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RED, NOT BURIED.. Rocky United are different proposition in Champions League ties.


THE TRANSITION from the all -conquering era of Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be tricky, but I'd very much doubt that even most pessimistic Red Devil could have anticipated a campaign which would scarcely count as a successful season for Newcastle or Everton.

As their faltering effort continues, it is becoming increasingly evident that their best route into the Champions League next season would be to win this year's, something that's not exactly easy when you have the worst defence since the Maginot Line.

Having only won three of their 10 games since the turn of the year, this game couldn't have come at a worse time, because Tuesday's opponents Olympiacos haven't lost since PSG turned them over in November.

When looking at the form guide, one could be forgiven for thinking that United's opponents in the group stages have a lot to answer for - having been so easily swatted aside by Moyes' men. But alternatively, it may be that the Reds raise their game for Europe.

Form can tell us a lot about the team, but the truth is when you stack up Rooney and company against the Greeks, they should come out on top and 5/4 on them winning the first leg might not be a bad investment.

The following day Chelsea will travel to face Galatasaray in Turkey in a fixture that could be described as the footballing equivalent of Mordor ( for all you Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans out there).

The Turks didn't exactly set the world alight in the group stages, somehow stumbling through with only seven points - a tally that wouldn't have seen them qualify for the Europa League in some groups.

Chelsea on the other hand have continued their season in the same manner - solid but not spectacular. It's safe to say that this side is nowhere near as good as Mourinho's first incarnation, but they're still capable of winning titles.

The Blues are rightly the favourites going into this tie, but given his conservative nature, I can see him settling for the draw before looking to finish the job at the Bridge. Back the draw at 12/5.


EURO STARS: Man United enjoyed this third goal against Bayer Leverkusen
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Title Annotation:Sport; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 23, 2014
Next Article:2016 is no formality for O'Neill.

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