• Champions League

Terry dares to seek redemption against Zlatan

Michael Cox
April 1, 2014
Blanc hits back at Mourinho comments

As the Champions League reaches the quarter-final stage, Europe's finest will become engaged in battles of skill, strength - and tactics. First legs may be delicate to manage but, as PSG and Chelsea, and Real Madrid and Dortmund, prepare for tough ties, this is where their games will be won:

PSG v Chelsea: Zlatan Ibrahimovic v John Terry

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is well aware of his meagre reputation in England and complained about it incessantly throughout his autobiography.

Referring to a defeat against Manchester United, Ibrahimovic wrote, "Me and the English fans and media have never really made a match, and now I was called 'a whining prima donna' and 'the most overrated player in Europe,' and normally those things just trigger me … I fight even harder and show those b*******."

Fresh from his own goal against Crystal Palace, John Terry faces a tough task in Zlatan Ibrahimovic © Getty Images

After a draw against the same opposition, he commented, "We only got 0-0, and I didn't really get into the game. Of course afterwards, the English newspapers wrote a lot of c***. But that was their problem, not mine. They could write their garbage. I didn't care."

In particular, he remembers a 2-2 draw at Arsenal in his Barcelona days: "As always in England all the media were against me, and there was all that talk: 'he doesn't score against English teams.' I held a press conference, I tried being myself. I said, 'Wait and see. I will show you.'"

He did - Ibrahimovic scored twice - and he was also excellent against Arsenal the following season with Milan.

It's true that the Swede's reputation in England has never been great, primarily because journalists and fans refuse to look past his underperformance against English clubs and assess his contribution elsewhere, which includes nine titles in 10 seasons.

Who better to outfox then, to prove the journalists wrong, than that very caricature of an English footballer, John Terry? Ibrahimovic is a great all-round striker, capable of playing up front as a pure No.9, or dropping away from the opposition into deeper positions.

The latter role seems more likely, as he'll need to link PSG's midfield and attack. This approach, too, will cause Terry more problems.

Real Madrid v Dortmund: Cristiano Ronaldo v Lukasz Piszczek

Dortmund eliminated Real Madrid at the semi-final stage last year, having also beaten them in the group stage, but their chances of victory are much slimmer this time around.

With an exhausted squad, various injury problems and Robert Lewandowski - scorer of four goals in the semi-final first leg a year ago - suspended for the first leg, it's difficult to see how Juergen Klopp's side will have the confidence to enforce the high-tempo, high-energy contest that will favour them.

Cristiano Ronaldo is well adept to battering weak defences and Borussia Dortmund's backline could become his latest victim © Getty Images

Last season they often overloaded the right flank, taking advantage of Real Madrid's weakness at left-back and Cristiano Ronaldo's lack of interest in defending, but with Real likely to dominate, they'll be terrified by the prospect of the Portuguese attacker running at them.

The man tasked with stopping Ronaldo is Lukasz Piszczek, the steady and reliable Polish right-back who storms into tackles. He missed the first half of the campaign through injury, however, and hasn't quite looked 100% since his return. Indeed, he missed the weekend victory at Stuttgart, partly because of a small muscle problem, and partly to keep him fresh for this battle.

Realistically, however, this is a heavily depleted Dortmund side, and no player in Europe is better at relentlessly battering weak opposition than Ronaldo; he could win the tie in the first leg. Good luck, Lukasz.

He is a regular ESPN contributor who is based in London and writes the Zonal Marking blog about football tactics. He also writes post-match analysis for the Guardian and contributes regularly for FourFourTwo. You can follow him on Twitter at @zonal_marking

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