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Which members of the two star-studded line-ups are the ones to watch?

By Carlo Garganese and Alex Dimond

It's the game everybody has been waiting for, as the respective league leaders of Italy and England face off in a match that has created headlines as much for the two managers involved as the quality of the players on the pitch.

Much will be made of Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho's impact on proceedings, but which players will ultimately ensure one of them goes away victorious?

Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o are two of the most prolific strikers in world football, but will they be successfully shackled by two of the best defences in the European game? Or will one of their supporting cast rise to the challenge and take centre stage?

CHELSEA

Didier Drogba ()

4/1 to be first goalscorer


FORM GUIDE
2-0 Wolves (A) Feb 20: Two goals
4-1 Cardiff (H) Feb 13: One goal, one assist
1-2 Everton (A) Feb 10: One assist
2-0 Arsenal (H) Feb 7: Two goals
1-1 Hull City (A) Feb 2: One goal

TRACK RECORD

Drogba’s record against Italian sides is solid if unspectacular (by his standards at least). Last season he failed to make an impact in either Champions League group game against AS Roma — during a period when his confidence and relationship with then-manager Luiz Felipe Scolari were at a real low — but he did score in both quarter-final legs of his side’s games against Juventus, under caretaker boss Guus Hiddink

He has scored against Inter Milan before, having notched when he faced the Nerazzurri with former club Marseille in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2004. The goal gave OM a 1-0 advantage that they held on to in the second leg.

He has also scored a goal at international level against Italy, for the Ivory Coast in 2005.

HEAD 2 HEAD
To all intents and purposes Drogba leads the line on his own in Ancelotti’s preferred set-up, and will thus be asked to occupy both Inter’s central defenders. World Cup winner Lucio is likely to be given the unenviable task of keeping the prolific Ivorian subdued, although the uncompromising Walter Samuel will also get his fair share of opportunities to shackle the 31-year-old.


Nicolas Anelka ()

5/1 to be first goalscorer


FORM GUIDE
2-0 Wolves (A) Feb 20:
1-2 Everton (A) Feb 10:
2-0 Arsenal (H) Feb 7:
1-1 Hull City (A) Feb 2:
2-1 Burnley (A) Jan 30: One goal

TRACK RECORD
In four games against Italian opposition for the Blues last season, Anelka failed to get his name on the scoresheet once.

He also failed to score against AC Milan in either UEFA Cup group stage tie back in 2005 while plying his trade in Turkey with Fenerbahce. In fact, he has never scored against Italian opposition in his long career.

About time for that to change?

HEAD 2 HEAD
Anelka tends to float around behind Drogba in attack, predominantly coming in from the right touchline where he provides his side with more balance. That is unlikely to change on Wednesday, which will put him up against Javier Zanetti.

The veteran Argentine international has recently been described as "indispensable" by Jose Mourinho, and will have the chance to prove it as Anelka’s pace and movement are likely to provide a stern test to his 36-year-old legs.


Frank Lampard
()

8/1 to be first goalscorer

FORM GUIDE

4-1 Cardiff (H) Feb 13:
1-2 Everton (A) Feb 10:
2-0 Arsenal (H) Feb 7: One assist
1-1 Hull City (A) Feb 2:
2-1 Burnley (A) Jan 30: One assist

TRACK RECORD
Lampard, like Anelka, failed to score in all four games against Italian opposition last season — although he did provide one assist in the 1-0 home win against AS Roma. But he played a key role in three victories in those four games.

Unlike Anelka, he has previously scored against Italian opposition in a Blues shirt, having scored a goal in both games (and both wins) against Lazio in the group stages of the 2003-04 Champions League.

HEAD 2 HEAD
Lampard plays a more balanced midfield role compared to his attacking inclinations of seasons past, meaning he will likely come up against Esteban Cambiasso, another experienced midfield general.

The Argentinian will have to call upon his experience and concentration as he tracks his opposite number’s trademark late runs into the box.  


INTER MILAN

Samuel Eto'o
()

4/1 to be first goalscorer


FORM GUIDE
0-0 Sampdoria (H) Feb 20:
0-0 Napoli (A) Feb 14:
1-1 Parma (A) Feb 10:
3-0 Cagliari (H) Feb 7:
1-0 Lazio (H) Dec 20: One goal

TRACK RECORD
Eto’o has been the scourge of English opposition on a number of occasions in the past. The Cameroonian has twice scored against Premier League teams in the Champions League final - during Barcelona's victories over Arsenal and Manchester United in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

Eto’o has featured in three Champions League ties against Chelsea, and has scored two goals - once at Stamford Bridge during Barca's 2-1 last-16 win in 2006; and once in a victory by the same scoreline at Camp Nou a year earlier. His first appearance against an English team interestingly dates back to a certain September 11, 2001 - when Mallorca beat Arsenal 1-0 in a CL group game.

HEAD 2 HEAD

Eto’o is not guaranteed to start the game, but he will certainly feature at some point. When he does he is likely to target Chelsea captain John Terry.

The striker has the pace and sharpness to cause Terry problems, but he will want to do better than the last time the two went head-to-head last season. During Barcelona’s controversial semi-final win over Chelsea, Terry snuffed out the danger of Eto’o as the Blaugrana only advanced with a last-gasp Andres Iniesta strike.


Goran Pandev
()

13/2 to be first goalscorer

FORM GUIDE
0-0 Sampdoria (H) Feb 20:
0-0 Napoli (A) Feb 14:
1-1 Parma (A) Feb 10:
3-0 Cagliari (H) Feb 7: One goal, one assist
1-0 Fiorentina (H) Feb 3:

TRACK RECORD
Pandev has never played against English opposition. He was at Lazio when the Biancocelesti were drawn in the same group as Chelsea in 2004-05, but did not feature in either game. Chelsea won 2-1 at home and thrashed the Romans 4-1 in the Olimpico.

The Macedonian also didn’t play when a second-string Lazio side were beaten 2-0 by Middlesbrough in a 2004-05 UEFA Cup group game.

HEAD 2 HEAD
Like Eto’o, Pandev will be an important factor in this tie, but it is no guarantee he will start at San Siro. When he is on the field he will roam around, but the Chelsea man who will try and stop the 26-year-old is Ricardo Carvalho.

The Portuguese will need to read Pandev, who has excellent movement with and without the ball, and who has been on fire since joining Inter from Lazio in January.

 
Wesley Sneijder ()

8/1 to be first goalscorer

FORM GUIDE
0-0 Sampdoria (H) Feb 20: Clean sheet
0-0 Napoli (A) Feb 14: Clean sheet
1-0 Fiorentina (A) Feb 3: Clean sheet
2-1 Juventus (H) Jan 28:
2-0 AC Milan (H) Jan 24: One goal

TRACK RECORD
Sneijder first confronted English opposition in the 2005-06 group stages of the Champions League while at Ajax. Against Arsenal, the midfielder completed the game in a 0-0 draw at Highbury, but missed the reverse fixture in Amsterdam which the Gunners won 2-1.

Last season at Real Madrid, Sneijder was in the squad eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League last 16. The Dutchman was an unused substitute during the 0-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu, but played the full 90 minutes in the embarrassing 4-0 second leg thumping at Anfield.

HEAD 2 HEAD

Although he has missed a number of games through injury, Sneijder has been a big hit on the domestic scene with Inter, and is the main creative force in midfield.

Sneijder will look to pull the strings and supply the likes of Diego Milito, Eto’o and Pandev. It will probably be up to anchor man John Obi Mikel, in the absence of the injured Michael Essien, to close down the space and stop the Oranje star.

VERDICT


The stars agree with the bookies that this game is almost too close to call. Inter have a range of impressive options (Diego Milito and Mario Balotelli could also be called upon with the three mentioned above) that will keep the Blues fully occupied all night.

In contrast, Drogba is clearly Chelsea's main threat, and perhaps if Inter's defenders — who have conceded 20 goals in 23 Serie A games this season — can somehow prevent the Ivorian from getting on the scoresheet that will go a long way to securing a positive result.

The performance of the 31-year-old looks like being the most important in deciding who progresses from this clash of two titans.

Click here to join the debate in our forum. Will the key players and key battles pan out as predicted? Will Drogba really prove to make the difference? Only one way to find out... follow it here on Wednesday February 24 with Goal.com UK's comprehensive live coverage.


All Odds Supplied by Titanbet.

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