Previewing The UEFA Champions League Semifinals: First Leg

David ArreolaSenior Analyst IApril 23, 2009

PORTO, PORTUGAL - APRIL 15:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates victory after the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Porto and Manchester United at the Estadio do Dragao on April 15, 2009 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

On April 28th, the Champions League semifinals will kick off at the Camp Nou in Barcelona.

Then on April 29th, the second semifinal will conclude its first leg as well when the ball starts rolling at Old Trafford in Manchester, England.

There are few things as exciting as a cup semifinal in the world of sports. You can be sure that the players already know there is a lot on the line, and a loss means drifting away into obscurity and a win means the dream on a trophy is still alive and well.

For clubs like Chelsea, Barcelona, and Manchester United, this is familiar territory. All three were in last year's semifinal, with Chelsea and Manchester United making their third straight appearance in the Champions League semifinal. Arsenal is this year's newcomer of sorts.

Without further introduction, I give you my preview/predictions for the first legs of the upcoming semi-final ties.

Barcelona v. Chelsea (Barcelona is host)

The first match-up features the current leader in the La Liga standings, Barcelona, and the pesky little English club, Chelsea, that simply will not matter how many different managers they get.

The clubs have previously met in three knockout ties in the UEFA Champions League, with Barcelona coming out on top in two of them.

Barcelona is the favorite at the Nou Camp on Tuesday, but Chelsea has a habit of snatching big away goals in the Champions League.

Look for Lionel Messi to shine brightly in this game, perhaps even putting one between the woodwork.

Chelsea's back four are going to be the difference in this match. With Ashley Cole out of the line up because of suspension, I feel the Barcelona attack will be too much for Chelsea to handle.

I do look for the Chelsea attack to create a good amount of chances at the other end, especially with Didier Drogba currently in such fantastic form.

I predict a 1-0 win for Barcelona, with Thierry Henry delivering the lone goal.

Manchester United v. Arsenal (Man Utd is host)

This rivalry will get another page added onto it as United and Arsenal face-off in the second semifinal match.

United is making their 11th overall appearance in the CL semifinals, while Arsenal makes just their second appearance in this stage.

This tie has plenty of stories to go along with it. Primarily it features the two longest serving managers in the English Premier League, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and United's Sir Alex Ferguson.

United's form has been, well, shaky as of late with Ronaldo's mind-blowing goal in the quarterfinals being the saving grace taking them through. Arsenal; however, is in good form coming off a convincing win over Villarreal in the quarterfinals.

It is likely that Ferguson will bring out an interesting starting XI, seeing as how United played three matches this week.

Arsenal have fully committed to the Champions League and will likely have fully rested all its starters.

However, Man United's record against Arsenal at home is a lofty 55-24-17.

I look for the Man United defense to give Arsenal a few chances, but nothing too costly. The Manchester United defense will have to hold on for the entire match, or they will be out of the semifinal.

Arsenal's defense will surely have their hands full with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

I predict a 2-1 Manchester United win, with Arsenal getting an early goal from Emmanuel Adebayor, and Dimitar Berbatov scoring the equalizer after coming on as a substitute. Then, in the dying moments Cristiano Ronaldo will snatch victory for the Red Devils.

Check back next week as I break down the first leg results as well as preview the second legs!