Special nights needed after Champions League overload
I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m not as excited as I should be given it’s the Champions League semi-final first legs this week.
Both ties should be making my mouth water. Manchester United v Arsenal is always a decent game in the Premier League and with Alex Ferguson’s men still wearily battling for the domestic title, Arsene Wenger’s boys have the perfect opportunity to spring a surprise.
Barcelona and Chelsea have a big recent rivalry too. Their contrasting styles could make for interesting viewing over the two legs with the majestic magic of Messi coming up against the sheer physical power of Drogba and Co.
Despite all this, I sense a slight feeling of apathy towards the games. I cover sport for Reuters in Italy but I’ve been in England over the weekend and I barely heard anyone talk about the Champions League or saw any hyped-up publicity.
In fact, the Italians seem equally as excited as the English despite having no teams left in the competition.
A factor for this malaise is obviously the dominance of English teams of late. It is just another semi-final. Back when United were battling to re-establish themselves as a European force in the mid-nineties, a Champions League semi-final was a really big deal.
Chelsea overcame Liverpool after a quite amazing quarter-final second leg, yet still I don’t feel in semi-final mode.
Maybe it’s because it’s the first legs or perhaps I feel the semis have come too quickly after the quarters, where the two legs were played straight after each other.
Maybe a bigger gap would help build the anticipation.
Right now it’s just a barrage of domestic league, Champions League, domestic league, domestic cup semi, Champions League. I wouldn’t begrudge a player if he couldn’t motivate himself 100 percent every time but surely this week they must.
So come on Messi, Lampard, Ronaldo, Fabregas – put on a real show this week and make me fall in love with the Champions League again.
PHOTO: Chelsea captain Frank Lampard celebrates after their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match aggregate win against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in London April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville