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Chelsea, Man U playing game of their own
Apr 16, 2007 - 5:16:14 PM

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LONDON - The most interesting score of the European soccer season could be decided after the Champions League final May 23. Chelsea is leading Manchester United 1-0 at the moment, and there are still three major titles up for grabs.

Chelsea's Michael Ballack, right, celebrates after scoring against Blackburn during their English FA Cup Semi-Final soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday April 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The two-time defending Premier League champions took the lead in February when they beat Arsenal in the League Cup final. Chelsea now has a chance to complete an amazing single-season quadruple of trophies by adding the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League to its collection.

But United, which won the last three of those trophies eight years ago, is trying to stop Chelsea and repeat its 1999 feat. And it could all be decided in a 15-day span next month.

"We can share trophies between us. We can win nothing, and in spite of that Chelsea and Man United are two unbelievable teams," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said Sunday after his team beat Blackburn 2-1 in extra time in the FA Cup semifinals.

Chelsea also reached the semifinals of the Champions League on Tuesday, getting a late goal from Michael Essien to eliminate Valencia.

United was even more dominating last week, crushing AS Roma 7-1 Tuesday to easily qualify for the last four of the Champions League and cruising past Watford 4-1 Saturday in the FA Cup semifinals.

"That's what you play for, to be in cup finals and to win trophies," said United striker Wayne Rooney, who scored three goals in those last two games. "We're delighted we're into one cup final. Hopefully, we can go far in the other competitions."

The first stop will be at Stamford Bridge on May 9 in the penultimate round of the Premier League. United, which leads the league by three points with six games to go, will play at Chelsea in what could be the title-deciding game.

On May 19, the two teams will face each other in the FA Cup final at the new Wembley Stadium — the first major game played there. Four days after that, the Champions League final will be played in Athens, Greece.

But for both United and Chelsea to get that far, they have to beat two powerful European Cup teams. Chelsea goes up against five-time champion Liverpool in a rematch of the 2005 semifinals, and United plays six-time champion AC Milan.

"We can win everything, but we can lose everything, too," said Mourinho, who could be leaving the team after the season regardless of how many trophies he wins. "Don't put pressure on me."

United has won two European Cups, the last in 1999 when the team completed the triple. Chelsea has never captured the top prize in European club soccer, but then again it's had few chances.

Before winning the last two Premier League titles, Chelsea's only other English league title came in 1955 — the year the European Cup started. But the London team skipped the tournament that year, and then needed to wait until 1999 to get in when the competition expanded its format to allow nonchampions to play.

Mourinho, however, won the trophy with FC Porto in 2004 before leaving to coach Chelsea.

Besides its two European Cups, United has also won a record 11 FA Cups and is second behind Liverpool with 15 league titles.

"The reality is what Chelsea and Manchester United are doing this season is unbelievable," Mourinho said. "I think this is an amazing season for both of us."

Both teams will have defensive worries in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals, however.

United, which hosts Milan on April 24, has to overcome injuries to defenders Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre and Nemanja Vidic. Chelsea hosts Liverpool a day later and will be without Essien, who has to sit out because of yellow cards.

"It's a game of nerves over the next few weeks because we know if one side makes mistakes the other one can take all," Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "We think it's all like one big game."

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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