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.”

Guardiola switches focus

Bet on the Champions LeagueBarcelona coach Pep Guardiola says although he will not give up on winning La Liga, he is now more concerned with retaining the Champions League (Barca 6/5 – Champions League outright with bet365).

Following Saturday’s 2-0 win away to Sevilla, the Catalans currently sit seven points behind their great rivals Real Madrid, but Jose Mourinho’s men have the perfect opportunity to extend their lead when they face Malaga at the Bernabeu on Sunday night.

Despite beating Real before the Christmas break, Guardiola’s side have fallen behind Los Blancos due to a number of sloppy performances, most notably the away defeats to Getafe and more recently Osasuna.

However, Barca have continued to impress in the cup competitions, qualifying for both the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the final of the Copa del Rey in May, where they willll face the ever improving Athletic Bilbao (Barca – 1/6 Copa del Rey outright).

The Blaugrana boss says he’s more worried about winning these two competitions as he cannot see his side’s deadly rivals Real slipping up.

“We’re just here to do our job and win what we can” he said. “You already know my opinion on the league – we’d love to compete for the league right until the end, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”

Ramos urges focus

Sergio Ramos says he and his Real Madrid (1/4 La Liga outright with bet365) team-mates are fully focussed on continuing their fine form and winning their first La Liga title for four years.

Ramos scored the only goal as Madrid maintained their seven-point lead over bitter rivals Barcelona with a solid 1-0 victory away to local rivals Getafe to give them their sixth straight victory.

Madrid have come in for criticism over the past few seasons due to their inability to match their Catalan rivals but seemed to have caught Pep Guardiola’s side and now look as if they’re going to win their first league title since 2008.

However, Ramos is not taking anything for granted and says he and his colleagues need to maintain their full concentration as they look to win silverware at both home and abroad (Madrid 11/4 Champions League outright with bet365).

“In this league nobody is going to gift you anything and each match will be even more difficult as all the teams have objectives to reach,” Ramos said in a television interview.

“The season is very long but the gap to the second-placed team is a reality and we will try to keep widening it and continue doing things well.”

Ferguson blasts United retirement talk

Sir Alex Ferguson has given his Manchester United squad (6/5 Premier League To Win Outright with bet365) a huge lift by dismissing suggestions he could step down as manager following his 70th birthday at the end of the year.

The veteran Scot, who will celebrate his 25th year in the Old Trafford hotseat on November 6, was asked who he felt would be a suitable replacement for him when he eventually retired from the game.

However, after performing a U-turn to quit in 2002 before going on to guide United to five more Premier League titles and a Champions League crown, Ferguson insists he does not know who an ideal successor would be, while he then revealed he has no plans to retire.

Speaking to the Italian media at an awards ceremony at University of Rome Tor Vergata, Ferguson said: “Over the years I’ve had the question who do I think could replace me? Now in those years, some of the coaches they were talking about to replace me don’t have jobs any more.

“So it becomes very difficult because someone who I think has potential may be sacked by his club and disappear.

“I think you would need someone very experienced in the long term. But I have absolutely no idea… first of all, I’m not retiring.”

The news will be music to the ears of everyone connected with United as Ferguson is determined to seal a 20th league championship crown for the club and knock Barcelona off their perch as Europe’s number one team at the end of the 2011/12 season (United 13/2 To Win Outright with bet365).