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Southend v Crewe, 19:45 (agg. 0-1)

Although Crewe would have been pleased with their first-leg win over Southend the players and staff will be well aware 1-0 is a precarious lead, and keen to push on and get an early goal, but the away team to come into the game on some pretty good form and will feel confident. Their last loss was actually to Southend, some 17 matches ago, and it is certainly true to say that for a lot of teams simply the experience of winning can be a great boost in itself, so Crewe will feel like they are more than capable of booking a place in the final.

Southend weren’t really expecting to be in the position for a lot of the season, having slipped after leading the table at some points in the season, and that would technically suggest their morale would be very low, but the first leg proved Steve Davis has got his side back into the mentality of getting themselves promoted after the disappointment. The home crowd at Roots Hall will fancy themselves as a bit of a third man, and I’m sure they’ll be urging their heroes forward from the first minute.

Southend hope defender Mark Phillips recovers after being taken off in Saturday’s 1-0 first-leg loss, but Paul Sturrock says “70%” of the side that travelled to Gresty Road have been receiving treatment for knocks. Crewe must check on midfielder Luke Murphy, Carl Martin and teenage top scorer Nick Powell both picked up knocks, but are three are in with a chance of playing. Ladbrokes offer 11/2 on Crewe winning by one goal, which isn’t a bad price at all.

Huddersfield v MK Dons (agg. 2-0), 19:45

Winning the first leg 2-0 will have given Huddersfield a huge boost ahead of this game, not to mention an extremely handy two away goals, but Dons boss Karl Robinson and Huddersfield manager Simon Grayson have both been keen to emphasise how far from over this tie is. That is an obvious ploy to some extent with the two men seeking to guard against complacency and despondency respectively, but anyone thinking this can be nothing more than routine progress for the Terriers clearly missed Sunday’s action in the Premier League.

MK Dons aren’t much like the team that used to go by that diminutive, and for a lot of neutrals that has meant they are an improvement. While the plucky, spirited underdogs of Wimbledon were a story once upon a time, their brand and players like Vinny Jones are not missed in the top flight and many feel this current MK incarnation is a massive improvement on the previous plague. While they may lack a striker with the stellar credentials of a Jordan Rhodes, for example, the Dons have a team spirit that will give them hope, and it may even be that the seemingly impossible nature of the mission removes any pressure and frees them to play their best.

VictorChandler have a generous 20/1 on a 3-1 home win, but I’d be remiss in my duties if I failed to tell you Jordan Rhodes is 7/2 as first scorer for this game. I’d expect MK Dons to attack early in an attempt to create tension in the home ranks with an away goal, but that could well leave them exposed to counters.

Chelsea v Blackburn, 15:00

Both sides in this one are well insulated against change, with enough of a gap above and below them that nothing can really come of this encounter in terms of the result. Of course, with a Champions League final to compete in the home side will have a good reason for playing hard to impress the boss, but injuries and suspensions mean a fair few in blue will already be confident of their place.

Chelsea’s David Luiz and Gary Cahill face a race to be fit for the Champions League final and John Obi Mikel is unlikely to be risked as he recovers from a knee injury. Blackburn’s Bradley Orr is out after having surgery on his Achilles tendon. Paul Robinson and David Dunn are doubts, but Gael Givet has been cleared to play after a scare at Wigan. I like the 10/3 Bet365 have on Fernando Torres scoring the first goal of the game, with the £50m man finally hitting his straps.

 

Everton v Newcastle, 15:00

The lowest Newcastle can finish this season is fifth, where they currently lie, and that would be enough for a Europa League place, but things are moving quickly at St James Park and it could be that by sundown the Magpies are looking forward to Champions League football, or maybe just qualifiers. Everton are allegedly motivated to finish well be Liverpool being below them, but have enough internationals that this game may suffer with fitness in mind.

Everton could welcome back Leighton Baines, Phil Neville and Darron Gibson from injury, but Victor Anichebe and Jack Rodwell remain out. Newcastle defender Danny Simpson has been ruled out with an ankle problem, while Leon Best has a thigh strain. Aside from his long-term absentees, manager Alan Pardew has no other injury worries. Newcastle are stuttering a tiny bit, but I fancy them to win 2-1 today, at 11/1 with Bet365.

 

Manchester City v QPR, 15:00

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this game could be important in deciding the eventual destination of the Premier League trophy, as well as the fate of Queen Park Rangers Football Club, both short- and long-term. It is thought in the press that if QPR were to be relegated they would end up in trouble due to a massive wage bill and limited turnover, so there is as much riding on this for them as there may be for City.

Manchester City are at full strength with Mario Balotelli potentially returning to the substitutes’ bench after missing out completely against Newcastle. Queens Park Rangers midfielder Samba Diakite is still unavailable because of illness, Shaun Derry is nursing a dead leg and Akos Buzsaky is also a doubt with a hamstring problem. I think City will win, by a 2-goal margin, at 10/3 with Ladbrokes and secure the title.

 

Norwich v Aston Villa, 15:00

Villa have dragged themselves to safety just about, but their boss is still under pressure and an away win on the last day of the season would certainly ease that a bit. Norwich manager Paul Lambert has an interesting summer ahead of him, where he will find out how much support he’s getting to turn the Canaries into a regular at this level, but his hand is strengthened by the fact he has done so well this term and could be a subject of transfer interest himself.

Norwich left-back Adam Drury is a doubt for Sunday’s game, with Zak Whitbread, Marc Tierney and Daniel Ayala all ruled out. Aston Villa forwards Gabby Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey could join Darren Bent and Andreas Weimann on the sidelines. Alan Hutton is out with an ankle injury so James Collins could start, with Carlos Cuellar moved to right back in what may be his farewell appearance. I think we could see a 1-1 here, best priced at 67/10 with BetFair.

 

Stoke v Bolton, 15:00

Bolton need to win if they are to have any chance at survival, that much is well-known, but with QPR above them away at Manchester City the Trotters know that in fact a win will almost certainly reverse the situation for them. However, Stoke are not an easy side to beat and have only lost four games this season at home, so despite their expected fatigue the Potters will put up a very decent fight.

Stoke defender Marc Wilson is a doubt but Andy Wilkinson and Jermaine Pennant are expected to overcome respective groin and hamstring injuries. Bolton manager Owen Coyle is hopeful that the recently injured Nigel Reo-Coker and ill Mark Davies and Darren Pratley will be available. Gretar Steinsson remains sidelined with a thigh problem. Bolton are on at 9/2 with Ladbrokes to win by a 1-goal margin, and probably relegate QPR.

 

Sunderland v Manchester United, 15:00

While Sir Alex Ferguson has been very keen to talk about Manchester City this week he is now in the position of needing to beat a Sunderland team with a top motivational manager just to have hope of winning the title. For all the jokes about the number of former United players in the Sunderland squad I expect Martin O’Neill to demand nothing less that perfection from his players as he seeks to get involved in the title race by proxy.

Sunderland’s Wes Brown has returned to training but this game has come too soon for him.Kieran Richardson and Sebastian Larsson are out, but Titus Bramble will again be included. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that Chris Smalling will miss this match, as will Danny Welbeck. Ladbrokes have 10/3 on United winning by 2 goals, and I can see maybe a 3-1 victory as they push for more.

 

Swansea v Liverpool, 15:00

More than thirty points separate Liverpool from the top two, and whichever way Kenny cuts it that simply will not do for the fans, or board. Swansea have a team that cost less to construct than Liverpool paid for the useless right foot of Stewart Downing and have only eight less points than their rivals, exposing not just how fooling some of the summer deals were, but how well Brendan Rodgers has done.

Swansea have no fresh injury concerns, with Leon Britton is likely to return to the starting line-up after shaking off a knee problem, but Kemy Agustien and Ferrie Bodde remain out. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard missed the midweek win over Chelsea with a minor back problem and may again be left out ahead of Euro 2012 while Maxi Rodriguez is expected to start in what could be his last match for the Reds. You can get 5/1 with BlueSquare on Luis Suarez scoring the first goal of the game, and rounding off a tough season in style.

 

Tottenham v Fulham, 15:00

Spurs have gone from entertaining us all on the pitch to being a joke off it this term, the latest gem being that Benoit Assou-Ekotto feels he may need to leave to play in the Champions League, despite being one of the weakest players and main reasons Tottenham are struggling this year. With Chelsea playing in the final of the Champions League Spurs could finish fourth and end up in the Europa, and we all know Harry hates that cup.

Tottenham are without both Danny Rose and Benoit Assou-Ekotto is injured, so William Gallas could play at left-back, and Scott Parker is a doubtful due to an Achilles problem. Fulham will be without Clint Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz, Dickson Etuhu and Steve Sidwell. There is a best price of 13/2 with Bet365 on a 2-1 Spurs win, if you fancy it.

 

West Brom v Arsenal, 15:00

With the Baggies set for an emotional farewell today, as their boss leaves to be slaughtered for failing to make an average England team into Barcelona, Arsenal will rock up to the Hawthorns confident they can get the win they need in order to secure third place in that table. The Gunners have the points at present, so if they win nothing Newcastle or Spurs behind them do will matter in that respect.

Chris Brunt has had his tonsils removed and is unavailable for Brom manager Roy Hodgson’s final match in charge of the club, Paul Scharner will make his final Albion appearance, while Peter Odemwingie and winger Jerome Thomas are doubtful. Arsenal could have winger Theo Walcott back earlier than expected from a hamstring injury. Bacary Sagna has undergone an operation on his broken leg. You can get 10/3 on Robin Van Persie scoring the opener in potentially his last game for Arsenal.

 

Wigan v Wolves, 15:00

A noticeable sigh of relief accompanied the eventually fairly comfortable win over Blackburn that secured Wigan Premiership football for another year, but you do wonder if the time will come for Roberto Martinez to move on and up from a side he has managed for some time. Wolves are in a state of disarray, with players even coming out and admitting to not having heard of the new man in charge, and this game will hopefully provide no further embarrassments for the men in old gold.

David Jones is Wigan’s only fitness concern, Roberto Martinez otherwise having a full squad available. Wolves defender Christophe Berra and winger Michael Kightly are doubts with respective calf and groin strains. Sebastien Bassong, Kevin Foley, Matt Jarvis and David Davis face fitness tests. BetFair have a very friendly 41/5 on a 2-0 Wigan win.

 

MK Dons v Huddersfield, 12:30, Play-off First Leg

In this particular incarnation MK Dons have never been to the Championship, and while Wimbledon won’t be full of folk wishing them well the Dons will want to give the good people of Milton Keynes a show to remember. With the second leg in Huddersfield there is also some pressure for the home side this evening to get a strong win and keep their opponents out, but Huddersfield will be encouraged to keep the game open for the same reason.

Having lead the way for some of the season you’d expect that of the two Huddersfield would bring in more baggage, and the disappointment they’ll feel about being in the play-offs rather than up already is probably still quite keen, but former Leeds manager Simon Grayson will hope start striker Jordan Rhodes can deliver once more. Karl Robinson has already claimed his team are feeling unstoppable, so it’s clear that confidence won’t be a problem this afternoon for either side.

MK Dons boss Karl Robinson is hoping to have defender Gary MacKenzie back following an illness. Former Leeds United and England forward Alan Smith is likely to retain his place behind a front two of Dean Bowditch and Charlie MacDonald. Huddersfield are set to recall striker Jordan Rhodes after resting him for their last two matches, with Lee Novak or Kallum Higginbotham to miss out. Fellow striker Alan Lee (knee) is back in contention.

Neither side is a clear favourite to qualify, both being at the same price of 4/5 or so with BoyleSports, but the home advantage obviously means the Dons are installed as most likely to come away victorious this afternoon. Ladbrokes have 17/2 on a 2-1 home win, and Jordan Rhodes is a measly 11/8 with BetFred as an anytime goal scorer.

Blackburn v Wigan, 20:00

This is pretty much it for Blackburn, one game to save their chances, and salvation seems the least likely outcome. With Wigan six points ahead of their hosts and having only two games left, the away side will know a draw will doom Rovers to a season in the Championship (at least) and secure their own place in the league next season, while Blackburn have to win to have any chance of a final day recovery. Even if they do that they’ll still be relying on results elsewhere, and to be honest at this stage backing them to stay up is not a very wise move.

Wigan, on 37 points, need a win to be absolutely safe from relegation before the final day of term, but with their hosts presumably  going all out for victory Roberto Martinez may decide to play on the break and utilise the great pace of Victor Moses up front. The away team also have the luxury of knowing they host bottom club Wolves on the last day, while Blackburn take on a Chelsea side preparing for a Champions League final. Things really are stacking up for poor old Steve Kean, it seems.

Blackburn’s Martin Olsson is in line for a return to the starting XI after spending the last three games on the bench due to a niggling groin injury. Bradley Orr will be given a late fitness test, but Grant Hanley will not return until next season. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is boosted by the news that he has a fully fit squad to choose from. Franco Di Santo has recovered from a knock to his calf and Ronnie Stam’s hamstring injury has also healed.

Bet365 offer 15/4 on Rovers winning by a 1-goal margin, and if they are to trouble the Wigan defence Yakubu and Hoilett will need to perform. The performance recently in which the Rovers managed not one shot in the game will simply not be good enough to achieve what they now know they must.

Newcastle v Manchester City, 13:30

City have a goal difference eight better than United, which at this stage of the season is essentially a point, and if both sides pick up the same number of points in their last two games that is unlikely to change. Today the men in red will be playing catch-up if City can win, and that will simplify matters for Roberto Mancini. As good as Newcastle are, and they are extremely good at times, the away side really must play for the win or risk losing the title.

Cheick Tiote is fit to play, but Danny Simpson missed the match at Stamford Bridge and will face a late fitness test. Manchester City’s Joe Hart is having extensive treatment on a foot injury he sustained against Manchester United, and is the only potential change to the side that won that game. Cisse is 15/2 with StanJames as first goalscorer, although I think Demba Ba is also due a goal soon.

 

Aston Villa v Tottenham, 14:00

With Arsenal only managing a draw yesterday, and Newcastle taking on the leaders this afternoon this game is a chance for Tottenham to climb back into the top three after being there for most of the season. Villa need the points just as much as their guests, but all is not well at Villa Park with increasing pressure on the manager, and he has some very unhelpful selection news to deal with on top of that, namely  Darren Bent ruling himself out of their last two matches of the season due to his ankle injury.

McLeish has been boosted though by the return of Stephen Ireland from a hip problem though. Tottenham expect Scott Parker to return after missing the last two matches with an Achilles injury. Kyle Walker broke a toe during Wednesday’s win over Bolton but will be fit to play after a pain-killing injection. Ladbrokes offer 5/1 on Spurs to win by two goals, but this is an away game and it may be less simple than that.

 

Bolton v West Brom, 14:00

Bolton are well aware at this stage just how perilous their situation is and the visit of Albion represents a great chance to win and get up the table a bit. West Brom have a departing manager who is bound to have one eye on a summer spent managing the national side to certain victory (ahem) in the European Championships, and that may mean his players aren’t focussed on the task in hand.

Bolton midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker will be given a fitness test, Gretar Steinsson may return, but Darren Pratley is out with a virus and Chung Yong Lee is not yet fully fit. West Brom’s Shane Long will be fit, as will James Morrison following his recovery from a knee injury. BetFair have 10/1 at the moment on a 1-0 away win, which is fairly good value.

 

Fulham v Sunderland, 14:00

Sunderland are under the spotlight at present simply because they play Manchester United on the final day of the season, and for manager Martin O’Neill the questioning has verged on the disrespectful. Today is a chance for his players to go out and stake a claim in that team, as well as gain valuable places in mid table that could affect their share of the TV booty come season end, but Fulham will certainly have similar goals in mind, making this a good-looking contest.

Fulham are hopeful Martin Jol will be back in the dugout after a chest infection, but know Andy Johnson is again ruled out with a thigh problem. Sunderland’s John O’Shea and striker Nicklas Bendtner are major injury doubts, Craig Gardner is available after serving a one-match ban, but Titus Bramble is not yet fully fit. Pavel Pogrebnyak is 5/1 with BlueSquare to score the opener, and the big Russian has certainly taken well to the Barclays Premier League.

 

QPR v Stoke, 14:00

Of all the teams not still threatened by relegation, Stoke are the lowest in the league, and theoretically the ideal opponent for a QPR side not in the bottom three only on goal difference. While Tony Pulis never sends a side out to play at less than 100%, his players may not have all that much left to give after a long season with a Europa League adventure on top, and more than a few Potters clearly have at least one eye on the beach.

Adel Taarabt returns to the QPR side, as could Samba Diakite if he recovers from a virus. Tony Pulis will replace Asmir Begovic with Thomas Sorensen for the last two games of the season to help the Danish keeper’s preparations for Euro 2012, but Jermaine Pennant, Andy Wilkinson and Rory Delap are all doubts. The 3/1 with Ladbrokes on QPR to win by a one-goal margin is the best price, and I think it will be tight, but with a few goals.

 

Wolves v Everton, 14:00

Without getting anything really done, Everton are having another decent season under David Moyes,  and while they can’t catch Chelsea above them this is an opportunity to go six point clear of Liverpool below. Wolves are obviously down, and their players must really either be playing for pride or a chance of a summer transfer now, with little else to motivate them and a manager suffering regular abuses from the board.

Terry O’Connor hopes to have on-loan defender Sebastien Bassong fit and Matt Jarvis should also be available despite suffering a tight groin. Leighton Baines could return for Everton after recovering from a hamstring problem, but Victor Anichebe and Jack Rodwell are both doubtful. Bet365 have 12/1 on a 3-1 away win, and Wolves have defended as poorly as their position suggests for much of the term.

 

Manchester United v Swansea, 16:00

After the reverse being true for the last couple of weeks it is United’s turn to play second this week and deal with the pressure of knowing what their neighbours have done, although like Roberto Mancini I fully expect Sir Alex Ferguson will have his side playing to win. Swansea are a great team, and we’ve already seen good footballing sides like Basel and Bilbao come to Old Trafford and do well, so this could be very interesting.

Danny Welbeck is out after injuring his ankle during Monday’s derby, Jonny Evans remains sidelined, but Anders Lindegaard is available for the first time since January. Former United youth player Alan Tate could be available for Swansea after returning to training, with the Swans also monitoring the condition of right-back Angel Rangel’s hamstring. All the value is on a draw, and although that’s strangely attractive to me I’ll tell you about the 11/1 StanJames have on a 3-1 home win.

Barclays Premier League

Arsenal v Norwich, 12:45

For the Gunners this may not look the most important or challenging of fixtures, but with Spurs and Newcastle giving it one last push for the Champions League spots Arsenal still need to secure points, and the putting away of sides like Norwich is something the team could do better. Paul Lambert will bring his Canaries squad to the Emirates tired, battered and bruised from a long year, but he’ll be as proud as a new dad of the way they’ve acquitted themselves in their first year in the Premiership.

Arsenal will be without Theo Walcott, who is still struggling with the hamstring injury that caused him to miss the draw with Stoke. Per Mertesecker, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere have been ruled out for the season. Norwich left-back Adam Drury is doubtful due to a groin injury. Leading scorer Grant Holt is likely to start after coming on off the bench last week as manager Paul Lambert sought to give him a rest. VictorChandler have a fairly measly 7/1 on a 2-0 home win, but I’d fancy the Gunners to get three points.

 

FA Cup

Chelsea v Liverpool, 17:15

This is clearly a big game for Liverpool, and the amount of pressure Kenny Dalglish is putting on it seems as though it may backfire, although players like Suarez and Gerrard could equally thrive in such circumstances. For Chelsea, though, and a few of their number in particular, this is an equally massive occasion regardless of the game they will play in Munich a fortnight or so hence.

John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and a few others are suspended for the big game in Germany, and that is what will make this such a huge event for them. Going into an international summer the likes of Terry will also want to stake a claim with Roy Hodgson to being indispensable to the squad, whatever baggage they may bring with them, and what issues they face in court.

In terms of selection, Roberto di Matteo must choose between Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres as his main striker, and has Gary Cahill and David Luiz out with hamstring injuries. Long-term midfield absentees Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam are Liverpool’s only injury absentees, with Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard are set to return after missing Tuesday’s loss to Fulham.

It’s always tough to call finals, but the 7/1 with SkyBet that Chelsea will win by a couple of goals doesn’t look bad. There are so many variables on show here, with Torres v Liverpool and Suarez playing Terry that you really have to pick your favourite narrative and follow that thread to its end.

 

Cardiff v West Ham, 19:45, Play-Off, First Leg

For West Ham there are a lot of reasons why winning their place in the Premier League through the play-offs is going to be very difficult, but they come in today at least knowing they face a team with equal amounts of baggage at this level. Cardiff have made the knock-out rounds in the last two years only to suffer heartbreak, and last term the pain was exacerbated by seeing Swansea go up and subsequently play such stylish and successful stuff.

For the Hammers, they must deal with several issues, not least of which is the fact they were very much planning for the automatic spots. In addition to this, they have dropped into third rather than climbed there, which will tell you something about the level of momentum they may have relative to their opponents, although a few dominant wins at the back end of the league, combined with a 2-0 win in Wales earlier this year will give the Clarets confidence.

Cardiff boss Malky Mackay will select his starting line-up for the first leg of their play-off semi-final against West Ham from a full-strength squad, despite four unspecified players sustaining knocks in the win at Crystal Palace. West Ham also have a fully fit squad available with midfielder Gary O’Neil passed fit. Kevin Nolan is also fine despite suffering a dead leg and James Tomkins has shaken off a knock to the head.

The return of Nolan is key, as he is second top scorer behind Carlton Cole on 12 goals (Cole has 14), and a big part of the Hammers attack from deep. Cardiff’s Peter Whittingham has 13 this term from midfield, and their main attacker is the experienced Kenny Miller, but the Welsh side have the slightly less predictable methods. VictorChandler offer 6/1 on a 1-1, the favourite score, and the bookies favour Ricardo Vaz Te as first to net (Bet365, 6/1), but I like the 7/2 on a West Ham win by a one-goal margin.

Manchester United v Everton, 12:30

Although many pundits fancied that this game could be a potential problem for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men it is historically a home banker for the Red Devils, and this incarnation of Everton is by no means the strongest seen in the Premiership. David Moyes is still doing a good job at Goodison Park, but his own ambition may eventually see him leave to enjoy occasions like this more regularly, and today may not be his day.

Manchester United have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the visit of Everton. Everton’s Leighton Baines will miss out with a hamstring injury, Jack Rodwell remains sidelined but Steven Pienaar is available, having been cup-tied last weekend. PaddyPower offer 8/1 on a 3-0 home win and Old Trafford finishing the day full of happy fans

 

Liverpool v West Brom, 16:00

You’ll never hear Sky say it, but this game is essentially a dead rubber unless you count the slight gradiation in reward for finishing higher or lower in the table, with West Brom safe from relegation and Liverpool miles off the Champions League spots. Even if the club achieve a cup double this season a section of the support will remain unconvinced with Kenny Dalglish’s start until they see solid results in the league, and this season has been characterised by anything but for the Red half of Merseyside.

Pepe Reina and Doni are available for Liverpool, with Reina reclaiming his place, and Jose Enrique could return, having missed the FA Cup semi-final win over Everton. West Brom forward Marc-Antoine Fortune is a doubt with the hamstring injury he suffered against QPR last weekend. Jonas Olsson is expected to return after pulling out of that fixture during the warm-up. Going on form the 11/2 with BoyleSports on a score draw is where your money should be, but the Reds might wake up now it doesn’t matter.

 

Wolves v Manchester City, 16:00

City will kick off knowing what United have done, and I’m pretty sure that given the choice Roberto Mancini would rather be playing first, but their fate is still out of their hand and the away team know they simply have to win. For their hosts and probable victims the time when they had to win is past, and they now must prepare for life in the Championship, barring a miracle of massive proportion. Some of those in old gold will also be looking to their own future in this league after underperforming this term.

Wolves goalkeeper Dorus de Vries is poised to make his first Premier League start for the club in place of the injured Wayne Hennessey. Sebastien Bassong is available after serving a one-game ban, while winger Matt Jarvis could be restored to the side. Manchester City are still without forward Mario Balotelli through suspension, but it’s the 15/4 on Carlos Tevez to score first that Bet365 offer I’d be looking at.

 

Chelsea v Barcelona, 19:45

We all know that Chelsea felt cheated last time they lost to Barca at this stage of the Champions League, and most of us also remember the disgraceful behaviour of their players as they threw childish paddies about the defeat. Didier Drogba in particular should never live that down, but with any luck the fact they are all a little bit older will mean that whatever happens, we at least won’t have to endure that level of idiocy from any of the London side this time around.

Barcelona are hardly a paragon of virtue themselves, with the likes of Busquets and Pedro never far from a dive, but the way they play the game makes it hard not to love them, and I for one can see this being a bad evening for the home side. The Chelsea midfield is slower, and older than it was the last time these met, and the likes of Lampard and Essien are so diminished as to be unrecognisable at times, particularly the Englishman wearing the treacle boots.

Chelsea will be without defender David Luiz for the game after the Brazilian centre-half injured his hamstring during the FA Cup win over Tottenham at the weekend. Gary Cahill could start in his place while Branislav Ivanovic is available, and this is shame for Roberto di Matteo. Since his arrival at the club Cahill has really struggled with the step up, while Luiz has been sticking it to his critics with some fantastic performances.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has been out with a thigh strain but is back in contention, while David Villa and Eric Abidal remain sidelined, Abidal with a potentially career-ending surgery. Barcelona aren’t the best at the back, but former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has become a key part of their team, and is a fairly accomplished replacement should Pique not make the eleven.

Because he’s playing I’ll give you the odds on Messi as first goalscorer, StanJames leading the way at 3/1. Ladbrokes have 9/2 on Barcelona winning by two goals, and most of the bookies seem to think the Spaniards will emerge victorious. I’d be genuinely amazed if the home side managed a 2-0, or something like that, but anything can happen, I suppose.