Despite the fact that Arsenal keep the ball far better than Man City do.

The other quarter-final?

Barcelona’s Brazilians are clearly superior to Shakhtar’s Brazilians.

They take a 5-1 lead into tonight’s second leg in the mining capital of the Ukraine. Shakhtar finished above Arsenal in the Group stage, had December and January off, and came back to beat Roma 6-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16.

They’re romping away with their own league. Forwards Douglas Costa, Willian and Luis Adriano are as quick as gazelles and capable of electric flashes, and Adriano has far too much pace for Busquets, their emergency centreback, so Victor Valdes will have to come out of his penalty area more than once.

The big keeper is playing well at the moment. Some of his excursions remind me of Bruce Grobbelaar.

Freezing nights are bad news for hamstrings, so Pep might rest Messi. I would.

Shakhtar can win, but not by 4-0. A draw may be the most likely result.

But watch out for 19-year old Thiago, the Italian-born son of Brazilian midfielder Mazinho, who played with Dunga in USA 94.

This kid is much more creative than his father ever was.

Manchester United, Chelsea can go through with Liverpool

Roma v Manchester United should be the best of the quarter-finals.

Totti, supported by three fast-breaking forwards, will give Rio Ferdinand problems because Vidic, his partner, is out with a broken collarbone.

Wayne Rooney should look at Totti and learn from him. Learn from his career, his dedication, his loyalty. A Roman, a local hero, a Serie A player at 16, a veteran who is still doing it, playing with pins in his knee but top league scorer this season.

England’s best team against Italy’s second best?

It will be a good game. United should go at them early on and score in the first 20. But that’s easier said than done. Fergie respects any side that beats Lyon, and he’s right.

A few weeks ago I said that when the games get big enough, when the prize is big enough, Rooney and Ronaldo will combine more often. In Rome, Ronaldo WILL pass to Rooney. He will play for the team tonight, not for the cameras

CHELSEA could beat three of the teams we saw last night.

They could beat PSV, AC Milan or Bayern Munich.

Can they beat Valencia at Stamford Bridge tonight ?

Is this the night when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Chelsea are very tough gladiators who have not lost a game in any competition in the month of March.

The clubs are similar in some ways. Both teams are workmanlike, both depend too much on a talented striker (Drogba and David Villa), both suffer from internal power struggles between coach and sporting director, both have had major injuries to key players all season.

I backed Liverpool to qualify for the semi and Milan to beat Bayern on the night, so I watched the Milan game.

Headers broke the deadlock in both games, one by Gerrard in 27 minutes in Eindhoven, one by Pirlo in 40 minutes in Milan.

PSV were decent for 20 minutes but then fell apart. Decimated by injury, with Farfan not coming for the second half,they gave up. They were too young and were easily overwhelmed. Riise scored with a 35-yarder and Crouch headed in from Finnan’s cross, as Gerrard had done.Tie over.

After 57 minutes in Milan I thought : Bayern will equalise – Milan are an old team, a first half team, Maldini is 38 and visibly tiring, this will be 1-1.

The Belgian giant Daniel Van Buyten hooked one in for 1-1, and then the Russian ref gave a truly ridiculous penalty when Lucio tackled Kaka expertly, sliding the ball out for a corner. Kaka slotted for 2-1. Very unfair ! But in the fourth minute of added time, Owen Hargreaves rushed to take a quick free kick to the far post and Van Buyten chested the ball and drilled it between Dida and the post. So I lost half that bet. But the Italians didn’t deserve to win.

AC Milan badly need to rebuild their team. They need a right back immediately.But where to find one? Willy Sagnol of Bayern is the only right back in the Champions League ! And he is now out for the season with a knee injury. They need two centrebacks ! With defending like this it’s no wonder they’re mid-table ! Gilardino is average. Inzaghi and Seedorf are past it.They need Berbatov and Mazzini, the kid from Fiorentina. They need to spend millions this summer.

LIVERPOOL’S new co-owner George Gillett mentioned Arsenal in his ITV interview.

He said that Arsenal’s matchday revenues have set a new standard. In other words, we want to earn £2 million per game.

But how can Liverpool charge ticket prices similar to Arsenal’s?
It just won’t happen.

On Tuesday afternoon I was thinking : these eight teams are here because they have the best eight defences in Europe. So every game will be a cagey, low-scoring contest and goalkeepers will make the difference. But the games didn’t pan out like that. PSV 0 Liverpool 3 was not like that and neither was Milan 2 Bayern 2.

The PSV game was a walkover and the Milan game was full of rubbish defending.
Seven goals in two games !!!!???

Don’t expect seven goals tonight.