All the English sides have made it through to the knock out stages of the Champions League after two previous seasons of fallouts. The question many are now asking is could England have its fourth winner of the new era this season? Collectively, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have only lost five times in the Champions League where as last year there were nine defeats with City and Chelsea crashing out. It is redemption time for Manchester City who have finally made it to the last 16 for the first time under their wealthy owners.
City were drawn with a relatively easily group with the exception being current holders, Bayern Munich. They secured their place into the next round after the fourth game and were close to topping the group in the final game at the Allianz Stadium against the Germans but it seems math was never Pellegrini’s strong suit.
“It was important to be first in the group but not the most important – it was difficult to score two goals.” – Manuel Pellegrini
The Chilean said this after his side’s 3-2 win where if the game had finished 4-2, City would have gone through as the group winners. Nevertheless, the Blues have been clinical disposing of the other opponents in their group and all of their strikers have looked hot on the European stage. Finishing second in the group will be a hindrance but if they are to win the tournament they will have to play the big sides at some point anyway.
Arsenal meanwhile were given a deathly group including Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Marseille. After their home defeat on the opening day in the Premiership, everybody thought they would be wiped out immediately. But the Gunners bounced back in the league and have been one of the most effective sides in Europe as well, benefitting from having arguably the strongest midfield in the group. Despite the lost to Napoli in the final game and Dortmund’s last minute goal in France against Marseille sent them through as group winners, Wenger will be pleased by his team’s performances. They recorded a brilliant away wins against Dortmund and Marseille whilst doing enough at home against Napoli and Marseille to progress. Jack Wilshire and Aaron Ramsey have shone during the group stages and if the Londoners continue to march on through the tournament, they could raise some eyebrows amongst the top clubs in Europe.
It’s been a rough transition for David Moyes into the hot seat at Old Trafford but he has secured the Red Devils a spot into the next round. He certainly deserves some credit here. The ex-Everton manager watched his team top the group on Tuesday after they won 1-0 at home to Shaktar Donetsk thanks to a goal from Phil Jones. Like many years, United were handed a fairly comfortable group with Bayern Leverkusen and Real Sociedad being the other two opponents and they went unbeaten in their six games winning four of them to give them a total of 14 points. This will hand them a favourable draw but many would argue without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie being available for each game, the side won’t have the strength to get much further than the quarter finals.
For Chelsea fans it was a bumpy road to the knock out stages despite the fact they topped the group. The Blues experienced defeats to Basel (twice) during their campaign and have looked far from their best. Despite the abundance of quality they have in their squad, the team are leaking goals all over the place as no one is taking command at the back. Their backline is filled with high profile names like Terry, Cole and Luiz, but for some reason the team are failing to keep clean sheets. Out of all competitions they have only managed to keep ten clean sheets out of a possible 24 matches, conceding 20 goals during the same time. The once solid Chelsea defence is starting to show its age. This is quite concerningfor Chelsea fans but Mourinho’s men are far from disarray. Just remember how shaky things looked in 2011 during the AVB to Di Matteo transition. The quality is there so if Mourinho can plug the hole at the back and get his front line scoring again, Chelsea could go far this year as they look to add to their 2011 Champions League title.
Blog By Richard Waterhouse