Holders Chelsea weaved an unlikely path to unlikely European Cup glory. They haven’t provided a credible blueprint for their English compatriots to follow. This season the boys from the Bridge (and the rather attractive girl physio) will throw away their own manual and look for consistency from the off. The Manchester clubs failed to progress from the group-stages last season, and Arsenal haven’t advanced beyond the last 16 for two years.
2. Away form
Roberto Di Matteo’s men famously qualified for the final at the Nou Camp but good fortune in Barcelona clouded the bigger picture. Chelsea had previously lost in Naples and Leverkusen, and failed to win away from home in the group stages. City see-sawed in the Group of Death and picked up just 3 points on the road. United and Arsenal only recorded one more point on their travels.
Pick Di Matteo’s side this weekend with the Insider.
Chelsea’s triumph was under-pinned by a strong defence but their crown was founded on clinical finishing as well. When they needed to score four times at home to Napoli, they produced; Arsenal, on the other hand, fell one goal short against Milan. City and United did score freely in the group-stages but they sacrificed attack for defence.
Fancy Balotelli to fire on Saturday? Select him on 3strikers.
The combination of defensive solidity and offensive spark is the Holy Grail in European competition. Attacking football is in vogue so quality in defence is paramount. Chelsea were lauded for their defence last season but they only kept five clean sheets across the competition. Arsenal kept ten consecutive clean sheets en route to the 2006 final.
Note to Fergie – Fielding Michael Carrick at centre-half is inadvisable.
Pick two centre-backs for United on the Insider.
Roman Abramovich has demanded attacking football for years and his wish is manifest at last with Eden Hazard pulling the strings in midfield. The Chelsea owner was appalled by his team’s under-dog status in Barcelona and has splashed the cash to make-over his side.
United, City and Arsenal are unlikely to sacrifice aesthetics but their fans may be prepared to forgo style for points.
Vote for Giroud to break his duck on 3strikers.