Homework done and best laid plans in place, the time for talking is nearly over for this season's UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists – but who will walk the walk?
European old hands against continental novices it may be, but Real Madrid CF versus Tottenham Hotspur FC nevertheless carries intrigue aplenty. The joint-leading scorers left in the competition, Madrid more than have the edge in European Champion Clubs' Cup pedigree: this is their 28th quarter-final appearance, against Tottenham's second.
Mightily impressive at the Santiago Bernabéu this term – 22 wins from 23 matches in all competitions – Madrid have lost their last two home meetings against English opposition. Effervescent regardless, expect Harry Redknapp and his team to be positively buoyant.
Fellow Premier League outfits Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC, meanwhile, renew acquaintances once more. The width of a post from UEFA Champions League glory at United's expense in 2008, the Blues are nine points adrift in this term's domestic title race, but did prevail 2-1 against Sir Alex Ferguson's charges last month. Carlo Ancelotti, furthermore, has two victories from three UEFA Champions League knockout encounters with United.
Another man back in familiar surroundings is recently reappointed FC Schalke 04 coach Ralf Rangnick, who returns to European competition at San Siro – the scene of his last continental outing, a 3-2 defeat by AC Milan in late 2005. Elsewhere, memories must be banished and records – such as FC Barcelona's eight straight home wins in the UEFA Champions League – forgotten, with the Catalan club's challengers, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, facing perhaps the most difficult task of all at the Camp Nou.
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