Revenge was prominent in Carlo Ancelotti’s thoughts after his Chelsea team were drawn to face Manchester United in next month’s Champions League quarter-final. But the Italian does not want vengeance to motivate his players when they take on the club that inflicted a heart-breaking defeat in the 2008 final. True redemption, he says, can come only by lifting the trophy at Wembley in May.
At least one English club will be in the semi-finals after yesterday’s draw in Nyon pitted the Premier League’s champions against its current leaders, and Tottenham will make it two if they prevail in a mouth-watering meeting with José Mourinho’s Real Madrid. The Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, was insistent that his side will go into the tie with no fear, with a likely semi-final against Barcelona – who face Shakhtar Donetsk in the last eight – awaiting the winners. In the other quarter-final the holders, Internazionale, play Schalke.
Yet it was the all-English tie that drew the attention. The majority of the Chelsea side who experienced the numbing disappointment of defeat on penalties to United in Moscow three years ago, including John Terry and Nicolas Anelka whose misses from the spot proved decisive, remain at a club still seeking its first European Cup. “I don’t think revenge will be a good motivation,” said Ancelotti, who was Milan’s manager at the time. “It should be fantastic motivation just looking to the future.
“Winning this competition is not an obsession. It is a dream. But we have four games to reach the final in London. If Chelsea were to reach the final – not just beating United – that would be a good revenge for what happened in 2008. The players will remember they lost in Moscow, but we must remind ourselves that we beat United twice last year and have won against them this season, too.”
The clubs will end the season as familiar foes having confronted each other four times in under three months following the champions’ 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge almost three weeks ago. “But each game is a different story,” added Ancelotti.
“I won the trophy with Milan and, at that club, the most important competition is the Champions League. Not Serie A. Every year, because of our tradition and history, we focused on the European Cup. For Chelsea, winning this competition would be so important because it would be the first time. But we have to wait. This tie will be very difficult. United have showed fantastic consistency this season, better than us. But over 180 minutes, the side that plays better will win.”
Redknapp had long maintained that Barcelona were the team to avoid in the last eight, followed by Real, so the draw for Spurs felt harsh particularly with the Catalans potentially awaiting in the semi-finals. But the manager was enthusiastic about the prospect, for now, of taking on the might of Madrid and Mourinho, and he suggested the Spaniards had every reason to fear his players. “Nobody wanted Barcelona, and Real and their players are not far behind them but we have good players, who can hurt teams and they know that,” said Redknapp. “If we can get a good result in the first leg, we have a chance. We feel we can play against anybody. They are going to be looking at us as well.”
The Tottenham manager also took the opportunity to load the pressure on Arsène Wenger, saying that Arsenal now had a “clear run” at the Premier League, with United’s run-in further complicated by the Champions League tie against Chelsea. “Arsenal are out of everything except for the league, and what an opportunity they have got,” said Redknapp. “They are not playing Saturday-midweek-Saturday, as everyone else will be, in massive games. You’ve got to look at it and think Arsenal have got the most incredible opportunity ever.
“If United can go on and win the league now, with all these games coming up, including the FA Cup semi-final with Man City, that would be an amazing feat. Arsenal are the only team with a clear run at it. Really now, you’d have to think they’ve got the best chance they’re ever going to have.
“It’s tough for us to fight on two fronts but we want to finish in the top four. And in all honesty, the favourites Manchester City should be in there, shouldn’t they? You look at the money they’ve been able to spend on players.”