Good evening everybody. If Chelsea are to advance in their quest to win Roman Abramovich's Holy Grail of the Champions League trophy this season, they're going to have to do what no other club has done this season: beat Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It's a tall order, but far from impossible. And considering many of the impossibly imbecilic idiots in the YouTube clip above have been gulled into believing a hippy-dippy Jesus-a-like can heal them just by looking at them, Chelsea fans are entitled to believe their representatives on Old Trafford's green earth can overturn a one-goal deficit … although they might have to do a bit more than just stand around looking beatific and serene to pull it off.
For anyone who's interested, here's Michael "Guardian Chalkboards" Cox's (aka Zonal Marking's) ridiculously thorough pre-match preview. Elsewhere, the tactical Obi-Wan Kenobi to his Luke Skywalker, Jonathan Wilson, ponders The Question: Why Is Fernando Torres Struggling?
Team news we've plucked from the wires: Carlo Ancelotti gambles Chelsea's Champions League future - and possibly his own - on Fernando Torres in tonight's must-win quarter-final second leg at Manchester United.
Ancelotti has opted for the Spaniard, who goes into the game having not scored for 817 minutes, over Didier Drogba, while Alex is handed his first start since November after recovering from knee surgery. United made two changes from their 1-0 first leg win at Stamford Bridge, with Nani and John O'Shea in for Antonio Valencia and the injured Rafael.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani,
Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Smalling, Scholes, Valencia, Gibson.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien,
Lampard, Anelka, Torres, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou.
Referee: Olegario Bartolo Benquerenca (Leiria)
Good God: On Sky Sports 2, Rio "@RioFerdy5" Ferdinand is extolling the virtues of Twitter. "It's good to interact," he says. "You can get your views across without them being twisted." By "views", I presume he's talking about engaging in unspeakably tedious and unfunny 'banter' with Robbie Savage and Piers Morgan, telling us what his children had for breakfast or telling people not to be critical of grown men who think roaring obscenities down a television camera is perfectly acceptable adult behaviour. Why are so many footballers such tiresome, deluded, self-absorbed bozos?
Old Tafford is far from full yet, due in no small part to vast swathes of supporters having trouble making it up from London due to the M6 being blocked, according to Jeff Stelling. He might be mature enough to avoid making obvious jokes about this inconveniencing more Manchester United fans than Chelsea fans, but I'm not.
Not long now: The teams march out and line up for the Champions League music, with both sets of players kitted out in their customary colours: Manchester United in red shirts, white shorts and white socks with black trim; Chelsea in blue shirts, blue shorts and blue socks
1 min: Game on, Chelsea are playing into the Stretford End in the first half. They've lined up with Ramires and Michael Essien behind a slightly advanced Frank Lampard in a three-man midfield, playing behind Nic Anela and Florent Malouda on the flanks behind lone frontman Fernando Torres.
United have Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs bookended on the right and left by Nani and Park Ji-Sung in a four-man midfield, with Wayne Rooney playing off the shoulder off Javier Hernandez up front.
3 min: John Terry carelessly misplaces a five-yard pass, conceding possession to Park just outside his own penalty area. The South Korean pings the ball to Rooney, who sends a sweeping pass wide and right right for Hernandez to chase. His cross is wayward and allows Chelsea to clear their lines. It's all United in these early stages.
5 min: United win a free-kick deep inside the Chelsea half, wide on the left. Nani sends a curler into the penalty area, where Petr Cech leaps to pluck the ball from the air.
6 min: Evra tries to run the ball out of defence from the left-back berth, then gives the ball away as he tries to play a one-two with Park.
7 min: United give the ball away again, allowing Ramires to try to jink his way past Ferdinand and Evra and into the penalty area. His close control lets him down and he ends up being crowded off the ball, which runs through to goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
8 min: Excellent play from Park Ji Sung in the Chelsea penalty area , who times his run perfectly to get on the end of a dink to the each of the penalty area, then take the ball around Alex. Ushered to the right hand-side of the penalty area by Terry, he hits a diagonal Hail Mary backheel back though the penalty area, but there's nobody there to get on the end of it and sweep the ball home.
11 min: Nicolas Anelka cross from the right, Torres contests the header with Rio Ferdinand, wins it and glances the ball wide of the left upright.
12 min: From the right flank, Giggs sends a low hard cross into the Chelsea penalty area - Ramires puts it behind for a corner and looks mightily relieved not to have turned the ball into his own net.
13 min: Torres tees up Anelka on the edge of the Manchester United penalty area, but the Frenchman sends his effort whistling narrowly wide.
14 min: From about 30 yards out, the ball drops kindly for Rooney, who attempts to score with a rasping volley. The ball swerves viciously on its way towards the goal, but doesn't trouble Cech unduly.
15 min: For almost 10 minutes now, I've been trying to report that Rio Ferdinand is hobbling with what looks like it might be a match-ending injury sustained when attempting to stop Ramires scoring in the seventh minutes. This time it's Frank Lampard shooting tamely at Edwin van der Sar after great build-up play from Florent Malouda that tries to foil my attempt to "twist" word of Rio's knack. Lampard really should have scored there - he just didn't get his boot through the ball with enough ferocity.
18 min: John O'Shea gets booked for a reckless lunge on Malouda on the left touchline, only for Lampard to send the ensuing free-kick over the crossbar, when he meant to swing it into the mixer. The amount of possession being surrendered cheaply in this match is astonishing.
22 min: Regarding the question of why so many footballers are such tiresome, deluded, self-absorbed bozos? Justin Kavanagh has this to say: "The answer to your question Barry is probably because most footballers start out as tiresome bozos: add large amounts of cash at an early age and you'll guarantee the delusion and the self-absorbtion. It's highly amusing though that Rio's boss berates policemen in the midlands for wanting to be noticed, while his ownb player can't sit on a bench for 90 minutes without sharing his views with the world."
24 mins: Alternatively, there's this from Martin Brennan: "Careful you don't fall off your barstool. I can only assume you are in a pub chatting to like minded plebs with that sort of comment." I wish.
25 min: Corner for Manchester United, which Nani plays deep. John Terry heads clear, but only as far as the right touchline, from where Rooney whips in a perfect cross. Old Trafford erupts as Javier Hernandez plants a bullet-header past Petr Cech, but the Mexican's celebrations are curtailed by the linesman's flag being waved. Offside, but not by much.
28 min: Replays show that was an excellent (translation: lucky) decision by the linesman - Hernandez's head was offside as the ball was whipped in, while the rest of his body was being played on by the last defender.
29 min: Terrible play by Van der Sar, who quickly makes up for it with some marvellous last-ditch defending. Charging out the left-hand side of his penalty area to get a long ball down the flank for Anelka to chase, he is beaten to the ball by the Frenchman. Just as Anelka appears to have escaped, the Dutchman sticks out a long leg and relieves him of possession him with a marvellous hook and pokes the ball out over the sideline for a throw-in.
33 min: Ramires gets booked - if Chelsea get through, he'll miss the first leg of the semi-final against Schalke or Inter.
33 min: "What percentage of a human body has to be offside for it to be offside?" asks Neil McClean. I'm fairly certain the answer is: any percentage (unless it's an arm), but I'm happy to stand corrected by anyone who can prove otherwise.
35 min: "I think you can translate that as a wrong decision Barry," writes Bruce Jackson. "If his body's 'onside', then he's at worst level with the last defender. Onside, as we like to call it on this planet." Here, could someboy please check the rules and confirm that I'm being patronised by somebody who has no idea what they're talking about.
39 min: A few moments ago, Florent Malouda picked up the third yellow card of the night for a foul on Javier Hernandez in the centre-circle. While the referee was taking down his particulars, Fernando Torres took the opportunity to have a good long whinge about something that was bothering him.
40 mins: Ramires, Florent Malouda, Alex and referee's assistant John Terry surround the official and snarl at him for having the audacity to book the Chelsea skipper for knocking over Javier Hernandez as the duo contested a high ball. It looked quite harsh, as the Mexican appeared to back into Terry, who then caught him with an elbow to the head. That foul may well have been accidental, but that kind of bullying and intimidation is as unedifying as it is ineffective.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Chelsea (Agg: 2-0) (Hernandez 43) Javier Hernandez smashes the ball into the roof of the net from a couple of yards out after getting on the end of a Ryan Giggs cross from the right-hand side.
Half-time United go in having doubled their lead, ruling out any chance of John Terry making a spectacle of himself in a penalty-shootout tonight. Their goal means Chelsea need to score at least two oif their own if they are to procced to the semi-finals. Giggs was at his imperious best for that opener, picking up the ball down by the left touchline, combining with John O'Shea to make room for the cross, then sending an inch-perfect diagonal slide-rule pass to the feet of Javier Hernandez, who couldn't miss.
A slice of humble pie and one fork for Bruce Jackson! "Barry, once again (although I can't really remember the last time) you are proven correct in your assertion that even if it was only Hernandez's head that was in an offside position, then he was correctly ruled offside," writes John Thompson, among many others. "The 2005 edition of the Laws of the Game included a new International Football Association Board decision that stated being 'nearer to an opponent's goal line' meant that 'any part of his head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent (the last opponent typically being the goalkeeper). The arms are not included in this definition'."
My thanks to all of you who wrote in to confirm that Bruce Jackson is the worst kind of pedant: a patronising, wrong one.
Second half: The second half is underway and Chelsea really have to go for this now. Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Fernando Torres, who did next to nothing in the first half, with Dider Drogba.
47 min: "Sorry to be an anorak but, Chelsea have to score three goals to get into the semi-finals, surely?" writes Nick McCall. Bloody hell - that's poor. Did everyone leave their brains at home this morning?
49 min: Frank Lampard tries a shot from distance, earning a raucous "Wahayyyy!" from the Manchester United fans assembled in the stand his effort landed in for his troubles.
50 min: "Just you and the rest of the Chelsea fans tonight then?" adds the offside rule's Bruce Jackson, who clearly isn't the first paranoid football fan to have confused a passing acquaintance with the laws of football with anti-Manchester United bias, and probably won't be the last. Heck, even the club's own manager does it on a weekly basis.
53 min: Florent Malouda sends a shot fizzing not too far wide of the Manchester United goals at one end, before Hernandez leaps highest to win a high ball into the Chelsea penalty area, but not high enough to be able to control the ball. It skims off his head and out of the danger area.
55 min: How dejected must Fernando Torres be feeling on the bench? This must be the lowest ebb of his career. Indeed, what must Carlo Ancelotti be feeling - did he want the Spaniard to start, or was his hand forced?
56 min: Combining well with Nic Anelka, Didier Drogba makes room for a shot from just to the left of the D on the edge of the Manchester United penalty area. His low, diagonal drive rolls a couple of feet wide of the right upright, but doesn't look like it would have troubled Edwin van der Sar unduly, even if it had been on target.
58 min: Patrice Evra looks mystified after being booked for hauling Didier Drogba to the ground in the Manchester United left-back position. Free-kick for Chelsea, which Drogba sends towards the far post, bringing a smartish save out of Van Der Sar. Terry takes a slash at the half-clearance, but his shot is blocked, allowing Manchester United to break.
60 min: Chelsea substitution: Kalou on, Anelka off.
64 min: Dider Drogba concedes a free-kick on the edge of the Manchester United penalty area, for barging into the back of Michael Carrick. It allows United to clear their lines after a period of sustained pressure from the visitors.
65 min: Just been skimming through some of my emails, chuckling at a selection accusing me of anti-Manchester United bias from some mouth-foaming tin-foil hat-wearers and anti-Chelsea bias from others. It's amusing, because I genuinely couldn't care less which of these two sides progresses tonight. Apropos of not much, Michael Carrick has covered 8.36km tonight, which is about 8.34km more than I have (I went and made a cup of tea at half-time, pacing up and down impatiently as I waited for the machine to fill the cup). He's had one of his better games this evening, it must be said, doing a lot of the donkey work from deep in midfield.
68 min: Corner for Manchester United, after Cech saves well from a Nani drive. Nothing comes of it. In the interest of unbiased coverage, I should probably point out that Frank Lampard has run 8.92km tonight and has also played reasonably well.
RED CARD! Ramires gets sent off for picking up his second yellow, after clattering into the back of Nani. It was as obvious a booking as you'll ever see and he has no right to complain about it, but decides to anyway. Drogba joins him, jabbering away in protest while repeatedly pointing his finger in the referee's face. I'm not sure why he doesn't get booked too; if I was a referee I wouldn't put up with that.
72 min: Nani gets tripped by John Terry as he attempts to slalom between the Chelsea captain and Alex, winning a free-kick about 25 yards from goal, which Rooney takes. The ball deflects off the wall and goes out for a corner.
74 min: While Nani was sitting on the ground after being felled just there, he implored the referee to show John Terry what would have been his second yellow card. If you want to know why he didn't make the shortlist for PFA Player of the Year, there's your answer. Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidic also got in the referee's face, reminding him that Terry had already been booked and should get his marching orders. I'd expect better from them, to be honest. It's a mite depressing to see that; football really is rotten to the core.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (Agg:2-1) (Drogba 76) He should have started and here he shows why - Didier Drogba drifts into an inside-left position, controls a chipped Michael Essien pass from midfield on his chest, advances and smashes the ball past Edwin van der Sar. Game on!
GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (Agg: 3-1) (Park 77) Horrendous marking at the back from Chelsea allow Manchester United to score almost straight from the kick-off. Park was completely unmarked on the inside-left channel as he chested down yet another inch-perfect pass from Giggs and buried a low diagonal pass into the bottom right-hand corner with his left foot. That's a marvellous goal from the South Korean, who hasn't stopped runniong for his team-mates all night. It's all Giggs's third assist of the tie - he's set up all three of United's goals.
79 min: And breathe.
80 min: Having scored a goal to have their deficit with 14 minutes to go, 10-man Chelsea still need another two goals to advance. Their marking for that United goal was appalling, with Ivanovic and Alex allowing themselves to be drawn out of position by the fancy interplay of Rooney and Giggs on the right, leaving Park totally unmarked on the inside-left position.
84 min: Chelsea's players have about them now the aura of men who know the jig is up. You can see that sucker-punch from United has really knocked the wind out of their sails.
85 min: Didier Drogba, who has contributed more to the Chelsea cause inthe past 41 minutes than Forlorn Fernando has in the past 10 weeks, cuts inside from the right and tries to tee up Malouda with an inswinging cross. It's too close to Van Der Sar, who claims.
87 min: Good save from Van Der Sar, who does well to palm away an excellent low drive from Malouda.
88 min: I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but Paolo Ferreira came on for Alex a while ago. There'll be three minutes of added time.
90+2 min: A minute to go and Chelsea need to score twice. Anyone fancy their chances?
90+3 min: Having engaged in a spot of showboating earlier by making a fool out of Branislav Ivanovic down by the left touchline, Wayne Rooney tries to score from the halfway line, having spotted Petr Cech off his line. Close, but no cigar - the Chelsea keeper gets back in time to keep the ball out.
Peep! Peep! Peep! It's all over. Manchester United are through to face either Schalke or Inter in the Champions League semi-finals, while Chelsea are out for another year. They played quite well tonight, but were fairly toothless up front until the arrival of a certain Ivorian.
Considering how well he played after coming on at half-time, you don't have to be a genius to figure out Chelsea could have done a whole lot better if Didier Drogba had started instead of a woefully out-of-sorts Fernando Torres. I know it and presumably Carlo Ancelotti knows it; ironically, the only person who doesn't seem to know it looks like an idiot that's escaped from some West Country village, but could buy and sell both of us approxiamtely 45,652,435,819 times over.