Wembley braced for a Spanish invasion

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2010-11

The road to Wembley has been mapped out for England’s representatives in the Champions League with the biggest obstacles, La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid who head the betting at 3/1 and 5/1 respectively, kept out of harm’s way for now.

Fourth favourites Manchester United will be pleased with their group draw, but the big doubt about the 8/1 shots is how they stand up on the biggest stage if Wayne Rooney is out of form or injured.

Carlo Ancelotti completed his first mission at Stamford Bridge last term by dethroning United at the Premier League summit, and now the Chelsea suits will have their eyes firmly fixed on Euro glory – having been a goal-post’s width and a slip away from lifting the 2008 trophy.

With the final taking place in the capital and with the Blues among an unprecedented three sides from the city in the hat, hopes might be high for a first-ever London European Cup winner.

Of the trio, Chelsea’s 13/2 odds on Paddy Power suggest they have the best chance and they might be worth an each-way poke considering their magnificent domestic start. They have also reached at least the semis in three of the past four campaigns and the Blues should advance even if they could have done without a trip to Roman Abramovich’s homeland to face Spartak Moscow.

Arsenal must also negotiate a tricky trip east thanks to their pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk but the 16/1 contenders will be confident of prolonging their involvement beyond the first phase. There’s no doubt that if the Gunners could finally make it their season, it would be all the sweeter for their fans with the winners’ coronation taking place at a ground they once called home for Champions League games.

Tottenham looked like kids given free reign in the sweetshop after securing their place at the European top table, but Spurs have been thrown in at the deep end with current holders Inter Milan for group company along with Werder Bremen and FC Twente. Don’t take the 40/1 for them to win the tournament, but a few home wins are within their grasp.

Barcelona should at least reach the semis and score bundles en route, but at 5/1 on Betdaq, Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid look better value than the 2009 winners and are the outright tip.

Elsewhere, there will be plenty of interest in the top scorer markets. Barca’s David Villa is clear favourite at 6/1 and I simply can’t oppose that. We saw his exceptional scoring ability in South Africa and linking up with Xavi and Andres Iniesta for his club does his prospects no har whatsoever.

POINTERS...
Real Madrid to win the Champions League at 5/1 on Betdaq
Chelsea to win outright at 13/2 each-way with Paddy Power
David Villa to be top goalscorer at 6/1 with William Hill