The rich get richer

Martin Rogers

In case there was any doubt that the latter stages of the Champions League are a haven for the rich and famous, this season's competition has stamped it out.

Once more, the semifinal round will be entirely comprised of some of the biggest clubs in the world: Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

And while it should be no surprise that the cream rose to the top, the scale of the dominance exerted by a chosen few is notable.

Over the last five seasons only eight teams have reached this round. Chelsea has done so four times, with Barca, United, AC Milan and Liverpool all appearing on three occasions.

Arsenal makes its second appearance this year, while Villareal and PSV Eindhoven are the only smaller clubs to have broken the giants' monopoly, with a solitary trip to the last four apiece.

The rich keep getting richer and that won't change any time soon. Yet while building a squad capable of contending in the Champions League doesn't come cheap, the real wealth in this sense is experience.

United refused to panic when faced with a stern test against Porto, eking out a vital result away from home on Wednesday.

Barca had the belief to breeze past Bayern Munich, Arsenal had too much firepower for Villareal, while Chelsea survived defensive catastrophe to edge out Liverpool.

The days of a shock victor like Porto in 2004 are likely a thing of the past. Nowadays, the Champions League is where the big boys play – and conquer.


1. Barcelona – The Catalan superstars have regained top form and are the team to beat.

2. Manchester United – Cristiano Ronaldo's thunderbolt booked a last four spot for the reigning champ.

3. Arsenal – No fuss but Arsene Wenger's youngsters have ability, confidence and a point to prove.

4. Chelsea – John Terry's absence highlighted serious defensive problems but they keep finding a way to get it done.

Man of the matches

Michael Essien never gets the attention he deserves, but his goal-saving header late on Tuesday was a huge turning point for Chelsea.

Shock of the week

What's with all these goals between Chelsea and Liverpool? The first six Champions League games these sides played against each other produced only three goals, but this year's quarterfinal offered up 12 in 180 minutes in one of the most memorable ties in tournament history.

We're happy

With all the focus on high-profile action elsewhere, Arsenal has crept quietly into the semifinal, and that's just how Wenger likes it. "I am happy if people see us as the outsider," said the Gunners head coach. "In fact, I prefer it."

We're not

Liverpool was desperate to complete a stirring comeback against Chelsea, the day before the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that claimed the lives of 96 Reds fans. However, Rafa Benitez's side now looks likely to finish the season empty-handed following Tuesday's 4-4 Stamford Bridge thriller.