Cahill wary of ‘phenomenal’ Barca

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has described the Blues’ Champions League semi-final opponents Barcelona as ‘phenomenal’, but says they can be beaten (Chelsea 4/1, draw 14/5, Barcelona 7/10 with bet365).

The two sides meet in the first leg of the their semi-final tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with Roberto Di Matteo‘s men being viewed as major underdogs.

After a slow start to the year, European champions Barca have won their last 13 games in the league, as well as dominating AC Milan in the last round of the Champions League.

Despite the Blaugrana (5/6 Champions League outright with bet365) facing Real Madrid next weekend, coach Pep Guardiola has insisted that his players will be fully focused on the Stamford Bridge clash and says they will be looking to take a lead back to the Camp Nou.

Cahill accepts that Barcelona are a ‘phenomenal’ team, but says he and his team-mates will not be scared of their opponents.

“They’re beatable, for sure, every team is beatable. But the way they play football is phenomenal,” Cahill said. “I saw them against AC Milan, they scored three but could have probably had six against a fantastic team in their own right.

“We’re under no illusions and everyone knows it will be one of the toughest games of the season,” he added.

Mexes wary of Messi threat

Bet on the Champions LeagueAC Milan defender Philippe Mexes knows they will have their work cut out to stifle Lionel Messi, but insists they will give it a real go to knock holders Barcelona out of the Champions League (Milan 4/1, Barcelona 2/11 – To Qualify with bet365).

The Catalans travel to the San Siro for the first leg of their quarter-final clash on Wednesday night in red-hot form, having won their last seven matches in La Liga.

They will face a Milan side who are currently top of the Serie A standings, but who are suffering with injuries.

The Rossoneri will have to do without the services of influential defender Thiago Silva, who misses out with a hamstring strain, and much will depend on the form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who averages almost a goal every game in the league this season.

While the giant Swede will be the hosts’ main threat in front of goal, Messi will, as ever, be the player that Milan have to stop if they are to come away with a first-leg lead (Messi 9/1 To Score Three or More Goals with bet365).

Mexes will be charged with that particular task and, while admitting that ‘it is difficult enough to stop Messi on Playstation’ the France international centre-back insists that the Italians will give their all to try to stay in the competition.

“Messi is a great player and he deserves respect, but we will play like we have always done,” he said.

“Barca are the best team in the world, but we will do everything we can to advance. We had to meet them sooner or later.”

Wenger hits out at Arsenal flops

Arsene Wenger has branded Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat to AC Milan as ‘shocking’ and admits they have little hope of progressing in the Champions League (Arsenal 33/1 to qualify, AC Milan 1/200 with bet365).

The Gunners have left themselves with an almost impossible mountain to climb after the first leg on Wednesday, goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a brace from Robinho doing the damage.

The defeat was Arsenal’s heaviest in European football and all but ends any hopes they had of reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The European Cup was one of Arsenal’s last hopes for silverware this season and the defeat means that barring a miracle the FA Cup is their only chance of ending their long wait for a trophy.

Wenger was left hurt by the Gunners shambolic display against the Rossoneri and admitted the loss was a disaster.

“It’s very difficult, but what’s more difficult to take was the performance we produced tonight,” said the Frenchman.

“We were well beaten and never in the game. It was a big shock. Statistically it’s too big a deficit. We’ll try of course, but there’s very little hope there.”

Arsenal are back in action on Saturday in the FA Cup against Sunderland, a game the Gunners are 11/8 to win, with the Black Cats 15/8 and the draw 12/5.

Goals could flow in Florence

Bet on Serie AFiorentina (7/5 – Match Result with bet365) will provide title-chasing Udinese (2/1, draw 11/5) with a stern test in Sunday’s Serie A clash, as the visitors are likely to be without several key players.

Diego Fabbrini, Andrea Coda, Paulo Barreto and Gianpiero Pinzi are all unlikely to feature for Udinese, while defender Danilo is banned.

Iconic striker Antonio Di Natale should start, while Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia is available again after returning from international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Friulani closed to within two points of AC Milan with their midweek 2-1 win over Lecce and their home form – which has seen them win ten and draw one this season – has never been in doubt.

Udine’s away form has been less reliable with one point from the last three matches and Sunday’s venue, the Stadio Franchi, has not been kind to the Friulani and last season they lost 5-2 there.

Udinese have lost their last three in Florence, conceding 13 goals and scoring just five and La Viola are in the mood to prolong their misery – having rested in midweek when their clash with Bologna was called off.

Stevan Jovetic is likely to continue his partnership in attack with new signing Amauri, but Ruben Olivera, who also joined in the transfer window, cannot play his first game for the Viola because of suspension.

Per Kroldrup is unable face his former club due to a long-term injury.

Bale close to comeback

Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale is closing in on a return to fitness ahead of the clash with AC Milan in the Champions League next week (Spurs 5/4, draw 12/5, AC Milan 11/5 Bet 365).

Spurs take on Wolves in the Premier League on Sunday as they look to reclaim their place in the top four in the table.

Bale has been a revelation at White Hart Lane this season but the Wales international has been out on the sidelines for the last six weeks with a back injury.

Spurs (13/10 to finish in the top four with Bet 365) have missed Bale’s pace and power down the left wing in recent weeks and Spurs boss Harry Redknapp believes that the 21-year-old could make a return against Milan on Wednesday.

He said: “Sunday’s match at Wolves is probably too early for him.

“But I don’t want to rule Bale out of next week’s match with AC Milan.”

Spurs came away from the San Siro with a 1-0 victory over the Serie A frontrunners, after a fiery contest in the first leg of the Champions League clash.

A late Peter Crouch goal was enough to give the Premier League side a slender lead that they will be looking to build on at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.