Champions League semis all but set

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Champions League semis all but set

LONDON - Real Madrid, Barcelona and Schalke 04 should this week complete the formality of reaching the Champions League semifinals, with only the Manchester United-Chelsea tie still in the balance.

Real, looking for a record-extending 10th European Cup success, take a 4-0 first-leg lead to Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona travel to Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 up and Schalke should comfortably protect a 5-2 advantage at home against Inter Milan, whose reign as champions looks set to end.

Barring the most unlikely of upsets, Real is set to face Barcelona in one semifinal while Schalke will meet the winners of the all-English clash between United and Chelsea.

United begins Tuesday’s second leg as favorites after a 1-0 win at Chelsea but, as visiting manager Alex Ferguson said after Wayne Rooney’s goal secured last week’s victory, the tie is far from over.

Ferguson’s men are boosted by the knowledge they have not lost a home Champions League match for six years and have conceded only two goals in the competition this season.

“Our biggest advantage is Old Trafford. The fans will be fantastic and there will be an electric atmosphere,” he told reporters. “We’ve only got a one-goal lead and have to be very careful and give a top performance.”

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, by contrast, is hoping his side can repeat its 2-1 Premier League win at United last season.

“We know it will be difficult to win there,” Ancelotti said. “But we have the confidence to do it. Last year we won at Old Trafford.”

While there will be tension in the air in Manchester, Real can look forward to Wednesday’s match against Spurs at White Hart Lane in a relaxed and confident mood, cushioned by a four-goal advantage.

Spurs will be without striker Peter Crouch, suspended after his dismissal at the Santiago Bernabeu. Pepe is also banned for Real and the best that Spurs fans can probably hope for is their debut season in the competition does not end in another heavy defeat.

“It has been a great experience so far and I am sure it will be a huge occasion on Wednesday, we will give it our best shot and see what happens,” said Spurs manager Harry Redknapp.

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