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UEFA Champions League: the final four

Liverpool hosts Chelsea on Tuesday. Most troubling for the hosts is the questionable status of midfield talisman Steven Gerrard. He was ruled out against Fulham on Saturday owing to a neck injury, but is expected back in the lineup for tomorrow's showdown. Will Gerrard be fully fit? Chelsea has more significant woes. Midfield dynamo Michael Essien is suspended owing to yellow-card accumulation, while Michael Ballack (hamstring) and Didier Drogba (knee) are banged up. Liverpool is looking to dump the Blues from the semifinals for the third time in four years. In six Champions League encounters all time between the clubs, a miserly three goals have been scored. Expect nothing different this time around. A single goal should make the difference. Who will it be? Fernando Torres.

On Wednesday the two most famous clubs in the world, Manchester United and Barcelona, square off at the Camp Nou. It's been a miserable campaign by Barcelona standards. They've failed to win in four straight league matches, allowing Real Madrid to run away with the La Liga title despite some shoddy results recently. On the upside for Barcelona, the scintilating Lionel Messi returned to the field on the weekend and is expected to start on Wednesday. Manchester has been brilliant all season, with Cristiano Ronaldo netting an extraordinary 35 goals. But the defense looked vulnerable against Arsenal two weeks ago without injured centerback Nemanja Vidic, and they could only muster a 1-1 tie against Blackburn on the weekend. Vidic is exepected to be in the lineup this week, despite lingering knee troubles.

The match will mark a return to the Camp Nou for Manchester the first time since their incredible 1999 Champions League final comeback against Bayern Munich. I stumbled upon that match one afternoon while drinking beer with a crazy Cuban prosecutor at a pub in Fort Lauderdale and have been obsessed with the game ever since. Here's the highlights:

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