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Revenge? Roberto Di Matteo has restored lost pride – but Barcelona too good for Chelsea . . . and so are Real Madrid & Bayern Munich!

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Blues skipper John Terry is still launted by Barca's injury time winner in 2009

Blues skipper John Terry is still haunted by Barca's injury time winner from Andres Iniesta in 2009

BY JOHN GUBBA

Winning the Champions League has become an obsession for Roman Abramovich and Roberto Di Matteo has kept the Russian’s dream alive against all the odds by guiding Chelsea into a semi-final showdown with defending champions Barcelona. But the harsh reality is that the Blues are unlikely to feature in next season’s competition unless they go on to win the tournament – and in the final four they are the rank outsiders.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all have a touch of class a cut above the men from Stamford Bridge. Barca, in the semi-finals for the fifth successive season, are bidding to become the first side to successfully defend the European Cup since AC Milan in 1990 – and if they achieve that goal it will add weight to the argument that this is the greatest club side the beautiful game has ever seen.

But the beauty of the world’s most popular sport is you can never take anything for granted. And that is what makes Chelsea’s semi-final with the favourites so fascinating. It is a scenario that suits interim manager Di Matteo because the experts all agree they are the weakest team left in the competition, despite beating Benfica in both legs of their quarter-final.

http://youtu.be/FCGRyOJB6Ms

No one expects Chelsea to go any further and that is what gives  them a fighter’s chance of pulling off a shock because they have nothing to lose. The Blues will also remember how they took Barca to the brink the last time they met at this stage in 2009 and the Catalans were rescued by a last gasp winner after surviving a remarkable number of strong penalty appeals.

I still expect Lionel Messi and his team-mates to progress to the final. But do not be surprised if  Di Matteo’s men push Barcelona all the way in their two-legged contest for the right to play Real or Bayern in the Final in Munich’s Allianz Arena on 19 May.

FLASHBACK: Arguably Chelsea’s greatest European triumph came against Barcelona in 2005 when  John Terry’s header sealed a 5-4 aggregate win and sent the Blues into the last eight of the Champions League. It was the night. Chelsea raced into a three-goal lead in 19 minutes, with Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff on target for Jose Mourinho’s side. Barca pulled two goals back before half-time, Ronaldinho scoring from the spot after Paolo Ferreira handled. Then Ronaldinho  scored a stunning second. But Terry’s 75th minutes strike made it a decisive 4-2 win on the night.

http://youtu.be/gr2N2A_M_Bo

 

 You’ve got to admire Di Matteo – but success for Abramovich’s sack the manager policy would be bad for football

 

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CYCLING WORLD UNITES TO SUPPORT PREGNANT GIRLFRIEND OF WOUTER WEYLANDT, WHO DIED IN TRAGIC RACE CRASH

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Weylandt the winning smile

Weylandt the winning smile

BY JOHN GUBBA

It is heart-warming to see the way the cycling community has pulled together following the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt when he crashed during the third stage of the Giro d’Italia on Monday.

Thousands of well-wishers have supported the foundation set up by Weylandt’s team Leopard Trek to provide financial support for the Belgian rider’s family, and donations can be made by following this Facebook link

The International Cycling Union has given its full support and invites the whole cycling family to participate in honour of the memory of the 26-year-old rider who died in such tragic circumstances, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend Sophie Anne, who is due to give birth in September.

Weylandt fell and suffered fatal head injuries with 25 kilometres remaining of the 173-kilometre third stage of the Giro d’Italia, from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo. He was knocked unconscious and even though medics were instantly on the scene to give him cardiac massage at the scene they were unable to revive him.

1992 Olympic Gold medal cyclist Chris Boardman spoke for everyone who loves the sport when he he said he was shocked by such a ‘tragic’ accident. But Boardman, who was watching the event live when the incident happened and described the footage as ‘incredibly graphic’ and ‘horrific’ reflected the thoughts of many when he said he does not believe safety in professional cycling needs addressing.

Leopard Trek team-mates and training partner Tyler Farrar, third from right, cross the finish line side by side and with their arms linked at the Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy cycling race, in Livorno, Italy, on Tuesday after completing the fourth stage in honour of Wouter Weylandt.

Leopard Trek team-mates and training partner Tyler Farrar, third from right, cross the finish line side by side and with their arms linked at the Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy cycling race, in Livorno, Italy, on Tuesday after completing the fourth stage in honour of Wouter Weylandt.

UCI president Pat McQuaid says cycling’s governing body will investigate bike safety and “discuss with the industry the rigidity and safety aspects of bikes.”

But he conceded when “racing against nature all of the time” there was very little that could be improved. “We will make sure we are not making bikes which cause problems themselves. But they [the teams] understand there is a limit to what you can do to a bike.”

Weylandt was the first rider killed in a crash in one of cycling’s three main tours since Italian rider Fabio Casartelli in the 1995 Tour de France. He is the fourth cyclist to die during the Giro and the first in 25 years. Orfeo Ponsin died in 1952, Juan Manuel Santisteban in 1976 and Emilio Ravasio in 1986.

McQuaid said: “Cycling is touched by a lot of controversy but one tends to forget that they go out everyday and risk their lives, going down the mountains at the speeds they go down.

“We see a lot of crashes in cycling and a lot of injuries but very rarely do we see a fatality and here we did. It’s such a sad situation for a 26-year-old, so so tragic.”

Wouter Weylandt was just 26

Wouter Weylandt was just 26


CYCLING WORLD STUNNED BY RACE DEATH OF WOUTER WEYLANDT

Following Monday’s tragic death of Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d’Italia, the number 108 which he wore during the race is destined to assume a special significance in the cycling world. Now, a T-shirt is available bearing those three digits that will allow you to pay tribute to the 26-year-old Belgian, while benefiting the fund that his team, Leopard Trek, have set up to provide support for his family including his girlfriend and the unborn child he will never know.

Following Monday’s tragic death of Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d’Italia, the number 108 which he wore during the race is destined to assume a special significance in the cycling world. Now, a T-shirt is available bearing those three digits that will allow you to pay tribute to the 26-year-old Belgian, while benefiting the fund that his team, Leopard Trek, have set up to provide support for his family including his girlfriend and the unborn child he will never know.

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