Chelsea’s victory over Manchester United has done more than set up a thrilling title finish in the English Premier League. It has put a whole new twist on this week’s Champions League semifinals.
Facing Barcelona on Tuesday with the two teams tied at 0-0 from the first leg in Spain, United had hoped that, by this stage, it would have had the Premier League title virtually wrapped up with Chelsea effectively out of it.
With nothing but the game against dispirited Barcelona to focus on, United would have gone into the Old Trafford match as huge favorites.
But the Blues’ 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday has put Chelsea level on points with the Red Devils with two games to go. That means that United and Chelsea, which hosts Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday with the scores level at 1-1, are both chasing the double and the pendulum now appears to have swung in the Blues’ direction.
“We are possibly just four games away from two big prizes and we have put ourselves in this situation,” said Michael Ballack, whose two goals earned Chelsea its victory over United. “This is where we want to be. We like this situation. I think we look fresh and better than all other teams, even in the Champions League now.”
Chelsea and Manchester United could well meet in the May 21 Champions League final, and Liverpool and Barcelona are out to stop them getting there.
Both are out of contention for their domestic league titles, which means they have the advantage that they only have the Champions League to concentrate on.
Both semifinals are evenly poised. United hosts Barcelona having not conceded a goal at Camp Nou and Chelsea is level with Liverpool having scored a lucky late equalizer through John Arne Riise’s headed own goal at Anfield.
Chelsea’s confidence has risen after recent victories over Arsenal and Manchester United and the fact it has closed United’s five-point lead in the Premier League.
By contrast, United hasn’t won any of its last three games. Liverpool was held 2-2 by relegation-threatened Birmingham although Benitez rested several of his front line stars and Barcelona, also without six players including forwards Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o, tumbled 2-0 at Deportivo La Coruna.