The conviction that English clubs can again dominate the later stages of the Champions' League, hardened by the second-leg matches at Old Trafford and the Emirates, was hardly weakened by the extraordinary events in Catania on Friday night. There, Jose Mourinho's Internazionale, who visit Chelsea with a slender 2-1 lead on Tuesday, prepared for the trip by suffering their heaviest defeat of the season (3-1) and their first against the Sicilians since the year Bobby Moore held up the World Cup.
For an hour Chelsea's spies will have observed a not untypical Mourinho performance: unexciting, grimly efficient and taking a grip as Samuel Eto'o set up Diego Milito to score on a breakaway. Fielding nine of the side that started in the first leg at the San Siro, Inter then relaxed and had the game wrested away in dramatic fashion, losing three goals in the last 17 minutes, and having substitute Sulley Muntari – the former Portsmouth man – sent off for two yellow cards in the 85 seconds he was on the pitch.
Despite all that, Chelsea can hardly expect a passage as smooth as that of Manchester United and Arsenal in search of London's first European Cup. English teams have been losing finalists for the past four years so there is an understandable reluctance for self-promotion. As Theo Walcott, finding form again after criticism by Chris Waddle, put it: "We won't get too carried away. We've had disappointments in this competition over the last couple of years – Man United in the semis last year. We'll need to build on [results]. Hopefully, if it comes to it [drawing an English team] we'll learn from our mistakes and try to go one step further."
This week's Brits in Europe
Champions' League: Tuesday
Chelsea (1) v Internazionale (2) 7.45, Sky Sports 2
The Special One will receive as rapturous a welcome as David Beckham at Old Trafford without the need to don a home scarf (though don't put it past him). With Milan able to cut Inter's lead in Serie A to a point today, Mourinho is suddenly under pressure and will need all his old wiles to come through this one.
Europa League: Thursday
Fulham (1) v Juventus (3) 6.05, ITV4
When Juve brought on two World Cup winners as substitutes in the first leg, Roy Hodgson's team knew this was the big time. He said fatigue was having an effect on his small squad and after Old Trafford today, Thursday may end the adventure.
Liverpool (0) v Lille (1) 8.05, Five
Rafa Benitez says Liverpool's fate "depends on the first minutes" of this game after they had again been undone in the last minutes in France. Before that there is a Premier League match at home to Portsmouth tomorrow to worry about, the result of which will have an effect on Thursday's mood.
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