After the first leg in the San Siro, which saw Inter take a slender 2-1 lead over Chelsea, the footballing world has had its eyes focused firmly on Stamford Bridge on Tuesday March 16th for the crucial second leg of this intriguing Champions League clash.
BOOKMAKERS ODDS REVEAL AN EXPECTED CLOSE RUN AFFAIR
Certainly the bookmakers reckon the tie is still evenly balanced and that despite being a goal down, Chelsea still have a great chance of qualification, if you believe the latest betting odds. You can get 13/20 on Chelsea to win the game, while Inter are currently 19/4 to win at Stamford Bridge with 23/10 for the draw. To qualify outright, Chelsea, as the home side, remain favourites at 13/20 while Inter are a shade over even money at 11/10.
DOUBTS ON CHELSEA
But fans of the occasional football bet should be wary of this tie however as the weekend results have cast a long shadow of doubt over the original idea that a 2-1 defeat for Chelsea at the San Siro was a good result, primarily because they only need to win 1-0 at Stamford Bridge to progress.
At the weekend Chelsea hosted an out of sorts Manchester City and were fully expected to defeat former Inter manager Roberto Mancini’s current charges and extend their lead at the top of the Premiership over Manchester United.
In all the nonsense over the Wayne Bridge/John Terry handshake that never was, what is being overlooked is that Chelsea were particularly fragile against a side who hit them and hit them superbly on the counter attack.
City deserved their 4-2 victory and the manner of victory will have given Inter boss Jose Mourinho real hope that his talented side can breach the Chelsea back line, that is woefully out of sorts at the moment with Ashley Cole and Peter Cech injured and John Terry out of form.
INTER’S FORM IN SHARP CONTRAST
By contrast Inter’s shaky recent form saw them take on a tricky trip to face Udinese in a game many felt they would struggle in. However Inter emerged with a fine 3-2 victory to get their title challenge back on track and give the side added confidence ahead of the international break and the forthcoming trip to London.
The game is set up to be dramatic. With Jose’s long anticipated return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s leaky defence coming under intense scrutiny from Inter, who love to play on the counter-attack, Inter’s fragile defence set to be tested by the power and pace of Drogba allied to 40,000 vociferous home fans, but the key battle looks likely to be fought in midfield where whichever team can stamp their authority on the game in this key area, they should go on to win the game.
Barring any injuries from the international games in midweek, the teams will probably line up as follows for the crucial clash :
Chelsea : Hilario, Ivanovic, Malouda, Terry, Carvalho, Obi Mikkel, Ballack, Lampard, Drogba, Anelka, Kalou
Inter : Julio Cesar, Maicon, Zanetti, Lucio, Samuel, Motta, Sneijder, Cambiasso, Stankovic, Eto’o, Milito
Though I would not rule out Mourinho switching to a five man midfield and perhaps dropping Milito to the bench and playing either Sulley Muntari or MacDonald Mariga as an additional midfielder.
INTER TO TRAIN IN SECRECY
Inter boss Jose Mourinho has also revealed that he intends to make ‘special plans’ for the crucial second leg. He wants his team to fly over to England on the Monday and train in secrecy, away from the glare of the media and Chelsea’s staff prying eyes, and will eschew the opportunity to train on the Chelsea pitch on Monday evening.
It’s certainly building up to be another Champion’s League classic!