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Champions League

Are Chelsea potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?

Rob Meech

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Antonio Conte will be looking to emulate his Italian counterpart Roberto di Matteo, by leading Chelsea to Champions League glory this season. The Blues’ champagne moment six years ago was the realisation of a dream Roman Abramovich had held since he gained ownership of the club in 2003.

Chelsea are the reigning Premier League champions, having claimed the title in Conte’s first campaign in charge. But the former Italy boss’s honeymoon period is now over, amid a run of mixed results and speculation of player unrest. Here, The Boot Room assesses Chelsea’s prospects of lifting the Champions League for a second time.

Performances so far

The Blues were in the same group as both Atletico Madrid and Roma – as well as minnows Qarabag – and they finished level on points with the Italian club at the top of the standings. The highlight was a 2-1 victory away to Atletico, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from Michy Batshuayi. A routine double was completed over Qarabag, but it was their results against Roma that shaped the final standings.

Even though both clubs ended on 11 points to qualify for the last 16 and Chelsea had a vastly superior goal difference, the Blues could only follow up their 3-0 defeat in the Italian capital with a 3-3 draw at home. This proved costly, with Conte’s side finishing second and being drawn against Barcelona, which has significantly dented their chances of making it into the quarter-finals.

Squad strength

Chelsea captured the Premier League at a canter last season, thanks largely to the goals of Diego Costa and the brilliance of Eden Hazard. Despite the summer arrival of Alvaro Morata, Costa’s departure has been a big loss. Surprisingly, Nemanja Matic was permitted to join Manchester United, while David Luiz has fallen out of favour under Conte.

Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko have added depth to the squad, while the rise to prominence of Andreas Christensen has been an unexpected bonus. Ross Barkley is the first of their signings in the January window and perhaps more will follow. Most important is proper competition for the misfiring Morata, with Chelsea currently lacking a cutting edge in tight games.

Manager

A three-time winner of Serie A with Juventus (to go alongside last season’s Premier League crown), Conte is without doubt a manager of immense repute. After Jose Mourinho’s reign had turned sour, the 48-year-old was the perfect successor. He revitalised Chelsea and turned them into champions after adopting a 3-4-3 formation that proved to be a masterstroke.

Conte has a unique style of management. His demonstrable shows of passion are loved by supporters, but his intensity has sparked rumours that he is not universally liked by his players. Costa fell foul of his wrath last summer, while Brazilian centre-back Luiz is the latest to be marginalised. Conte’s public clashes with his superiors over failed transfer targets have increased the tension.

Chances of winning

When Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, they had to beat Barcelona over two legs in the semi-finals. If they want to lift the prestigious trophy again this year, it’s a feat they will need to repeat. Although the Blues are more than capable of competing with the very best in Europe, they would much rather have avoided opponents of Barcelona’s class at this stage.

Chelsea only have themselves to blame for not topping Group C, which would likely have given them a smoother passage to the last eight. Barcelona, the runaway La Liga leaders, are by no means unbeatable, but they will be the favourites to progress and Chelsea will need to be at their very best over both games to stop them.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Champions League

Ranking Liverpool’s possible Champions League semi-final opponents

The draw for the semi-final stage takes place on Friday 13th April.

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool shocked the footballing world with a 5-1 aggregate dismantling of Manchester City in the Champions League quarterfinals, earning themselves their first semifinal appearance in a decade.

The draw to determine who they will play in the last four occurs on Friday, and here are Liverpool’s possible opponents ranked in terms of difficulty.

1. Roma

Fresh off a superb 3-0 second leg win over Barcelona, the Serie A side are certainly high on confidence and feel as if they can beat any team in the world.

Nonetheless, the Reds will be hoping they are rewarded with a matchup against the Italian side, as they are the most inexperienced team left in the competition.

The farthest Roma have ever made it in the UEFA Champions League were back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2006/07 and 2007/08; the semifinals mark uncharted territory for the Italians in the modern era.

Roma are also in poor league form, having recently lost to Fiorentina and drawing with Bologna, and currently sit 21 points off the pace in Serie A.

Liverpool would love to play the only remaining Italian side in the semifinals, as it would pit them against an inexperienced European club.

(Photo by Christof Stache/Getty Images)

2. Bayern Munich

One of the world’s best clubs and boasting a superstar collection of top players, the Bundesliga champions are a team to fear.

They have cantered to their sixth-straight league title this spring, winning the title in customary fashion with over a month still to play.

But although it has been all smooth sailing at home, they have shown signs of imperfection in the Champions League. They failed to muster a goal in their second-leg 0-0 draw with Sevilla, and were also thrashed 3-0 by Paris Saint Germain in the group stage.

Although the Bavarian giants are still a force to be reckoned with, they have shown signs of cracking this year; a fact that Liverpool can take heart from.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

3. Real Madrid

The back-to-back defending European champions would be the last club Liverpool want to face for a spot in the final.

Real Madrid possess the most dangerous player in Champions League history in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, gifting Los Blancos the ability to win a match out of nowhere.

Ronaldo’s uncanny scoring skills were on display in the quarterfinal battle against Juventus, where he scored three goals, including an outrageous overhead kick and a stoppage-time penalty to send Real through.

Madrid simply don’t get knocked out in Europe; the Reds should be praying they avoid the Spanish side in the semifinal draw.

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Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo provides spectacular reminder that he remains a dominant force in world football

The Portugal captain scored a sensational goal in Real Madrid’s midweek victory over Juventus.

Martyn Cooke

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Cristiano Ronaldo
Photo: Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to the spectacular.

The Portuguese superstar has been making headlines since he made his debut for Sporting Lisbon as a 17-year-old and he has since gone on to establish himself as one of, if not the, best player of his generation.

His record at both club and international level is remarkable, both in terms of scoring goals and winning titles, and there is little that the winger has not accomplished in a career that has spanned sixteen years and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

However, on Tuesday evening he produced a moment of magic that quite simply took the breath away.

Ronaldo had already put Real Madrid in control of their quarter-final tie in the Champions League against Juventus with an early close-range finish. It gave his side a vital away goal against Italy’s dominant club and also continued his own remarkable goalscoring record in the competition.

Then came one of the most spectacular goals in Champions League history.

Dani Carvajal clipped in a lofted cross into the Juventus eighteen-yard box and there seemed to be little danger as the ball floated towards the penalty spot.

Ronaldo dynamically leapt upwards, appearing to hang momentarily in the air, before producing a perfectly struck, acrobatic overhead kick. The ball flew beyond the astonished Gianluigi Buffon and into the far corner of the net.

(Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images)

Spectacular. Astonishing. Jaw-dropping. It feels that words and superlatives can do no justice to the moment of skill produced.

The normally loud and raucous Juventus Stadium was stunned into silence. Zinedine Zidane, no stranger to creating magic on a football pitch himself, simply put a hand to his head and turned towards the bench.

And then applause broke out from the Juventus supporters – a demonstration of respect for one of the best players in the world.

The goal may have been a joy to behold, the perfect combination of technique and athletic ability, but it was also a fierce reminder that Ronald remains one of the dominant forces in world football.

At 33 years of age some onlookers have suggested that the Portuguese superstar’s powers may be beginning to wain and that his best years are behind him.

This was simply further evidence that such speculation is unfounded.

Ronaldo’s statistics this season are remarkable.

He has scored 23 goals in his last 12 games for Real Madrid and 39 goals in 36 appearances this campaign.

He has scored 43 goals in total for club and country this season.

He has scored in every Champions League tie this campaign, 14 in total, and is the first player to score in all six group games and in 10 consecutive ties.

(Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Furthermore, he is Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (446) and the all-time leading goal scorer in Champions League history (119).

You would struggle to replicate those figures if you were playing on a computer game.

There is absolutely no sign the Ronaldo’s prowess is in decline and, if anything, he looks more prominent now than ever.

In addition to this, the common accusation that he fails to produce in the ‘big games’ has firmly been dispelled this season.

In the Champions League alone, he has scored against Tottenham Hotspur (both ties), Borussia Dortmund (both ties), Paris Saint Germain (both ties) and Juventus.

Ronaldo truly is a modern genius on the football pitch and his remarkable goal on Tuesday night was a reminder that the 33-year-old intends to remain at the pinnacle of the game for a long time to come.

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Champions League

Liverpool fans rave after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s superb defensive performance

The teenager marshalled Leroy Sane brilliantly throughout the match.

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Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool delivered the shock result of the Champions League season tonight, demolishing Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Sadio Mane sealed the deal for the Reds in the opening half hour, but perhaps the most impressive part of the match was the exceptional performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The young fullback had been targeted by City as a possible weak link, given his shaky starts in other big matches this year. Just weeks ago against Manchester United, the 19-year-old was torn to shreds by Marcus Rashford, looking out of place and overwhelmed.

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

And Pep Guardiola set up to isolate the English youngster and attacked down his wing with purpose. Diagonal balls in the direction of Leroy Sane were a constant fixture of Manchester City’s play, but Alexander-Arnold stood firm, contributing to Liverpool’s vital clean sheet.

To keep a clean sheet in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is impressive on its own, but to do it against the champions-elect, the top-scorers in the Premier League, and without one of your first choice centre-backs, is sensational.

Alexander-Arnold was at the heart of the Reds’ valiant defensive performance, and observers on Twitter rightly applauded him for his efforts.

Fans also commented on Alexander-Arnold’s tender age, a factor that made his performance even the more impressive.

The ever-popular back pocket joke also circulated on the Twittersphere, many supporters couldn’t resist the classic banter when describing Alexander-Arnold’s domination of Sane.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, take a bow son.

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