Cons: Away leg will be very tough and very expensive to watch
If it weren’t for the ridiculous away trip to the Ukraine, one might wonder if Shakhtar would have made it as far as they have. One would probably be wrong though. The only game that they didn’t win in this year’s Euro-run was the 5-1 drubbing just down the road from us. That aside, however, and it’s pretty impressive reading. With six goals past Roma – three away and three at home – there’s no trouble in front of the net. Conceding just two, there don’t seem to be any major issues with their backs to it either.
Shakhtar are currently well clear at the top of the Ukrainian league and they’re not going to be afraid of coming to 36,000 seater stadium in North London to get shouted at by us – partly because they’ve done it before, although this time I should imagine Harry will make his team selection a little more carefully. Their squad sheet might read like a Ukrainian phonebook but do not be mistaken. This lot will be winners. Oh, and Eduardo.
Pros: Great trip, massive name, occasion to rise to
Cons: They’re a bit good and they’ve got Mourinho
Mouth-watering. That’s how to describe two games with Real Madrid. My mouth is actually watering right now. We’ve already had to pinch ourselves at seeing both the red and blacks and blue and blacks of Milan and Inter grace the turf at White Heart Lane but all white of the all time top European club that is Real Madrid would be something else. Sadly, it’ll never happen as we’d get their away strip but the meaning of the occasion would be big enough if not their shirts. Technically, of course, they’re not through until tonight but who’d bet against them?
Real would absolutely be the favourites but there’s every chance that that could work for us just as much as it would them. We would raise our game for them higher than you’ve ever seen it before. If our hearts swelled enough for us to fly when we played Inter, we would soar against Madrid. Yes, their squad sheet is impressive but perhaps not as mind-boggling as it has been in years gone by with our biggest advantage that at least we know a little about their best player and indeed a few of the others as well. What’s more, if Chelsea have got a monkey on their backs about winning this competition, Real have got a gorilla.
Pros: Amazing experience for one and all
Cons: Almost certainly the end of the line
It would almost be an honour to get knocked out by Barcelona and it’s probably as much that very mentality as anything else that would defeat us before we’d even begun. It would be hard enough to beat Barca on what is virtually home turf at Wembley in a one off game but home and away is nigh on impossible. Our only hope would be having the Camp Nou leg first. It’s conceivable that they’d take their foot off the pedal at 4-0 and face a lot more spirit at White Hart Lane than they’d bargained for. Conceivable, but just one notch away from impossible. If, for whatever reason, Pique and Puyol were out – along with Eric Abidal who’s sadly been diagnosed with cancer of the liver – we might be able to cause them some trouble in the air, but that’s presuming we ever got the ball.
The positives would be a fantastic trip out there for almost as many as want to go and being able to tell our grandchildren that we saw the best football team ever play right in front of our eyes. But perhaps the best bonus of all – if Bale has a fantastic game against them, at least that will send his price up. If he has a bad one, they might leave him alone.
So, all things considered, this is the order of who I’d most prefer us to play:
2. Real Madrid
3. Shakhtar Donetsk
5. Manchester United
In an ideal world, we’d play Schalke in the quarters, Real in the semis and Barca in the final. Now that would be a story to tell your grandkids.
Let us know in the comments what order you’d like to play them and why.
Fingers crossed for Friday.