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The man sitting beside him, Sir Alex Ferguson, may have described seven-times continental champions AC Milan as "the best European team of all time", but Patrice Evra is confident Manchester United FC will underline the current supremacy of the Premier League over Serie A when they conclude their last-16 contest with FC Internazionale Milano.
The English champions face their Italian counterparts hopeful of claiming a third Serie A scalp in as many seasons following successive quarter-final wins over AS Roma in the two previous campaigns. Although Italian clubs have recorded the most final appearances in the UEFA Champions League era (ten), the Premier League has provided three of the last four finalists and Evra believes the present English hegemony will persist.
"For me the Premier League is the best football in the world, because you see every year you have four English teams going through in the Champions League," said the French international. "English football is very fast, very strong and now you have lots of European players playing here and the football is more technical and tactical as well. English football has improved a lot and that is why we are very confident for the game tomorrow."
In support of Evra's view, English sides won three two-legged ties against Italian opponents in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League without shipping a single goal – and, like United, both Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC kept clean sheets in their first-leg ties against Roma and Juventus a fortnight ago. The merits of a goalless draw away from home in Europe are much discussed and in United's case they have had mixed fortunes in their ensuing second legs in the continent's élite competition. Twice away stalemates precipitated home defeats but in the other two instances, United proceeded to win the tie and the trophy, including last term when they beat FC Barcelona 1-0 in the semi-finals.
Evra reckons United will need to show the same "concentration and spirit" that got them past Barcelona last May, when Paul Scholes's solitary second-leg strike at Old Trafford settled the outcome. "It was a massive game against Barcelona and this is a similar situation," the 27-year-old said. "Now you have the experience but you know every game is different and we need the same concentration and the same spirit. We should be OK tomorrow because we play at home. We drew the first game but that is in the past and the future is tomorrow and we need to win."
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