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Champions League rolling blog

Published: Wednesday 9 March 2011, 0.09CET
FC Barcelona and FC Shakhtar Donetsk have booked their places in the quarter-finals; we have all the reaction from Tuesday's games and build-up to Wednesday's matches.
Published: Wednesday 9 March 2011, 0.09CET

Champions League rolling blog

FC Barcelona and FC Shakhtar Donetsk have booked their places in the quarter-finals; we have all the reaction from Tuesday's games and build-up to Wednesday's matches.

Have your say on all this week's UEFA Champions League round of 16 deciders. FC Barcelona and FC Shakhtar Donetsk are safely through to the quarter-final draw at the expense of Arsenal FC and AS Roma respectively. Tomorrow, AC Milan will look to overcome a 1-0 first-leg home defeat at Tottenham Hotspur FC while, in Germany, FC Schalke 04 host Valencia CF with the tie poised at 1-1.'s team of reporters will bring you all the latest news throughout the week in this rolling UEFA Champions League blog.

Wednesday 00.09, London
Video highlights from both games have now been published. The live blog will recommence at 10.00 on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday 22.59, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Barcelona's Éric Abidal was relieved after a 3-1 win at home against Arsenal saw his side through to the last eight. "It was a tricky game, especially after the defeat in England," he said. "I thought we played well, especially in the first half. When they scored the equaliser tonight it was tough to start all over again but we managed to do it, and for that we're very happy. Looking ahead to the quarter-finals, I hope to face Lyon; let's see if they can manage to beat Real Madrid next week."

Arsenal's Cesc Fàbregas was dignified in defeat, and said: "It's a real pity we've gone out tonight. We caused them a few scary moments, especially when we scored. But that's football and it wasn't our night. I'm proud of the team; we stood up to them and defended well when we were supposed to. Personally, I enjoyed the first 15 minutes but then felt a slight pain in the back of my leg and carried on for as long as I could. I wish Barcelona the best of luck in the tournament and hope they can get as far as possible."

Tuesday 22.51, London
Final scores: Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (agg: 4-3) and Shakhtar 3-0 Roma (agg: 6-2). Reaction tol follow.

Tuesday 20.30, London
The live blog will close down for the duration of the games, but be sure to track the matches in our MatchCentre and come back at full-time for reaction from Barcelona and Donetsk.

Tuesday 19.33, Richard van Poortvliet in Donetsk
The streets and bars around Donetsk are filling up with kick-off less than two hours away. There's a great festive mood around the city, with people of all ages decked out in Shakhtar's colours. Such was the interest in the Roma game, the Ukrainian champions' first ever home tie in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, that all tickets had been snapped up before the first leg in Italy. The Giallorossi have brought only 300 fans with them to Ukraine.

The visitors will certainly be in for a chilly evening; any signs that spring might be on its way have well and truly disappeared. The city's pavements are icy, and the temperature is expected to drop to around -10C by kick-off. However the club is doing all it can to warm the hearts of female supporters, with all ladies attending the game receiving a box of chocolates to mark International Women's Day.

For those of you who have never been to Donbass Arena, it is an absolutely fantastic stadium, with facilities second to none. The orange, blue and black edifice rises up from its surroundings like a futuristic spaceship, with searchlights lighting up the sky around. However, the most important thing for Shakhtar fans is not that they have an arena to be proud of, but that their football team is proving they can mix it with Europe's very best.

Tuesday 19.23, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
Aritz Aduriz, Valencia's most dangerous striker in the league, is fit again after an ankle injury and ready to make his mark against Schalke. "It is clear that we need a goal to progress," the 30-year-old said. "But we have to play our normal game as it this tie will not be decided in the first few minutes, but over the whole 90. We have to attack in a controlled fashion and not go mad and leave ourselves exposed to their counterattacks."

Tuesday 18.37, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
Even though the Camp Nou should be a boiling cauldron of noise and excitement tonight things are calm and relaxed right now. Rain is in the air but the skies have cleared thanks to a really chill wind and although there are said to be 5,000 travelling Gunners' fans in Barcelona there is scant evidence of them in and around the famous arena.

Perhaps that's because of the huge crowd I just passed at the top of the hill, about 1km away from the stadium, where the Arsenal team hotel is situated and from where the bus carrying Arsène Wenger and his squad will leave very shortly.

Tuesday 17.45, Mark Pettit at White Hart Lane
Milan's flight to England from Malpensa Airport has been delayed by one hour so we won't be seeing them at White Hart Lane until after 20.00. It's nothing do with the English weather for once as it's a sunny, if slightly chilly, afternoon in north London. We're expecting Clarence Seedorf to speak at the Rossoneri's press conference later so we'll let you know his thoughts ahead of tomorrow's game.

Tuesday 17.40, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
In the Schalke press conference, José Manuel Jurado was a popular choice for the Spanish journalists, who pressed him to see whether he was bothered that much of the Spanish media are reducing the tie to a contest between Raúl González and Valencia. The midfielder answered: "No, that is not really a problem. Of course, Raúl is important to us, but we are a team and we are trying to achieve things together."

With 3,000 to 4,000 Schalke fans having left quite an impression at Mestalla in the first leg, Jurado suggested that his compatriots had not seen anything yet. "Tomorrow, it will be Mestalla times 20. The atmosphere will be something special, it always is. It is often so loud that we cannot even communicate amongst ourselves on the pitch."

The Spanish midfielder added that the hosts are wary about the return of Valencia's Juan Mata: "We have to watch him closely. He is a very important and dangerous player for his side and is capable of slicing open the defence with his passing."

Tuesday 17.35, Mark Pettit at White Hart Lane
Rafael van der Vaart, speaking at the Tottenham press conference, said that he has some ghosts to lay to rest if he plays tomorrow evening. "Once I reached the quarter-finals with Ajax and we lost against AC Milan in the last minute [in 2002/03]," he said. "We had a very young team - Zlatan Ibrahimović was playing, me, Steven Pienaar, Wesley Sneijder. We had a great team and it was a great year for Ajax so I'm hoping we can beat Milan."

This stage of the competition has also not been kind to the Spurs striker, who suffered in the Madrid side that have fallen in this round for six straight seasons. "It's difficult to compare this team with Madrid as the pressure there was so high," he added. "With Tottenham it is different. Everyone is pleased that we have played well and won a lot of games."

Tuesday 17.15, Steffen Potter in Gelsenkirchen
It is sunny and pleasant here in Gelsenkirchen where a number of Valencia fans are checking out the sights around the Arena AufSchalke. José Manuel Jurado will be attending the Schalke press conference alongside coach Felix Magath.

Locals here still talk about Schalke's 1997 UEFA Cup quarter-final meeting with Valencia, when a 2-0 home win set them up to progress to the semi-finals, and eventually to victory in the final.

Schalke's Spanish striker Raúl, meanwhile, has admitted that even after all these years it still feels special to play in Europe's premier club competition. "Every time I hear the UEFA Champions League anthem I get that special feeling. I get goose bumps all over."

Tuesday 17.06, Mark Pettit at White Hart Lane
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has just finished his press conference at White Hart Lane ahead of Milan's visit and revealed good news on the injury front for Rafael van der Vaart and Vedran Ćorluka – but he was less optimistic about Gareth Bale.

He said: "Van der Vaart is OK – he trained this morning and yesterday. He came through with no problems so he's available. Ćorluka is fit. His ankle looked bad [after the first leg] but he's worked hard and feels OK now. Gareth also trained this morning but still felt a bit stiff in the legs so we'll wait until tomorrow and see how he is. It's touch and go as to whether he is fit to start."

Irrespective of the injury situation, Redknapp expects his side to continue in their role as great entertainers in the UEFA Champions League. "We do score goals and sometimes we have difficulties stopping them," he said. "We pick an open attacking team and that's how we'll play tomorrow – we'll have a go. We'll give ourselves every opportunity to attack Milan but must be aware they have got outstanding forwards as well. It's set up to be a great game. They know they have to come here to win so they will only have one thing in mind."

Tuesday 16.48, London's regular feature on great UEFA Champions League games is a must-see this week. AS Monaco FC's 8-3 victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña boasts the highest aggregate score of any UEFA Champions League game. Croatian striker Dado Pršo scored four of Monaco's goals on that night.

Visit the Ford Classics page and enter the Champions Quiz for your chance to win a ticket for this season's final.

Tuesday 16.09, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
The big day is finally here and the Camp Nou is preparing for Barça v Arsenal - the return match. However, for the Gunners fans who have arrived here in T-shirts and shorts, and I've seen a few today, the temperature must be feeling more like Bridlington than Barcelona. Rain is forecast for the big match tonight, and the breeze blowing off the sea is making it pretty chilly.

Your correspondent witnessed a nice fraternal moment between the clubs last night. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger watched Blackpool FC's 3-1 Premier League loss at home against Chelsea FC last night on TV in the bar of Arsenal's hotel in Barcelona - but his pole position under the giant screen came courtesy of Camp Nou legend Hristo Stoichkov. The former Bulgarian international was relaxing with friends but went out of his way to find out two comfy armchairs, pulling them across the floor to the prime spot so that he and M. Wenger could watch the match together.

While Arsenal have chosen to set up camp in a famous hotel within two minutes drive of the Camp Nou, the home side are in a five-star hotel right at the top of Tibidabo mountain which once played host to Frank Sinatra, Rita Heyworth and Rock Hudson.

Having been pitch-side at the Camp Nou, the great news is that the playing surface is as good as it has been all season. Barcelona have already replaced the turf once and at Arsenal Stadium three weeks ago they studied the artificial-natural mix of grass which has been so successful for the Gunners. The turf nearest the two benches at Camp Nou can be pretty bumpy and easy to dislodge, but that issue has been resolved for the big game.

Tuesday 14.30, London
Milan's midfield may have been depleted by injury (Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini), ineligibility (Mark van Bommel, Antonio Cassano) and suspension (Gennaro Gattuso) but there was some good news from Milanello this morning, where Kevin-Prince Boateng, who twisted his ankle against Juventus on Saturday and was expected to miss the trip to Tottenham, took part in full training with the Rossoneri.

The Ghanaian international has been named in the 22-man squad, with 19-year-old German midfielder Alexander Merkel standing by to play in case Boateng misses out on the chance to face his former side. Milan forward Robinho is also looking forward to returning to England; here's what the Brazilian told ahead of Wednesday's match.

Tuesday 14.15, London
Good news for Tottenham fans – Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Younes Kaboul and Ledley King all trained this morning at Spurs Lodge ahead of tomorrow's visit of Milan. We will hear from manager Harry Redknapp in a couple of hours but Jermain Defoe has already given his thoughts.

Tuesday 14.00, London
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Tuesday 13.01, Richard van Poortvliet in Donetsk
I arrived in Donetsk about an hour ago. Spring is definitely in the air as the temperature is hovering just below freezing point; while the sun is trying its hardest to break through a blanket of cloud. The streets are almost deserted at the moment in the city centre; however there is a good reason for this. Today is 8 March, or International Women's Day, which is one of the most celebrated holidays in Ukraine and in the rest of the former Soviet Union.

With everyone going back to work on Wednesday, last night was a good excuse for a party, and it seems that a fair percentage of the local population are taking the opportunity to take things easy at the moment. Tonight could well be another late night for Shakhtar Donetsk fans. The game will kick off locally at 21.45, and if the Ukrainian champions manage to preserve their aggregate advantage, then the locals could well be in for another celebration.

Tuesday 12.11, London
Speaking of Valencia, Juan Mata has given an interview to speaking about the influence of Schalke's Raúl González when they were together at Real Madrid CF.

Tuesday 11.21, Madrid
Valencia midfielder Tino Costa is raring to go after their final training session before travelling to Germany. "We know it's going to be difficult but we are fully focused and desperate to get going," he told reporters. "We will be looking to achieve victory over there and for that reason our self-belief will play a big part in the outcome of this eliminator."

Tuesday 11.03, Viktor Sharafudinov in Donetsk
Due to national holidays in Ukraine there are no newspapers but the websites are hard at work. is speculating about the tactics Mircea Lucescu and Vincenzo Montella will use. "A 3-2 away victory allows to [Shaktar] to approach the match in Donetsk with optimism. It will be much easier for the Pitmen to choose proper tactics, as Roma must score at least two goals. Usually Roma attack very well, but they had problems with defensive organisation even though most of their defenders are very experienced." analyses the coaching changes at Roma since the first leg. "The Donetsk match will not give a definitive answer about Montella's ability to return to Spalletti-style football. Vincenzo hasn't had time for this. Roma can rely only on willpower and the character of their players. That is why Francesco Totti has spoken about "champions' spirit" before the match. There are no doubts that the experienced Roma players will do their best to reach the quarter-finals. They would do so in Donetsk even without a coach or with Totti in charge. The game will be very difficult for Shakhtar in any case."

Tuesday 10.15, Milan
In Italy, La Gazzetta dello Sport asked the three Serie A teams in the last 16 to "come to the rescue" after first-leg home defeats (something examined in our blog) starting with Roma tonight. However, the newspaper believes that a desire for "revenge" could motivate the visitors to a history-defying comeback.

Rome-based Il Corriere dello Sport-Stadio underlines that the real danger for the Giallorossi in Ukraine will be the ice-cold weather, but explains that a win in Donetsk should be not only a valuable thing in itself, but also the best way to approach the weekend derby against S.S. Lazio, quoting Totti as saying: "We are facing two crucial games and I'm sure we can win both of them. We'll give Shakhtar a scare at their place, for sure, and after that we'll start thinking about the Lazio match."

Tuesday 10.05, Madrid
Over in Spain, El Mundo Deportivo declares: "Messi is ready to lead a vital comeback." The publication goes on to explain that Los Azulgrana – "ahead of their biggest game of the season to date" – may line up with Eric Abidal and Sergio Busquets in central defence due to the absences of the suspended Gerard Piqué and the injured Carles Puyol.

El Pais, meanwhile, explains that Barça have overturned 2-1 deficits in European competition three times in the past but warned that Arsenal "with their attractive footballing style and dangerous counterattacks" are more than good enough to reach the quarter-finals at the expense of the Liga leaders. The national daily says that the Iniesta-Xavi-Messi triumvirate will be crucial to the home team's hopes this evening.

Tuesday 09.55, London
The question of how Arsenal can avoid a repeat of their Lionel Messi-inspired 4-1 Camp Nou loss in last year's quarter-finals. The Daily Telegraph remembers Sir Alex Ferguson's inspirational team talk before Manchester United FC's crucial 3-3 draw there in the 1998/99 group stage, talking of realising his dream of bringing a team to Barcelona that could match the home side's attacking prowess. "This evening Arsène Wenger will doubtless follow the Ferguson line," the newspaper argues. "For a football aesthete like him the Nou Camp should represent not so much his greatest challenge as the ultimate opportunity. Overcome Barcelona in their extraordinary headquarters and you really have arrived."

The Daily Mirror, meanwhile, looks at the possible surprise selection of Robin van Persie. "Arsène Wenger is ready to take the biggest gamble of his career on striker Robin van Persie's fitness tonight. Wenger – boosted by captain Cesc Fàbregas being fit to play – even had to book Van Persie onto their private charter flight to Barcelona yesterday following the Dutch forward's miraculous recovery from a knee injury. Van Persie was expected to be out for up to six weeks after suffering the injury in the [League] Cup final nine days ago. But he trained yesterday and pleaded with Wenger to be given a chance in the Nou Camp tonight."

Tuesday 09.30, London
Previews are now available for both of Tuesday's fixtures, Barcelona v Arsenal and Shakhtar v Roma, while you can also read what Cesc Fàbregas feels about his return to Camp Nou. As for Wednesday's games, Tottenham give their press conference at 16.00, followed three hours later by Milan. Schalke meet the media at 17.30 followed an hour hence by Valencia.

Our Predictor competition gives you the chance to forecast this week's scores – and win semi-final tickets. During Tuesday and Wednesday's matches, tickets are on offer in our Player Rater feature while there are also prizes to be won in Play of the Day, which reviews the top action from the last round of 16 games.

All times CET.

Last updated: 11/03/11 13.31CET

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