LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - London will enjoy its
moment in the soccer spotlight this week when Champions League favourites
Arsenal visit Chelsea in a unique quarter-final derby.
One of them will reach the semi-finals for the
first time in their history after the second leg at Highbury, with the prospect
of meeting either mighty Real Madrid or Monaco in the last four raising the
Holders AC Milan take on Deportivo Coruna with
the winners meeting either UEFA Cup champions Porto, recent conquerors of
Manchester United, or French champions Olympique Lyon.
Though all eight sides have ambitions of winning
the final at Gelsenkirchen on May 26, Arsenal are the bookmakers' choice as the
team most likely to live the dream.
Arsene Wenger's side have won admirers across
Europe for their electrifying passing and individual skill, personified by
France striker Thierry Henry.
They enjoy a commanding nine-point lead at the
top of the premier league, have an FA Cup semi-final tie with United ahead and,
more importantly for Wednesday's first leg at Stamford Bridge, they have already
beaten Chelsea 2-1 three times this season.
Even better for the Highbury faithful, Arsenal
have not lost to their west London rivals in 16 games. Their last defeat, a 5-0
League Cup drubbing in November 1998, was suffered by a side almost entirely
made up of reserves.
Another good omen for Wenger's treble-chasers is
that Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp, whose fear of flying rules him out of most
away legs, should have no problem reaching Fulham Broadway.
Real, whose wings were clipped by last week's
King's Cup final defeat by Real Zaragoza and Saturday's league reverse to
Athletic Bilbao, could face more of the same from one of their own players
Spain striker Fernando Morientes, who won the
Champions League three times with Real, has made a success of his loan spell at
Monaco this season, scoring regularly in Ligue 1 and chipping in with another
five in Europe.
Monaco have been the dominant force in France
virtually all season and could well trouble the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David
Beckham and Raul at the Bernabeu.
Tuesday's games give Milan the chance to build a
lead at the San Siro against a Deportivo side who dumped their Serie A rivals
and 2003 finalists Juventus out of the previous round.
Though Milan will be favourites, striker Filippo
Inzaghi told the club's website: "It's not going to be a walk in the park...and
I don't want people's concentration to drop just because we're playing a team
who look beatable."
Olympique Lyon boss Paul Le Guen was anxious not
to underestimate Porto, who snatched qualification in the last minute at Old
"They may not be Real Madrid, but we're well
aware of how good they are," Le Guen said.
Porto coach Jose Mourinho, who watched Lyon beat
Nantes 1-0 on Saturday to go top of Ligue 1, was equally complimentary.
"They play as a real team, I like their style,"
he said. "Of course, we beat Manchester United but we do not forget they won at
Bayern Munich in the group stage."