Why Nobody Should Rule out a Chelsea vs Manchester United Champions League Final

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Why Nobody Should Rule out a Chelsea vs Manchester United Champions League Final
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The future is looking bleak for the two English clubs left in the Champions League. Chelsea blundered their way to a 3-1 defeat in Paris, while Manchester United conceded an away goal to Bayern Munich in their 1-1 draw. Neither team are favourites to progress in their respective ties, but it is still far too early to rule out a repeat of the 2008 final.

Almost everybody expected Manchester United to receive a good hiding at the hands of reigning champions Bayern Munich. The Red Devils' dramatic decline in fortunes this season has been dissected incessantly, with no quick-fix forthcoming. On the other hand, Bayern Munich have already sewn up the Bundesliga title and look set to become the first team to retain the Champions League trophy.

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However, the Manchester United side that turned out at Old Trafford on Tuesday looked very different to the one that has been dominated by the majority of their Premier League opponents. Their previously comical defence repelled wave after wave of Bayern Munich attacks, and they looked confident on the counter. Had Danny Welbeck been more composed when one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, they could even have won the tie.

It will certainly be difficult for United to get the required away goal and result at the Allianz Arena, but Bayern are by no means unbeatable at home. Per The Telegraph, they have failed to win any of their last four matches against English opposition in their own stadium, and with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez suspended, United have a real chance of progressing.

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After the first leg, Chelsea’s prospects of progressing look worse than United’s. The Blues put in a shambolic performance in Paris, with problems occurring all across the Parc des Princes pitch. Their usually solid defence flapped and fumbled, with Jose Mourinho describing Javier Pastore’s 93rd-minute goal as “a joke” per BBC Sport. These errors, combined with their increasingly impotent attack, took their toll and caused their defeat, but the Blues have been in this exact position before.

In 2012, Chelsea went 3-1 down in the first leg of their round of 16 tie at Napoli. Ezequiel Lavezzi was on the scoresheet that night too, again capitalising on a David Luiz error, and it looked as though the Blues were out of Europe. The away goal was the only lifeline they had to cling to ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge, and we all know how that worked out.

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There will be no magical managerial change this time, but it is the man in charge who will be key. Chelsea have now put in two poor performances on the bounce, and it would be unlike Mourinho to fail to turn that around. It is also worth remembering that this is half-time in the tie, and that Mourinho tends to set his sides up to dominate the crucial second half.

With United’s Premier League title challenge failing to get out of the gate and Chelsea’s falling at the final straight, Europe’s biggest prize is all they have left to play for. Back in December, Mourinho dismissed the idea that a season without silverware could be acceptable, while United know that the only way they can qualify for next season’s competition and avoid a massive drop in their finances is to win the thing this year.

A crucial 180 minutes of football and the semifinal draw stand in the way of this prediction coming to pass, but if either club have taught us anything about this competition, it's that nothing is impossible.

Match reports from BBC Sport.

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