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English elite face Euro test

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Phil McNulty | 22:06 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Premier League's elite quartet ensured it was business as usual in the Champions League as they made their way into the last 16 and the knockout phase - but the passage was not always smooth.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have cast a huge shadow over the tournament, with an English presence in every final since 2005.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Rafael Benitez, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Arsene Wenger will now have their sights set on Rome next May after achieving the first goal of navigating their way out of the group stage.

So how should we rate their chances as the Champions League moves towards the business end?

Ferguson was in typically feisty form about United's ambitions after they finished top of their group, albeit with a low-key draw against Danish side Aalborg at Old Trafford.

With that familiar steely glint in his eye he said: "It is important we finish top of the group and have the second leg at home. We will come to Old Trafford with a full house and a really good atmosphere.

"We are there, have got the track record and the players so let's go and have a go."

Ferguson is right to be optimistic, with United traditionally stronger as the season progresses and with the confidence of finally ending that nine-year wait to regain the Champions League, they have real chances of retaining the trophy.

History may stand against Ferguson and United, because it is almost 30 years since an English side won Europe's elite trophy in successive seasons, but they will feel no need to fear any of the teams left in the competition.

If Ferguson had a wish it would probably be to avoid Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, although on footballing grounds alone they could be safely expected to see off The Special One and his new charges.

Inter Milan have barely been above average in Europe this season, winning only two of their six games and finishing behind Panathinaikos in their group.

But the sheer presence of Mourinho - and the hype he would engender as well as the usual dose of mischief - means Ferguson might like to save his old friend and his team for later battles.

Old Trafford will not want to be treated to Mourinho sprinting down the touchline in triumph as he did so famously with Porto in March 2004.

Ferguson, however, has indulged in some mischief-making of his own by claiming he would like to take tea and biscuits with Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon if they meet in the next round - no doubt to discuss his victory in keeping Cristiano Ronaldo away from the Bernabeu last summer.

Liverpool have been impressive as they made their way into the last 16 and the territory where they have traditionally flourished in recent seasons.

Rafael Benitez is a master of the two-legged European tie, with two finals (including a victory in 2005) and a semi-final on his CV since taking charge at Liverpool in 2004.

Liverpool have not indulged in any of their previous brinksmanship in getting out of the group stage, as they have done previously, and any team that draws them will have a nervous feeling in the pit of their stomach, especially with a second leg at Anfield.

Benitez is a proven strategist in Europe, but he will hope that time is a healer for Fernando Torres' worrying hamstring problems.

Liverpool's ambitions will be damaged if they are robbed of his ability to create a goal out of nothing, or Steven Gerrard's leadership and inspiration.

And what are the odds of the two great rivals Benitez and Mourinho being paired together and renewing the fractious relationship they had in England?

To say there is no love lost between the pair does not quite cover the animosity, although Benitez has twice overcome Mourinho in Champions League semi-finals when Liverpool have met Chelsea.

Liverpool would also have the psychological advantage of beating Inter over two legs in the last 16 earlier this year.

But you can guarantee Mourinho would relish getting under Benitez's skin once more - and it would be great box office to see the world-class coach and huge personality back on English soil again.

Benitez's side are a massive threat once they reach this stage of the competition, and while Inter, Villarreal or Real Madrid would offer a stern examination, they would be tests Liverpool are more than capable of passing.

Chelsea will be hoping to follow Liverpool's example of previous seasons, where stuttering form in the group games has led to a dramatic improvement and progress in the latter stages.

John Terry

Coach Scolari will need to coax a serious improvement from Chelsea after unconvincing progress out of a group where they were well beaten by Roma in Rome and held in Bordeaux.

Even the game that stamped their passport into the last 16, the 2-1 win over Cluj, was a nervous affair against opponents who were spirited but hardly out of the top bracket of European teams.

In Chelsea's defence, there is every chance they will attack the knockout phase with a vastly-strengthened squad if Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien can join the campaign and Didier Drogba can stay fit and focused.

After finishing second, they are looking at some potentially hazardous tasks in the draw on 19 December, with the possibility of drawing Barcelona and the improving Bayern Munich.

Scolari was defiant after the Cluj win, insisting he was happy to take on anyone, but even the most optimistic of coaches would want to delay meeting Barcelona in the hope their current magnificent form fades by the time the last 16 ties are played.

Chelsea need to re-discover their air of invincibilty and the return of key players such as Carvalho, Essien and Drogba will help them achieve this.

If Scolari can re-create that quality, then the early predictions from pundits that Chelsea could win the Champions League this season may yet be fulfilled.

Arsenal are the great unpredictables this term - capable of beating both Chelsea and Manchester United but also able to conjure up defeats against Hull City, Fulham and Stoke City.

Wenger's side saw fortune desert them in the quarter-final against Liverpool, when they were arguably the better side over two legs, but they do not look in great shape to repeat that this season, losing their final group game against FC Porto in Portugal.

Arsenal's manager is the eternal optimist with an iron-clad belief in his team, but reality suggests they are rank outsiders to repeat their feat of 2006 and reach the final.

They currently look to have too many flaws to suggest they would survive a meeting with Barcelona and would also be tested by the likes of Roma and Bayern.

But only a fool would write Wenger and his team off and many things can change by late February and early March.

My belief is that Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all have the capability to reach the final again given a fair wind and the luck of the draw - I do not see the same applying to Arsenal.

But lurking for all of these sides is the spectre of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, inspired by the brilliant Lionel Messi. They would provide the most serious obstacle to England's so-called Big Four.

History, however, tells us that England's finest will all sense a genuine opportunity awaits them now the group stage has been safely dealt with.

Comments

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  • 1. At 00:13am on 11 Dec 2008, mardi12 wrote:

    All 4 English teams will struggle, but at least one should make it to the final! Hope that's United ;). Arsenal and Chelsea will wait anxiously for the draw, they need some luck, or they're in trouble!

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  • 2. At 00:19am on 11 Dec 2008, laumarvinho wrote:

    I kinda agree and disagree with you Phil, on home turf in Europe, no one wants to face Arsenal at the Emirates and with a few strong squad members to get back into the team, when we are settled, we can be very dangerous.

    It's true that the other 3 english teams and Barcelona are currently in better positions, but I wouldn't write off Arsenal, just look at the Milan results last year.

    As for my dream draw, I would love to see Arsenal vs Barcelona with the return of Thierry Henry. Man U vs Real Madrid, Chelsea vs Juventus with Claudio Ranieri back on english soil and Liverpool take on the special one's Inter Milan.

    I wonder what the mathematical odds of this are and whether the bookies would put these at 1000 to 1. Worth a tenner at that price surely.

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  • 3. At 00:19am on 11 Dec 2008, RedWristband wrote:

    Would quite happily play Barcelona, strongest continental team easily but I think Liverpool, Chelsea and United could see it through.

    My only worry is meeting United =/ there'd be way too much in terms of bragging rights for me to handle.

    Getting beat by them in a CL quarter final or semi final would be bad enough, and the final would really have me behind my couch, fingers in ears, humming 'Poor Scouser Tommy' to myself over and over again.

    Genuinely have no idea who could win it this year, the only realistic contenders provided the draw goes the right way is an English final, or Chelsea/United/Liverpool vs Barcelona, but between them its impossible to choose

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  • 4. At 00:22am on 11 Dec 2008, dhimmi wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 5. At 00:22am on 11 Dec 2008, fastBonux wrote:

    With four clubs (more than most nations) and a talent for borrowing money they do not have (due to lack of restrictions) it is no wonder why English clubs are so "dominant" (at least quantity-wise since the quality in England is usually Spanish, French, Dutch, etc). If you add the fact that those four English clubs never meet at the pool stage and they rarely have a strong opposition (this year Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United drew the easiest pools like the years before...) it would be a serious blow not to see them among the last 16 every year. Still, the fact Arsenal, Chelsea and ManU achieved some pretty average results tells me that they would not even reach the last 16 should they end up in pools including the likes of Real, Bayern, Inter or Lyon. You make your own luck has never been so untrue in football nowadays. Cannot wait to see Platini reducing the big nations to 3 clubs. Then put a restriction on foreign players (England Eurosceptics can thank the European Union right now) and Liverpool will probably "walk alone" for a little while...

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  • 6. At 00:38am on 11 Dec 2008, sinspaw wrote:

    Sorry Phil. I always love the blog but I have to say something about this one. Arsenal can be decaying in the domestic league but they always manage to do great things in the champions league. We deserved to win the final in 2006 - we were the better side. Against liverpool last season we were 'unlucky', to say the least, with the referee decisions and we were also the better side - also don't forget we beat milan 2 0 in san siro, how many teams can do that in the champions league? If any of the big 4 are outsiders it's chelsea. Big Phil seems to tremble when pressure comes, and his tactics seem to not work very well against bigger clubs (and that is what the CL is all about at the latter stages), while Wenger can put his boys up to good (also remembering beating Real Madrid at their home in 2006). You failed to mention aswell that while we did not play well against porto tonight, we weren't playing with our first team AND we have important players injured.

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  • 7. At 00:45am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    The team to beat must be Barcelona. Henry would be confident of scoring against any of the English teams. But if it's in the fianl he may just bottle it!

    Strangely they lost to both Basel and Shakhtar at home but beat them away.

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  • 8. At 00:53am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Based on a now large enough sample of performances, the quality of all 4 English sides this season is as high as the likes of Sakhtar Donetsk.

    The only reason they are all through is that they are all top seeded in their groups (vicious circle), hence avoiding top opposition.

    As a result, half of the English sides failed to justify their ranking, and the other 2 only did so on machday 6.

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  • 9. At 01:06am on 11 Dec 2008, fastBonux wrote:

    With all respect, I don't see much of an "English presence" Phil. Talking about a "continental presence" would be more adequate. In fact it is even worse than what it looks, take out all the foreign players from ManU, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool and you are left with one club of English players that would not even beat the likes of Cluj, Aab, Zenit, Bordeaux, Shakhtar, Sporting Lisbon, etc. English fans are always the first to claim the Champions Leagues belongs to the big nations, but the minnows have always proved they can compete if UEFA gives them a chance to grow without losing a massive amount of players that they have developed. Good on Platini for trying to bringing back sport's interest before finance. Those past 5 years the CL has been a financial battle during transfer periods more than a real battle on the pitch. Today, we have the proof that the minnows compete if the system is fair. Should Platini succeeds and I hope he will, we will at last see a real Sport Champion, not one that bought his way to the top. The English League would be nothing without their mercenaries.
    Here is my ranking of European Nations should all the players return home:
    1st- Spain
    2nd- Italy
    3nd- Germany
    4th- France
    5th- Netherlands
    6th- Portugal
    7th- Scotland
    8th- Greece
    9th- Russia
    10th- Czech Rep
    11th- Belgium
    12th- Ukraine
    13th- Switzerland
    14th- Denmark
    (...)
    48th Vatican City
    49th England!!
    Yeah, it is that bad. (ask Steve McLaren)

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  • 10. At 01:10am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    This is what we have seen in Europe so far:

    Liverpool were outplayed by Liege - home and away
    Liverpool were outplayed by Marseille - home and away
    Chelsea were outplayed by Roma - a 2nd tier Italian side
    Chelsea were outplayed by Bordeaux away
    ManU deservedly lost in the super cup to Zenit who finished 5th in the Russian League
    Chelsea couldn't beat newbies Cluz away and could easily have lost
    Liverpool should have lost at home to Atletico bar for the 3rd most shocking refereeing decision in history
    ManU struggled to salvage a draw against Celtic who finished bottom of their group
    Arsenal drew against Fenerbache at home
    Arsenal undeservedly equalised late on away to Kyiv (0 points last year), and needed a referee blunder to score a late winner at home.
    ManU could not beat one of the worst sides in CL history in their off-season at home
    Arsenal were embarrassed by Porto in the most humiliating fashion (with nutmegs, ole's and the like)

    CONCLUSION: If any of the 4 English teams has a genuine chance to win the competition, ANY OTHER TEAM OF THE LAST 16 HAS A GENUINE CHANCE TOO.

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  • 11. At 01:18am on 11 Dec 2008, Eat Cheese and be Merry wrote:

    fastBonux, you just sound really, really, really, really bitter about the fact that English clubs are currently the dominant force in European football.
    No doubt you want to take us back to the 'good old days' when English teams weren't allowed to compete due to hooliganism, which has been, if not completely eradicated, then effectively dealt with to the point that families can now be safe in the knowledge that the threat of violence at football grounds is minimal.

    It seems to me that while English teams seem to have been targeted by Platini and Blatter recently, everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten the Italian match-fixing scandal of only a couple of years ago; remind me again, AC Milan, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the wealthy PM of Italy, who owns many Italian TV stations, and who has been accused of corruption and sexual promiscuity, were found guilty of match-fixing. Their punishment was reduced on appeal, and tell me, who won the Champions League that year? Mmm, yes, AC.
    Oh, and with all of the trouble that Rome and Roma has encountered recently, what with numerous stabbings of away fans over the last few years, nervous police officers beating away fans, and the unfortunate death of a Lazio fan at the hands of the Rome police......
    where does UEFA decide to hold the Champions League final?
    Rome I see.
    The foreign-player ruling (6+5) that you suggest that should be implemented will not only affect English teams. See, I'm a United fan, and if you put that ruling in place, it would benefit us far more than other clubs, as we pretty much play near enough to that anyway. I think it was Inter who played Liverpool last season, and Inter had less Italians than Liverpool had Englishmen! It's the same for Real (Spanish + Dutch) and Barca (Spanish + South Americans).
    The only nations it would really benefit are the French/Dutch, and they don't have a chance anyway.
    Get off your high horse, realise that football is a global sport, and appreciate the fact that success moves in cyclical trends; we won't be on top forever, but we're gonna enjoy it while it lasts!

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  • 12. At 01:21am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The best evidence we have of how good the English sides are comes from the way they fared against the so-called 2nd seeds in their groups. Performance-wise over the 2 legs:

    ManU were not superior to Villareal
    Chelsea were not superior to Roma
    Liverpool were not superior to Atletico
    Arsenal were not superior to Porto

    Therefore on this evidence it would seem that ANY of the 4 English sides would struggle against the stronger sides such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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  • 13. At 01:35am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    I wish people could just ignore what the so-called pundits such as the author of this article say. Are they too naive to understand that what they write is part of their employers' agenda. All the overconfidence, optimism, overhyping, talking up. It's their job to write what people want to hear. They're getting paid for it, it's where they earn their living from.

    The home truth is: 80% of the English teams' performances in Europe this season has been utter mediocrity.

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  • 14. At 01:41am on 11 Dec 2008, Born_Again wrote:

    Therefore on this evidence it would seem that ANY of the 4 English sides would struggle against the stronger sides such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.



    Or you could look at their results and say that they would struggle against any of the English sides. On any day, any side left in the competition could beat another, which has been shown.

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  • 15. At 01:43am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The fact that a team such as Liverpool consisting by and large of unknown 3rd tier players instead of word-class internationals and performing as they have so far this season finds itself top of the table come December is fully indicative of the miserable quality of the Premier League this season, and an alarming as well as embarrassing situation for English football.

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  • 16. At 01:44am on 11 Dec 2008, rl wrote:

    #5,
    sounds like bitterness to me, are you French by any chance?

    #9,
    No, it's Steve McLaren who's that bad

    #10/12,
    The English clubs will dominate the competition with at least one of them getting into the final- no point denying it.

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  • 17. At 01:44am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    BARCA WOULD HAVE ANY OF THE 4 ENGLISH TEAMS FOR BREAKFAST.-

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  • 18. At 01:52am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 19. At 01:56am on 11 Dec 2008, fourfootedchallenge wrote:

    Great article.

    I'm slightly disappoint United didn't manage a greater points haul, but we are through, and top of the group which will be great mentally, as well as giving the benefit of the draw, and the second leg at home. However I think we can take heart from going unbeaten in the champions league for one and half seasons. Not only that but even when we've been behind in Europe, in my opinion, we've never really looked in any really danger losing.

    Other than United, based on the games so far Liverpool, Barca and Juve are teams I reckon will most likely be up there come May.

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  • 20. At 01:56am on 11 Dec 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    The English big 4 are good.
    They have the money.
    Whether they will win the Champions League is another story.

    People say they have dominated the Champions League the past few years but they only won 2 this decade.
    Plus how English players actually wins this competition, not many to my calculation, and if Arsenal win it, even less.

    But football is a weird game.
    The David vs Goliath situation is common and often enough Goliath is not victorious.
    Barcelona are favourites and with their style of football, the neutrals favourites as well.

    I would not be suprise to see Real Madrid, as poor as they are go far, or the Italian team do well. Or Bayern etc. Least we know one thing, Spain and Italy will always be a threat, winning the European Championship and World Cup respectively is proof. Didn't see England win those!!

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  • 21. At 02:02am on 11 Dec 2008, fastBonux wrote:

    Eat cheese and be marry, I actually put England, Italy and Spain in the same bag, with the only difference that Spain and Italy have not forgotten how to develop their own talent, and Spain actually provide some of the best players in the English League. Platini and Blatter has not forgotten them either. This why claiming that the English League is the strongest in Europe is highly cynical. Tell me who is English in the English League? Answer: the supporters. What about the rest then? Coaches: Not English - Players: Not English - Club Owners: Not English - Capitals: Not English.
    You are not on top mate, you are being mounted by others and they take you for a poney ride. The day the regulation will prevent the big clubs from borrowing unlimited amounts of cash, some of the big ones like ManU will have to sell players to pay back the investors and the supporters will have to dig deep in their pocket to cover the balance. And they will reach bottom of the table. Does it do any good for football? I don't think so. The changes that Platini and Blatter wants to implement are only the start. For English football, it is a bad for a good, but until then there is no reason why smaller nations of football should pay the price of greedy clubs. Don't get me wrong though, I am not against clubs buying players, I am against clubs buying players with money they don't have. It makes football unaffordable for those who stick with the rules. If a Dutch player could earn the same amount of money in Netherlands than in England, maybe he would chose to stay or at leats he would return after a stint, and that would bring the "smaller" leagues to where they belong. Of course it would also bring back the "bigger" leagues to Earth. (or their high horse as you mentionned)

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  • 22. At 02:21am on 11 Dec 2008, thefrogstar wrote:

    As people have pointed out above, the PL teams have shown themselves quite capable of getting bad results against much poorer clubs, with supposedly inferior teams.

    Two victories in the CL final since 1999 doesn't convince me yet about a genuine dominance of PL teams.

    I'll start believing in the hype about the strength of the PL when 'English' teams start performing in the UEFA cup as well.

    Not much sign of that yet, but best wishes to Villa (or maybe Arsenal).

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  • 23. At 02:22am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The English clubs, media and fans can praise themselves as much as they like.

    The FACT is that Barcelona is officially and by some distance the best team in the world for the last calendar year, and also all-time (period 1991-2007).

    http://www.iffhs.de/?10f42e00fa2d17f73702fa3016e23c17f7370eff3702bb1c2bbb6f28f53512

    http://www.iffhs.de/?3d4d443d0b803e8b40384c00205fdcdc3bfcdc0aec70aeedbe1a

    (don't expect to find these tables in the UK press as they go against what they preach)

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  • 24. At 02:28am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Also if the UEFA Cup favourites Sevilla or Valencia faced any one of their English counterparts, in most likelihood they'd give them a proper thrashing, which tells you all you need to know about the relative strength of the two leagues.

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  • 25. At 02:32am on 11 Dec 2008, derbymax wrote:

    Foreigners make up more than 40 per cent of the players in Europe’s top five leagues with the figure for England’s Premiership almost 60 per cent, according to a new study.

    The Annual Review of the European Football Players’Labour Marke, published on Thursday by the Professional Football Players Observatory, found the number of foreigners in the top divisions in England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy last season had reached 42.4 per cent.

    Ok English team are generally higher but why do people only harp on about foreigners in the English game, everyone seems to forget about the ones who play for the big teams in Europe. Look at Barca, Cáceres(Uruguay) Álvarez (Mexico) Gudjohnsen (Iceland) Eto (Cameroon) Messi (Argentina) Touré (Ivory coast) Abidal(France) Hleb(Belarus) Alves (Brazil) Milito (Argentina) Sylvinho(Brazil) Keita (Mali) Henry (France) Thats 13 out of offical squad of 24.
    I believe you support your club regardless of who's there, i dont imagine people chose to stop supporting Ferrari when Schumacher left? Stop moaning and lets be glad 4 English teams are still in. Oh and Liverpool to win by the way!

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  • 26. At 02:34am on 11 Dec 2008, Ed_Harding wrote:

    MORE ENGLISH PLAYERS PLEASE!!!!!! COME ON!! WE´VE GOTTA DO SOMETHING, PLEASE HELP!!!

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  • 27. At 02:41am on 11 Dec 2008, thefrogstar wrote:

    I don't wish to sound cruel, NikosBg, but I bet Newcastle fans might be delighted to find themselves in 37th place on that second link you posted :)
    I've got to laugh, I was looking Leeds position :(

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  • 28. At 02:57am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    English Elite? whats that? there no such thing unless your talking about elite handballers! surely you mean Clubs that are based in England but are full of foreigners...... yeah..?
    No mention of Juventus in your article i note? hoping that they just vanish! I wouldn't like to come up against Juventus either as I think they are hungry for victory, after missing out for two years, they certainly have the players to achieve the results!

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  • 29. At 03:11am on 11 Dec 2008, hewsdog wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 30. At 03:28am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    Some Champions League Facts:

    Champions League Ranking by Nation:

    Italia - 11 wins / 14 runners up

    Espana - 11 wins / 9 runners up

    England - 11 wins / 5 runners up

    Germany - 6 wins / 7 runners up

    France - 1 win / 5 runners up

    Italia - (Milan 7, Juve 2, Inter 2)

    Espana - (Real 9, Barcelona 2)

    England - (L,pool 5, Man'U 3, N'ham 2, Villa 1)

    The top European leagues have 11 wins a piece, Italia leads because it has more runners up places. Spain or England could overtake Italy this year in the Champions League if one of their teams wins.

    World Cup Records (European)

    Italia - 4 World Cups

    Germany - 3 World Cups

    Francia - 1 World Cup

    England - 1 World Cup

    Espana - 0 World Cup

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  • 31. At 03:51am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    This is a club competition not one for national teams. The logic of some of these xenophobes is laughable, particularly #20 and NokisBG.

    English clubs won the European Cup every year from 1977 to 1982, no other country has bettered that, if you want to measure it that way. The players were mostly British and teams didn't, or weren’t able to buy the best players in the world at the time. If English clubs hadn’t been banned from Europe for 5 years Everton would almost certainly have won a couple of European Cups in the 80s. However during this period of total domination by English teams and British players none of the British nations won the World Cup or European Cup, mostly not even qualifying for the finals.

    As of 2008

    Italy – 11 wins
    Spain – 11 wins
    England – 11 wins

    Roll on 2009!

    NokisBG – I’m guessing you were born in the late 90s.

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  • 32. At 03:53am on 11 Dec 2008, The Wenger Bus wrote:

    Wow is it bash england day or something?!?! All the english clubs have a chance of winning it this year including arenal! Wins to Utd and at Chelsea prove we can still be competetive at the highest level. The PL had 2 teams in the final last year, 3 in the semis and they will all be competetive again this year. Arsenal have been very hit and miss this season, some great results eg 4-0vs porto and could do what liverpool did in 05 and focus all their energy on the CL.
    I dont think any of the British clubs should be fearful of the spanish giants, they are good but not invincible!!!

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  • 33. At 04:01am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    Juventus fans' favourite player of all time? A Welshman.

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  • 34. At 04:04am on 11 Dec 2008, Rogered wrote:

    Italy might have the over all record for now, but Spain have the most successful club! if Italy had won just half of their runners up places they would be streets ahead!

    I applaud Platini in his efforts to bring some fairness back into European football, the amount of foreigners in many clubs is disturbing, England especially.

    England who were once a proud footballing nation have sold their best clubs to foreigners, who in turn hire foreign players because the home grown talent is thin on the ground, further more, to have an Italian as manager of your national team is poor form and unpatriotic, nothing against Capello but if England should by some miracle win the next world cup how could it be seen as a total triumph for the English? the cup would have to be split between Italy, who provided the manager and the know how to get the team performing, and England, who supplied the players. I believe that national sides should be 100% from the nation they represent, otherwise whats the point?

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  • 35. At 04:05am on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Haha what a load of Rubbish from Nikos and FastBenoux

    Only ONE Spanish team won their group Barcelona. And only THREE Italian teams are left Fiorentina are OUT.

    *FOUR English teams all through and 2 won their groups*

    How many italians do Inter play? 1 matterazzi. They are still poor in europe.
    You guys talk like other top teams dont rely heavily on foriegners. The best Barcelona players are NOT Spanish.

    Not to mention lowly Portsmouth nearly beat Ac Milan quite easily.

    No European team knocked out a Premier League team in the champions league last season, fact.

    5 English teams in the last FOUR finals and an all English final last year.

    The jealously of the Premier League is hilarious.

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  • 36. At 04:27am on 11 Dec 2008, Rogered wrote:

    Yeah but Portsmouth are out, winning 2 nil at home against AC Milan, then choked at the death! what a joke! AC Milan started to play seriously for 6 minutes and they scored twice to equalize! the faces on the Portsmouth fans said it all! I laughed so hard! English fans had already started gloating on the internet how they had taken down the mighty AC Milan, they couldn't wait for the final whistle.!

    The sad thing about English football is that it is not English, very few participants are actually English, which is a shame for the young players trying to take the step up, it explains why England have not done anything in the world cup since 66, both Spain and Italy have a much higher percentage of home grown talent in their teams, and their national sides reflect that with results internationally.

    The day that Spain, Italy, France or Germany hire an English manager is the day that I will concede the English have something to offer world football, at the moments its just the Beckhams and thats about it.

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  • 37. At 04:33am on 11 Dec 2008, Rogered wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 38. At 04:43am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    I really hope that a pseudo "English" team does not win it this year!

    I can't stand all the gloating the poms carry on with, waving their flags and all, makes me want to puke! I could cop it if the team was actually English! not only in name, but players also!

    The EPL should really be called the Spanish Premier League in England, with a few token locals thrown in to make up the numbers!

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  • 39. At 04:47am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    #36 kingleisabeff - your logic is flawed. Why didn't Spain win anything until 2008? English players did very well in European competitions in the 70s and 80s however no British national team won anything. Conversley Germany almost always do well in the World Cup and European Championships but haven't won regularly in European club compertitons since the 70s. England have plenty to offer world football, you clearly have a weak understanding of the game.

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  • 40. At 04:48am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    Best English player ever - Gianfranco Zola

    Best England Manager - Fabio Capello

    hang on, do i see a pattern emerging here?

    Lucky for England Australia are not in the CL, we would murder any English side hands down, and our teams are actually Australian owned and operated, with Aussie players!

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  • 41. At 04:57am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    Frank Lowy (Hungarian I believe) has done a good job fixing Australian football. Up until a few years ago it was a horrible mess of racial hatred.

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  • 42. At 05:08am on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Burgertron you are an idiot. Would 2 Australian teams get to the Champions league final? They wouldnt win a group game.

    6 out of the last 8 semi finalists in TWO years have been English teams, thats total domination.

    Fact is English teams win and only Barcelona are ever capable of stopping them. Milan arent even in the champions league this year.

    Italy and Spain are FULL of foreign players too. Inter Milan are the best team in Italy and they regularly play with only 1 or no Italian players. Barcelona and Real Madrid would be nothing if you took out the foreign players.

    Bolton knocked out Atletico madrid last year by the way, that was funny. Valenica were a joke last season Rosenborg beat them home and away, Chelsea beat them in spain too.

    Take away Barcelona and Ac Milan and Europe has not been able to compete at all with the Premier League the past 5 years, which is why the Premier league is TOP of the UEFA Coeffciant table.

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  • 43. At 05:26am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    AlexOjideagu - how does the saying go? ...never get into a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

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  • 44. At 05:39am on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    FatBloke the comments are hilarious.

    Imagine Liverpool got knocked out like Fiorentina did and there were only 3 English teams left like Serie A.

    Imagine Man United played as badly as Inter Milan have. Can you imagine Panathiniakos above Manchester United?

    Imagine only 1 English team won the group like the Spanish teams, Barcelona the only winners of a group. 2 English winners.

    Funny these idiots seem to forget the facts?


    The blinkers are just beyond sanity. If Spain or Italy had the Premier Leagues results the past 4-5 years they would be claiming it was incredible.

    People seem to also forget Serie A was full of expensive foreign players in the 90's and spent millions, some of which like Lazio are still paying for it.

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  • 45. At 05:54am on 11 Dec 2008, jackdking wrote:

    I entirely agree with you in almost all the entire article and analysis But dont believe Chelsea can progress beyond the last 16 when they meet Barcelona or Real Madrid or even Bayern Munich.

    thanks for the indepth analysis.
    Jakech

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  • 46. At 05:58am on 11 Dec 2008, Gary wrote:

    Nikos you really should get out more

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  • 47. At 06:02am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    So the EPL is just copying the Seria A of the 90's? thats a bit backward looking isn't it? I know Italian football is the best in the world, apart from the Australian league, which is probably the best League in the world today.

    Aelaide United would crush weak girly handbag clubs like Manchester United and ARSEenal, I think the scores would be like 3 - nil away and 27 - nil at home to Adelaide United.

    Anyhow, everyone knows the English like to bend the rules a bit, especially in cricket!

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  • 48. At 06:04am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    Chelsea are supposed to be the best team in England and Roma, who is about last in the Seria A flogged them......

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  • 49. At 06:11am on 11 Dec 2008, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    ah, burgertron, you're from Adelaide, it all makes sense now.

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  • 50. At 06:13am on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    The Premier League is top of the tree in the UEFA Co-efficents and i would say that there will be 2 English sides in the QF's this year, probably Liverpool and United looking the most likely, Arsenal are too inconsistent for me, but would probably do ok against someone like Barca because it suits Arsenal when they are the underdog as playing AC Milan proved last year. The Emirates is an intimidating venue also so teams wont relish a trip there because on their day with the right passing and movement, Arsenal can cut a team to ribbons. Scolari thus far in big games has failed to impress me at all, Roma away in the CL plus Arsenal + Liverpool at home. Essien and Carvalho are massive losses imo. Chelsea will probs do better in the Premier League this year. Barca will be a big threat this year, Inter under Mourinho could be, yet they have looked unconvincing thus far i have to admit. People must not forget however that Mourinho in 03/04 finished runner up in the group stage with Porto and went on and won it. Bayern are a dangerous outsider, Ribery and Ze Roberto are back for them and Toni and Klose will score you goals. Cant call the CL this year gonna be very close. About the strength of leagues though, the only reason England is at the top of the pile is because the of the Big 4. Look at English teams performances in the UEFA Cup since Liverpool won it in 00/01, only one finalist, Boro, who were trounced by Sevilla, the EPL has imo woefully underachieved in the UEFA Cup over the last 6/7 years, Spain and Italy's representatives in this comp have been stronger and England are probs just ahead of Germany and France, even Russia has done better in the UEFA Cup recently than England. I still think that in the CL gradings, England should deservedly be on top, yet when it comes to the UEFA Cup dont get so overconfident, England are around 5th on the list.

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  • 51. At 06:14am on 11 Dec 2008, Edward wrote:

    I can remember seeing AC Milan belt Manchester United in 2007, and I saw Roma belt Chelsea just recently? there are a few holes in the English Total Domination you speak about.

    And I think you mean to say clubs which play in England but are really teams full of foreigners, there are no English teams really, they are more like Spanish/Dutch/German/Portuguese with a token English man thrown in in order not to make the situation more ridiculous than it is!

    Australia teams would Belt any English side in any sport any day, its a fact. We Belt you in Union, we belt you in Cricket, and the last time we met in football we belted you at home! no argument! we are just world class!

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  • 52. At 06:20am on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Real Madrid have had to change their manager and are doing poorly in their league, suddenely they are world beaters?

    Juventus beat them home AND away.


    If Chelsea were fourth in the league and just sacked Scolari i doubt people would be saying they will beat anyone, but when its Real Madrid its different lol

    I love the logic of some people.

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  • 53. At 06:23am on 11 Dec 2008, King wrote:

    classic mcnulty blog... stating the obvious.. a copy-paste from here..a copy-paste from there..and voila..a new blog... every 3 hours !..can you please make it weekly please? i can read the news from other websites.

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  • 54. At 06:27am on 11 Dec 2008, M wrote:

    47. At 06:02am on 11 Dec 2008, burgertron wrote:
    So the EPL is just copying the Seria A of the 90's? thats a bit backward looking isn't it? I know Italian football is the best in the world, apart from the Australian league, which is probably the best League in the world today.

    Aelaide United would crush weak girly handbag clubs like Manchester United and ARSEenal, I think the scores would be like 3 - nil away and 27 - nil at home to Adelaide United.

    Anyhow, everyone knows the English like to bend the rules a bit, especially in cricket!


    -------

    I'll just remind you of the Underarm Incident.

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  • 55. At 06:34am on 11 Dec 2008, G_K___ wrote:

    hainesoides wrote:

    "The English clubs will dominate the competition with at least one of them getting into the final- no point denying it."

    -------------------

    Well the point of denying it is that it is untrue.

    If any team is a cut above the rest in this year's competition it is Barca, with Real not far behind, despite their managerial issues.

    TV revenue means the English Premier League clubs have some top foreign players - but their basic standard of football remains below that of the top Spanish teams, since the basic technical quality of the English players is so low.

    No point denying it.

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  • 56. At 06:48am on 11 Dec 2008, Gavinv0415 wrote:

    I have to disagree with some of the comments about foreign players in English sides. It may be true that most of the big four only have a few English players, but how many of them are quality? Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Ferdinand, A. Cole, etc. And if counting those nations in the Britain and Ireland, we have quite a few players in hand who are world-class.

    Sides like Inter, Real Madrid, and Barcelona also lack their home nation's players. And people are right, the past 5 years have been a battle of finance. Most top clubs have only a few home grown players who are from the home nations.

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  • 57. At 06:58am on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    People are jealous of the Premier League, simple.

    You'd think their were no foreigners in the Top 4 Spanish and Italian teams the way some speak.

    So far in the Champions League.

    4 English teams, 2 group winners

    4 Spanish teams, ONE group winner.

    3 Italian teams, One knocked out.

    I am gobsmacked people are rating Real Madrid so highly? They are an awful team at the moment with one of the worst defences in Europe. Why would they sack their manager if they were doing well?

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  • 58. At 07:01am on 11 Dec 2008, Gavinv0415 wrote:

    It's strange but there are actually a handful of talent emerging in England that I can say, "disagrees" with people who say England isn't producing good young players. We actually have players Ashley Young, Agborlahor, Curt Devis, Rooney, Walcott, Joe Hart, Michael Johnson, Danny Simpson, Frazier Campbell, Lenon, Bentley etc. A lot of these who I think have great potential to be top class.

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  • 59. At 07:12am on 11 Dec 2008, jerseyno10 wrote:

    In 1998 the french national team won the world cup with a very strong group of players who where of african origin (including Zidane, Disailie,Turam,Viera etc.) Does that mean that it was a win for africa and not France ? i dont think so....

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  • 60. At 07:14am on 11 Dec 2008, Pseudo-Viking wrote:

    FastBonux
    NikosBg
    burgertron

    In the immortal words of Eric Cantona to the French FA:
    Idiot
    Idiot
    Idiot

    FastBonux, what are you talking about? What's your point? Is it really that becasue clubs playing in the EPL are dominant (yes, they are, look at the facts), then English people shouldn't feel superior to the rest of the world? If so, then just say it. But don't make out that these clubs are somehow cheating their way to the position they are in through an unfair system. Your argument seems to be "If the world were different, then things wouldn't be the same, and it's all unfair because I don't like it" - excellent reasoning, and incidently the kind of thing which paranoid people cling to. Man U and Arsenal (and Liverpool, I believe) make a profit each year - which enables them to buy and develop great players, ie fund their success (Chelsea are different, they run at a loss which is subsidised). They are global clubs, global brands with a global following. They happen to compete in the English Premier League, which is also a global brand.

    NikosBg, good idea. Pick on one or two individual results and extrapolate (look it up) to reach the conclusion you want to get to. Ignore the facts, whatever you do don't let real data disturb your fantasies. And keep taking your medication.

    Burgertron, I was unaware of the true strength and entertainment value of the Australian league. I hope all the world's television networks realise the error of their ways and we can all look forward to seeing Australian football (or do you call it soccer?) broadcast worldwide next year, instead of this rubbish European football which no-one seems to like. Go Brisbane! Go Adelaide! I can't wait....

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  • 61. At 07:22am on 11 Dec 2008, martinho808 wrote:

    All these comments about stats, who won the most titles over recent years, who won the most world cups are totally irrelevent - if stats dating back the last 20 years bear anything to do with a likely outcome, then surely leeds united, with their quality squad from both the Revie and DOL years will be in your figuring for who'll be in the fight for next year's or so CL last 32. They clearly won't; equally, the history of the number of times a ball has been drawn in a euromillions lottery won't affect the outcome of that either.

    Minnows have as good a chance as any of the teams - it's all about how much fight they have in them for the next handful of games to make it to Roma next year, nothing else- skill's got something to do with it, but a lot less than a desire to win. Statistically FC Porto, as much as I don't care for Portistas, HAD a desire to win under Mourinho- you can't tell me they were the best team on paper in Europe that year, they weren't. What they had was a fire in their belly to win.

    You can't even look at bookie's odds as an indicator for british success either. The odds are ALWAYS lower than they should be for english sides-due to the betting pattern more than their actual chances.

    Any team can win it this year, as the results in the group stages have proven. You might as well put a tenner on Bayern this year against Manu, and Manu not robbing them this time!

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  • 62. At 07:24am on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Was reading an article on the CL group stages in the Independent on Monday, and we had a column in that saying that the CL group stages have been a procession this year and they have been boring. Funny is that, maybe the writer should have taken a look at these results
    Inter losing to Panathinikos and Werder
    ManUtd drawing with Villarreal
    Liverpool drawing with Atletico Madrid
    Arsenal drawing at home with Fenerbache
    Sporting qualifiying for the CL last 16 for the first time.
    Juve beating Real Madrid at Real
    Aalborg getting a point at Celtic Park and OT
    Chelsea getting beaten by Roma

    We have seen the powerhouses of European football qualify, but what do you expect to happen, those teams are the best financed and have the best players so realistically what do you expect. Does the reader want to see Real Madrid, Man Utd, Chelsea and Inter Milan in one group and Aalborg, BATE, Steaua and Famagusta in another. It would be a farce this way. The person who wrote that article has his EPL blinkers on, people fail to realise though that Liverpool were in a sticky situation similar to Chelsea this season last time out. Im happy that England has some top teams in Europe now but i do think that news reporters are being a tad arrogant to the competition calling it a procession, every team in this seasons comp has scored at least a point, Famagusta have surprised a few this season, Gilberto Silva has been superb for Panathinikos this year, has Wenger made a mistake letting him go? Atletico have looked good, Dynamo Kiev got zero points last year, this year they have 8. Been a good comp and the UEFA Cup will have some good teams in it in the last 32, the 8 entrants from the CL make it almost impossible to predict a winner there as well.

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  • 63. At 07:24am on 11 Dec 2008, SunnyJersey wrote:

    burgertron - you're a fool.
    Aussie soccer ? Nuff said !
    That hole in the ozone layer has obviously fried your brain.
    Sit back, enjoy the spectacle and a Liverpool win.

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  • 64. At 07:30am on 11 Dec 2008, SunnyJersey wrote:

    #15 NikosBG
    Liverpools 3rd tier international side ?
    Maybe they are top of the english league because Benitez has outfoxed all the other managers so far and got the luck when they've needed it.
    Merely shows what a resilient side Liverpool are this season and why most sane people fancy them for a league and european cup double.

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  • 65. At 07:37am on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    The people saying that the Australian league is strong are just talking rubbish, it isnt even the strongest league in the Asian section, the Japanese league has had 2 consecutive winners of the Asian Champions League. Maybe in 10/15 years time you will have a strong league, but if you put an Australian team from the A-League in the CL Qualification Rounds i doubt they would get to the 3rd Qualifying round, remember teams like Anderlecht and Rangers went out before that stage, both those 2 teams would beat anyone from the A-League.
    As for the comments regarding the top European clubs having all the best players etc etc. There is a gap between minnows and the best teams, the best will always have the best players, even if salary capping or any kind of wage/loan restrictions came in the gap would be reduced yet the big teams would still dominate, players want to play for the big teams end of, give me a choice of Celtic or Barca and its obvious who i would go for. Man City might be awash with cash but the only players who are gonna go to City over the Big 4 in England or Barca/Inter are mental.

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  • 66. At 07:38am on 11 Dec 2008, mattymattymatty08 wrote:

    yer english teams are rubbish with all their foreign players, not like the rest of the world such as barce... barca only 7 foreign players started for barca in their previous champions league game (against sporting), not like that rubbish man u team that also used 7 foreign players

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  • 67. At 07:40am on 11 Dec 2008, blueamsterdam wrote:

    I think there are a few authors with short memories here...FastBonux stands out.

    I remember the 80's and 90's when the Italian and to a lesser degree Spanish clubs had the cream of the talent from various countries plying their trade there due to the vast wages (at that time!) being handed out.

    AC Milan were awsome in the 80's due to Van Basten, Gullit etc.

    You lads should concentrate on your own clubs and countries and just let us reflect on our glory.

    I thank you.

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  • 68. At 08:07am on 11 Dec 2008, bloggs101 wrote:

    Contrary to the lead in this blog - if that's the best Man U can produce - they should fear EVERY team that's left in this competition.
    On another point - Rooney won't always get such a 'homer' and 'lenient' ref as they had last night. On another night his tackles could have warranted at least 2 yellows and possibly one red.
    I know its his style but he really needs to 'calm it'.

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  • 69. At 08:19am on 11 Dec 2008, Aspers wrote:

    I hope they all lose. The CL has become a big farce and the end of this format is near. What fun is it to watch a round where almost all teams are only playing who wins the group ? At start of the season you can fill in which teams will play CL after the winterbreak. Maybe you don't know it, but there are also people from other countries who don't give anything about English teams but want a fair league. Not where 4 British teams with 1.5 billion debt keep buying the best players and rule the CL. How are let's say Dutch teams ever going to win the CL again if teams they play against have even a better bench and 500 million debt ?

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  • 70. At 08:37am on 11 Dec 2008, enviableobject wrote:

    I'm sorry but Barcelona are the best team in Europe.

    However there are still a host of teams able to win this years competition - Juve, Man U, Bayern, Inter, Chelsea, Real Madrid etc....

    As for the best league??

    The "Top 4" English teams have done well in the Champions League over the last couple years but we have to remember the "top 4" doesn't = the whole of the Premier League.

    The teams just below the "big 4" are no where near their level or even the level of other mid-table teams from Europes strongest league.

    Even here in England we concede that the premier league has "leagues within a league".

    In terms of overall strength I'd suggest that Spain is the strongest due to the depth of their league.

    They usually do quite well in the Champions League but their mid-table teams have been dominant in the UEFA Cup over the last few seasons.

    They even have 2 out of 3 of this seasons favourites.

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  • 71. At 08:47am on 11 Dec 2008, Stat_Boy wrote:

    First off, nice blog Phil.

    As an Inter Milan supporter, i must say i was pretty disappointed we didn't top our Group. It was probably the easiest on paper yet we came 2nd. Saying that, i really think we took the foot off the pedal the last three games. After Matchday 3 we had 7pts, and in the final three matches we picked up just one point. I think it was due to a range of factors including -

    a] Already knew we were going to go through to the 2nd Round.

    b] Lack of respect for the opposition.

    c] More focused on Serie A at this stage of the season.

    Saying all of this, coming 2nd in our Group isn't even that bad. I mean to win the Champions League you got to beat the best, and what better way to do that than by starting in the 2nd Round by knocking off an A caliber side. We can face one of Porto, Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

    To be honest, i don't fear any of those sides, i'd like to avoid Barcelona but if we were to get them, i'd still be confident that we could knock them off. Their defense isn't as good as it seems, Bayern Munich aren't that good, we can beat both Man. United and Porto, and Liverpool well . . . don't get me started with them. Losing to Liverpool last season was a joke, and all Liverpool fans know it, the 1st Leg was ruined by the referee who sent off Materazzi for two laughable challenges. It was amazing we held on until the 80th minute before Liverpool finally broke the deadlock, and that was after Cordoba got injured. Plus in the 2nd Leg, Burdisso was sent off as well for a laughable challenge. During the 180 minute tie, Liverpool scored all three of their goals when we were down to 10 men, plus we played more of the tie with 10 men than 11, hardly a fair indictation of who we really were as a side.

    If we were to meet again like i think we will, we'll have our full strength side, that is Cordoba and Walter Samuel playing in the center of defense, it'll mean no Burdisso and Materazzi like it was earlier this year, we'll have someone that can coach in the big games in Jose Mourinho, and i think also we not showing what we're really made of in the Champions League, i really think we're hiding our true potential, how is it that Juventus can beat Real Madrid twice, yet we have beaten them two weeks ago 1-0, but they had one shot on goal the entire match.

    Don't worry people, we are for real, we just haven't shown it yet.

    As for that idiot talking about the A-League, being from Australia, i can tell you the A-League is an absolute embarressment to our nation, it's pathetic, and i don't waste my time with that garbage and people from abroad, neither should you, stick to the best that is the UEFA Champions League. Dwight Yorke came for a holiday, and so did Juninho, no one from abroad takes it seriously and it's a mickey mouse League, it's not even a League, it's a laughing stock.

    As for Man. City, who cares how much money they have, who would want to play for them, they'll be lucky to avoid being relegated this season, plus Robinho is only their because he was desperate to leave Real Madrid, and because Man. City are not a rival to them liek Chelsea are. People like David Villa and our own Esteban Cambiasso wouldn't waste their breathe playing for a team as shocking as them, just because they have a plethora of money doesn't mean squat in the grand scheme of things, they have no aura about them and player will not want to play for them. Period.

    Thankyou, and goodnight.

    FORZA INTER!!!

    P.S. - BBC sign me up as your correspondent for other European Leagues, I'm a star spots writer.

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  • 72. At 08:51am on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    EnviableObject, point well made, people may have forgotten that when Sevilla retained the UEFA Cup in 06/07 there were 3 Spanish sides in the semis of the UEFA Cup, dont also forget that this year, Pompey lost to Wolfsburg, Spurs lost to Udinese and Everton lost to Standard Liege.

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  • 73. At 08:52am on 11 Dec 2008, Welsh_Red2008 wrote:

    Why is it everyone who has a vendetta against the EPL has to bring up money, should the EPL apologise for knowing to market themselves well so that they can gain as much money as possible to help have with future success. Admittedly having wealthy owners helps but I havent heard anyone moan about Cluj and how they have suddenly sprung to prominence off the back of investment from a billionaire.

    Football is a global brand and those are samrt enough will exploit to help them, it is a sad fact but it is the way football is going and those who refuse to except this and fall behind.

    Also in regards to this apparent debt that all of the EPL has, no one knows the exact figures so crazy figures are always thrown into the air but in most cases this is a a manageable debt which you will find most clubs in the world have, if the debt was as crippling as reported they simply could not survive.

    Finally can everystone stop replying to burgertron about Autsralian football/soccer, he is clearly saying it to wind people up provoke a reaction. If he genuinely believes this then he is clearly a deldued individual so all his other opinions disregarded aswell.

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  • 74. At 08:56am on 11 Dec 2008, StarLoner wrote:

    EPL teams last season were the strongest in Europe - as the fact EPL teams were only knocked out by other EPL teams and two competed for the final, all this without the benefit of a midwinter break. All four have qualified for the last 16 yet again.

    The teams are financed by debt but the debt they carry is all to do with a leveraged acqusition or building new statdiums and investing in facilities like training grounds and academies - not to buy success that comes through the revenue and profits they make. As they all own their own stadium, all have positive balance sheets with the possible exception of Chelsea - unlike their Euorpe rivals who rely of state financing like Real Madrid.

    EPL are investing in producing their own talent, as the fact that English U21s have yet again qualified for their tournament and the number of young English players in Arsenal's reserve side proves.

    There are a lot of bitter people who don't like this deserved dominance of Europe but I guess they just have to deal with it.

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  • 75. At 08:56am on 11 Dec 2008, Ayoade Oluwasanmi wrote:

    Sorry Phil but as an Arsenal fan I have to disagree with you. By February, the likes of EDuardo will be back and if we can keep Van Persie and Adebayor fit, we can take on any team in Europe. Also, I believe and suscribe to what Wenger said last season, that to be the best, you need to beat the best. And we vintend to prove we are the best by beating the best. And if Barcelona is the best then we will step up and beat them

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  • 76. At 08:59am on 11 Dec 2008, dhimmi wrote:

    "Arsenal are the great unpredictables this term - capable of beating both Chelsea"

    Only by being offside both times

    THIS DOES NOT BREAK YOUR HOUSE RULES IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER AND YOU KNOW IT SO STOP CENSORING LICENCE FEE PAYERS SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THEIR COMMENTS!

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  • 77. At 09:07am on 11 Dec 2008, Kagetorius wrote:

    To Post 25 by derbymax

    Puyol, Valdes, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Bojan, Pique, Busquets, Sanchez, Rodriguez and Pep Guardiola, manager himself are all products of Barcelona youth system – La Massia. That’s true power of Barca. Please name English club who can also claim that they have 6 world-class homegrown 1st team regulars.

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  • 78. At 09:21am on 11 Dec 2008, wengers warriors wrote:

    arsenal woulda won it last year if refs werent so blind
    the semi final vs liverpool was just a rip off
    we didnt get a penalty we shouldve in the first leg
    and in the second leg they give liverpool a penalty they shouldnt have given them
    thats why they scored another goal

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  • 79. At 09:31am on 11 Dec 2008, blueamsterdam wrote:

    Kagetorius.

    You can go on and on all day about homegrown talent...sure Messi is Argentinian though.. but at the end of the day they have not won a Euro cup the last few seasons as far as I am aware.

    The local pub team is full of home grown players..what does that prove?

    The best will beat the rest (although Liverpool were not even the best in Liverpool in 2005..so maybe the whole competition is a joke after all!).

    Personally I think it should be the champions of each league who should fight it out..not runners up or thirds or fourth placed teams...The competition should be called 'The Euro League'.

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  • 80. At 09:35am on 11 Dec 2008, doncobaino wrote:

    As a United fan, I think that any draw will be difficult, Real Madrid have this curse over us and I have a real feeling that is who we will draw. My biggest worry is that with the injury to Hargreaves United do not have a defensive midfielder. This has made the midfield vulnerable.
    If we came up against Barca this year I do not know how we could contain them.
    Sporting Lisbon please!

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  • 81. At 09:36am on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    MY MY!!!!!

    There are some awfully bitter people on this blog?! I think they need to get more sleep rather than staying up till silly o'clock in the a.m. posting hatred towards the English clubs?!
    Maybe then they would be in a better mood?!

    Mind u - 'NikosBg' - is well known for his hatred of England, English Teams and anything generally English or to do with England, but then agen some people lead sad lives and need to get out more and go and get themselves a life?!

    but.........


    It looks like old NikosBg has gained a new friend here on his hatred of all things to do with England, step up - 'FastBonux' - may you two get married & live happily ever after in some far corner of the universe stewing for eterninty over your hatred for anything and everything to do with England

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  • 82. At 09:41am on 11 Dec 2008, Bergysdeftflicks wrote:

    The reality is that none of the UK Clubs look much of a bet to win the CL. My team are the worst of a pretty average looking quartet. None of them will win that trophy this year Phil.

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  • 83. At 09:44am on 11 Dec 2008, SportsSportsSportsBS wrote:

    I basically agree with you Phil, I cannot anyone other than Barcelona, Chelsea, Man Utd or Liverpool winning this tournament, but to be honest - anyone could have predicted this prior to the group stages or indeed qualifying. I thought exactly the same last year long before they all made the semi-finals.

    Real Madrid (who have too many long term injuries this season) are not strong enough to grind out away wins or draws, so these superior teams can get the better of them over two legs.

    Inter are the best of the Italian teams, none of which are good enough to challenge as has been proved in recent seasons. Milan's (who didn't even make the tournament this season) triumph in 07 with an ageing team will prove to be the last Italian success for quite some time I suspect.

    Realistically none of the other teams will have any impact at the business end of the tournament, and none of the changes Uefa want to make will have any effect in this regard.

    Barcelona and the aforementioned 3 English clubs are the best in Europe at the moment, and they have the experience and knowledge of how to get to the latter stages. The team with the best chance of gate-crashing their party are probably, Arsenal. Nothing Uefa are planning will end this dominance.

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  • 84. At 09:45am on 11 Dec 2008, rchrdav wrote:

    There are some people that are looking at one fact and thinking that is the full story.
    Firstly Platini's debt issue, this is more to do with Heysel than football sense. Yes English clubs have debt but unlike clubs in france and germany who dont have debt they dont get any state sponsorship. Bayern have a fantastic new stadium built and financed by the local government, Arsenal are in debt because they built and financed their own stadium. But hey its Arsenal that are cheating
    Real Madrid got in so much debt that they nearly went out of business but the local government bought the training grond off them for enough to pay the debt off, the elish cubs have to service their own debts but apparently its our clubs that are cheating not Real Madrid.
    Secondly as for the english players both United and Chelsea would have satisfied the 6 + 5 rule in the final last year, Arsenal and Liverpool would not but Arsenal seem to have some talented young english players coming through.

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  • 85. At 09:48am on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    NikosBg -

    ur first like proves that of present english clubs are dominating

    out of the top 10
    4 English teams
    1 Spanish Team
    1 Italian Team
    1 German team
    1 French Team
    2 Argentinian Teams

    ur link prove you wrong my friend

    DerbyMax -

    well said my friend
    people are all too quick to jump on the bandwagon of 'too many foreigners in england'
    but all the top leagues are the same in europe
    all full of foreigners spain, italy, you go look at how many of their top teams consist of mostly homenation players
    Inter Milan had 1 Italian in their team for a long while last season.......and nobody mentioned taht about them
    but they always mention arsenal as an example of no homenation talent and just playing all foreigners?!

    Pathetic

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  • 86. At 09:50am on 11 Dec 2008, enviableobject wrote:

    Funny.

    On SSN they have Marcelle Desailly pushing the agenda of the Premier League as the best in the world. AGAIN

    Seems to happen every Champion League night and post night that they interview pundits, former players etc trying to shove it down our throats. BORING.

    Thankfully the discerning of us aren't brainwashed by this drivel.

    They are now even saying Lionel Messi needs to come to England to be considered a great. Laughable.

    I'm sure skinning Luke Young, Michael Ball or Titus Bramble would make Messi sleep better knowing he has finally proved himself as the best player on the planet.

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  • 87. At 09:53am on 11 Dec 2008, midnightl33boy wrote:

    At 00:22am on 11 Dec 2008, fastBonux:

    Probably the WORST post i've EVER read!! Everything you say is total rubbish.
    1) The English clubs never play eachother in the group stages because they are ALL seeded teams and therefore go into the same pot so you're wrong there.
    2) these pretty average results.....? OK Chelsea and Arsenal i suppose but ManU? They only conceded 3 goals in the whole of qualifying and topped their group.
    3) The other teams you mention would S*** themselves if they had one of these teams in their own group!!!!
    4) Borrowing money that they dont have.......? Really? Chelsea are owned by Abramovich, Arsenal keep the purse string reasonably tight and concentrate more on grass roots for their club, ManU are a massive global enterprise.
    Liverpool who you obviously favour are the only team who would be as you say "walking alone" for a while.....alone in the UEFA cup.....
    Basically you're an idiot
    END OF

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  • 88. At 09:59am on 11 Dec 2008, RedDevilMOB wrote:

    Looking at the possibles for my team, I will say Sporting would be the ideal pick for us in the next round. However, if we get drawn against Real Madrid that would really would be something! For me, its the English sides everybody wants to avoid. People talk about Barca being the favourites, and they probably are, but I have a feeling that if Barca were to come up against either United, Chelsea or Liverpool, the English side would go through. I will be hugely surprised if we don't see at least one English team in Rome at the final... Come On UNITED!!!

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  • 89. At 09:59am on 11 Dec 2008, lease27 wrote:

    This competition is wide open, The so called big four have all shown weanesses this year, and people pick out Arsenal as the weakest team, yet they have played 2 of the other three and if it was a knockout competitition would only need a draw in the next leg - does that point more to Arsenals strengths or the other teams weaknesses, this season the Champions league could truly be won by any team left in the competition

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  • 90. At 10:02am on 11 Dec 2008, football_phd6 wrote:

    What you also have to consider is, we stay in Britain. Why would we show more support for a foreign country rather than our own teams? The British media are trying to show fellow Britons how well we have done in producing top flight teams. It will be the same in Italy, Spain, Germany etc. They will all show particular interest for their nations teams.

    There is no denying the talent that the EPL produces. Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are regarded as the BIG clubs of europe. To try and deny this is just arguing for the sake of arguing. Especially in recent years, the english league have had great success in europe.

    I do feel the english are producing stronger teams than any other in europe. I think that Villa Real, Athletico Madrid, Roma are a little off the pace with the rest.

    However, I am really not sure how well the English clubs will do in the last 16. I do feel that Barcelona have a great chance in going all the way. They are in the best form just now and they have a lot of depth in the team. Etoo is the leagues top goal scorer, Henry is finding form and the team are bonding together. Messi is playing to a standard that makes him, in my opinion, the best player in the world. They have stabilised their defence with signings like Pique, Caceres and Alves.

    Last year in the Champions League, I felt that Barcelona were going to win it. They are the only team i know that can make a team like Man Utd play defensive tactics for 180 minutes. But, in the end, Man Utd went on to lift the trophy.

    A dark horse for the competition would have to be Juventus. Not much talk about them and could easily sneak in the back door. Couldbe worth a few Pounds?

    I do think this year Barcelona will go all the way.

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  • 91. At 10:06am on 11 Dec 2008, C U Next Tuesday Sam wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 92. At 10:09am on 11 Dec 2008, mark wrote:

    Hi Starloner,
    I agree with most of what you say but have to disagree with the following point.

    "As they all own their own stadium, all have positive balance sheets with the possible exception of Chelsea "

    Man Utd are over £700 m in Debt, Arsenal and Liverpool around £400 and all 3 clubs made operating losses last year. None of their stadia values would cover their debts

    Chelsea are technically around £670 m in debt, but that is a private deal between the club and Abramovitch and most importantly is interest free.
    This is not so philantheropic as it may first appear on RA's part. Stamford Bridge is by far the most valuable piece of real estate in English Football, due to it's location in central London and the ownership of Chelsea Village.

    Although it's hard to say what it's value is in the current climate, along with the Chelsea village land it would comfortably cover at least half of the debt on the open market.

    Chelsea also spent an absolute fortune on their Surrey training ground in Broker belt country and given the value of the squad Abramovitch would almost certainly be able to recoup his losses if he decided to sell.

    If I were a United or Liverpool fan I would be concerned. United in particular, need to generate enormous sums just to pay their annual interest bill, which explains why they made an operating loss last year. The idea was to re-finance it and in the current climate that is proving difficult.

    Hicks and Gillet had trouble raising money even before the Credit crunch and with DIC now out of the picture, they need to re-structure sooner, rather than later.

    Arsenal look in pretty good shape financially, so long as they continue to qualify for the latter stages of the Champions league.

    Traditionally the richest clubs have always dominated the Champions leagues, apart ftom the late 70'sand ealry 80's when Ajax and the English teams dominated and Their Italian and Spanish rivals were able to pay much higher wages and transfer fees

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  • 93. At 10:10am on 11 Dec 2008, Haruki wrote:

    I am stunned by so many of the comments on here. The bitterness is so obvious in so many of them too.

    First off, it's a waste of time to compare whole leagues and say which is better. How do you define it? by how good the best team is, how good the worst team is, etc etc.

    However, I'm a fan of the Premier League, so I'm going to make my argument that, at the moment, the English league is the best, in that it is the most likely to produce the Champions League winner.

    Chelsea, Liverpool, United, and Arsenal are all top clubs who can all aspire to win the league almost every year. No other league can match that competition at the moment.

    The match fixing scandal really set Italy back, and the fact that a fairly average (by European standards) Inter team has dominated so much lately is a damning statistic for the league.

    As for the Spanish, there is only Barca and Real who are ever going to win the title. Other clubs make runs at it, but it is consistently one of two, as opposed to one of four in the Premier League. I actually watch the Spanish League a fair amount, and while the skill levels are greater across the board than in the Prem, I am always shocked by the quality of defending.

    The English Premier league has the most complete style of game at the moment. There is skill and pace and tricks, but these things decorate a backdrop of athleticism, well organised defence, and great tackles.

    The Spanish League is like all icing with no cake, good on the surface, but sickly and unsatisfying. The Italian is a cake with no icing, boring and plain. Only the English league has the cake and the icing.

    And yes, a lot of teams in England have foreigners, but so do all the top teams. And the top English sides aren't even that bad: Chelsea has Terry, J. Cole, A. Cole, Lampard who are all key players, while United's strongest 11 includes Ferdinand, Carrick, Fletcher, Rooney, and you could always see Scholes, Giggs, O'Shea, Neville.
    (I'm counting all the brits)

    this is long i know, but a lot of stupid things were said that must be addressed.

    Finally, theres a lot of whining about how the English clubs are all in debt cause they just spend tons of money on all the top player. uuum Real Madrid? Barca? both full of expensive stars, meanwhile, I don't think anyone on Arsenal was that expensive, Liverpool only have Torres that was expensive, and Keane but that doesnt really count cause they overpaid, Man United have Rooney, Berbatov, Ferdinand, and thats it for really big buys.. and chelsea are a bit of an exception. So it seems like the English clubs just have the better managers and scouts.
    FOR EXAMPLE: Man Utd buys Pique for 1 mil off Barca, then sells him bakc for 6 despite no signs any great improvement, other than the normal maturation of a young player---->FLEECED, again Arsenal buys Fabregas off Barca for 1 mil----->FLEECED

    so don't be bitter, the english league is the best, all 4 teams have qualified at a canter and no one will fancy facing any of them, but we can't forget about Barca, Real, Bayern, and I fancy Juve as a darkhorse...so thats 4 contenders from england, and 4 from the rest of europe...hmmmmm

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  • 94. At 10:13am on 11 Dec 2008, Unbiased_Pundit wrote:

    Arsenal might have been unlucky against Liverpool in the champions league last season, but they weren't the better team. Those two teams couldn't really have been any more evenly matched than they were. It was an epic battle and even as a Liverpool fan I have to say the result was marred by some questionable refereeing decisions - but both teams deserved something out of those two legs.

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  • 95. At 10:13am on 11 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    It has become a regular occurrence for the four English teams to advance to the later stages of the competition, but does anyone get the sense it might be more difficult for them this time to dominate the semi-final line-up again?

    And what about Barcelona? Has Pep Guardiola improved them to such an extent that they will be winners again this year?

    And while Scolari and Ferguson have both said it does not matter who they get, who would they secretly fancy getting in the last 16?

    I have to say I believe United and Liverpool could deal with pretty well all of their potential opponents, and Chelsea would probably want to avoid Barca.

    In some respects, even thought I have played down their chances, Arsenal are hugely unpredictable and could actually beat anyone if they get it right.

    Let me know your thoughts.

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  • 96. At 10:20am on 11 Dec 2008, Redraxy wrote:

    In response to comment 9 by FastBonux,

    I can take your point about finance to a certain degree but not totally, the last five years the Champions league has been about finance and who can afford to buy it with the players they can afford in the transfer windows.....if that was the case then Chelsea should/would have won it but they didn't. And Liverpool certainly wouldn't have won it in 2005, although Liverpool at that time had more money than a lot of other clubs in general it is not true to say that they were able to splash unlimited amounts of cash on players....they weren't.

    So although I can take your point and can understand where your coming from, it's not totally the case.

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  • 97. At 10:28am on 11 Dec 2008, phil wrote:

    Ive been watching CL games at OT since the mid 90's and unfortunately this season doesnt feel like our year. We were awful last night in the 1st half and have huffed and puffed thru the group stages without really catching fire. Cant see any of the English teams winning it this year as none have got into gear, we've all flattered to decieve. Last nights highlight was watching the Ginger Prince in the 2nd half remind us why he will be irreplaceable at OT. He transformed Uniteds midfield with vision and precision passing before the opposition could get near him. There is nobody in his class at what he does in England or Europe...

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  • 98. At 10:33am on 11 Dec 2008, AFC - 85 - SBFC wrote:

    #12

    Arsenal easily beat Porto 4-0 at home and lost to them 0-2 last night with a weakened team. How were they 'not superior over the two legs'?

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  • 99. At 10:34am on 11 Dec 2008, IPL Prediction Champ 08/09 wrote:

    #35
    the best barcelona players are NOT spanish


    OMFG!!!!
    have you not heard of Xavi or Iniesta???

    go back to school little one.
    what's santa bringing you for christmas?

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  • 100. At 10:38am on 11 Dec 2008, whatbill wrote:

    I think any of the 4 clubs can get to the final - Arsenal have been inconsistent but have won their 2 biggest games this season against United and Chelsea.

    I'm sure everyone will want to avoid Barca but Barca will also want to avoid the big 4. Also all 4 clubs will want to avoid Inter if at all possible, purely down to Mourinho. In some ways Chelsea fans will be glad to have finished 2nd and dodge the possibility of meeting him in the last 16!

    As a United fan, I'd like to avoid Madrid - they always seem to do well against us and the Ronaldo affair would crank things up a level. All the 2nd place teams look good but as holders we should fear no one.

    I predict 2 english teams in the semis and at least 1 in the final...

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  • 101. At 10:39am on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Thanks for creating this thread Phil, it is good to debate about the CL this year as imo it is a level comp. To the people saying that that certain teams have struggled and looked shaky during qualifying this year, i think that is a good thing, besides who wants to go back to 7/8 years ago when we had some ridiculous one sided group stage games. I remember Juventus doing Olympiakos 7-0, im happy that the smaller teams are more competitive, its something that should be endorsed not criticised. UEFA get a lot of criticism and i have to admit i don't like Platini myself but Europe is the only continent on the planet where there are 32 competitive nations. We have a fine product here in the CL, also people criticise the format of the UEFA Cup and its rebranding next year, why, instead of 80 first round teams like you get now, next years format will have 48, extra qualifying rounds weed out passenger teams and give us a more exciting competition. As for winning it i would probably put the list like this, favorites first of course, im also basing this on strength of league, domestic form and pedigree in knockout rounds/ this years group stage.

    Liverpool
    Barca
    Man Utd
    Bayern Munich
    Chelsea
    Inter
    Juventus
    Arsenal
    Real Madrid
    Lyon
    Roma
    Atletico Madrid
    Villarreal
    Porto
    Panathinaikos
    Sporting Lisbon

    Look at the top 10 on that list, anyone of them could win it in reality.

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  • 102. At 10:42am on 11 Dec 2008, jamie norris wrote:

    11. At 01:18am on 11 Dec 2008, Eat cheese and be merry wrote:
    fastBonux, you just sound really, really, really, really bitter about the fact that English clubs are currently the dominant force in European football.
    No doubt you want to take us back to the 'good old days' when English teams weren't allowed to compete due to hooliganism, which has been, if not completely eradicated, then effectively dealt with to the point that families can now be safe in the knowledge that the threat of violence at football grounds is minimal.

    It seems to me that while English teams seem to have been targeted by Platini and Blatter recently, everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten the Italian match-fixing scandal of only a couple of years ago; remind me again, AC Milan, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the wealthy PM of Italy, who owns many Italian TV stations, and who has been accused of corruption and sexual promiscuity, were found guilty of match-fixing. Their punishment was reduced on appeal, and tell me, who won the Champions League that year? Mmm, yes, AC.
    Oh, and with all of the trouble that Rome and Roma has encountered recently, what with numerous stabbings of away fans over the last few years, nervous police officers beating away fans, and the unfortunate death of a Lazio fan at the hands of the Rome police......
    where does UEFA decide to hold the Champions League final?
    Rome I see.
    The foreign-player ruling (6+5) that you suggest that should be implemented will not only affect English teams. See, I'm a United fan, and if you put that ruling in place, it would benefit us far more than other clubs, as we pretty much play near enough to that anyway. I think it was Inter who played Liverpool last season, and Inter had less Italians than Liverpool had Englishmen! It's the same for Real (Spanish + Dutch) and Barca (Spanish + South Americans).
    The only nations it would really benefit are the French/Dutch, and they don't have a chance anyway.
    Get off your high horse, realise that football is a global sport, and appreciate the fact that success moves in cyclical trends; we won't be on top forever, but we're gonna enjoy it while it lasts!
    --------------------------------------------

    Well said that man.

    NikosBg what a strange man you are.
    All the results you listed are irrelavant. 3 of the four English teams had already qualified for the knockout stages when those fixtures were played.

    Sour Little European

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  • 103. At 10:46am on 11 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 104. At 10:49am on 11 Dec 2008, Monjo wrote:

    All four English sides will be stronger in February than they are now. Will the continental sides also be stronger? All four English sides will also do quite well under 6+5 rules - Chelsea and Man United could already put out CL-winning teams, and LFC and AFC could be there in just 1 season.

    Let us not forget that Nottingham Forest are more successul in European terms than Inter Milan. The English game has more historical depth than any other league - and it has only been since the CL arrived that a Big 4 really emerged. That 4 could have included Newcastle or Leeds had events turned out differently.

    I think to bet against Man Utd or Barcelona winning would be a mistake. Though I hope Liverpool win. But Barca is hardly 'Spanish' - in any sense.

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  • 105. At 10:52am on 11 Dec 2008, Hex Enduction Hour wrote:


    "Merely shows what a resilient side Liverpool are this season and why most sane people fancy them for a league and european cup double."

    er......no.

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  • 106. At 10:55am on 11 Dec 2008, lfcfan9 wrote:

    stat_boy

    you talk rubbish,
    liverpool are streets ahead of inter.
    How you can moan about the red cards is
    beyond me, torres was on fire that night
    and your defence simply couldnt handle him
    therefore resorting to bad tackle after bad tackle.

    next you're going to say you were the better side?

    back on article,
    i can't see anybody with more strength
    than the english quartet, whoever drawn
    you expect the four to progress. even arsenal.

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  • 107. At 10:55am on 11 Dec 2008, Unbiased_Pundit wrote:

    cassano99nutcase

    Bayern 4th favourites? They got trounced in the UEFA cup last season by Zenit and haven't really featured in the cl for years. There's no way Juve should be in amongst it either - lord knows why you would remove ac milan from consideration completely - they're certainly the italian team most likely to succeed. Imo the winner will be from the four english teams, barca, milan, inter or possibly real madrid. No other teams will get a look in.

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  • 108. At 10:55am on 11 Dec 2008, enviableobject wrote:

    Post #93 - WestCoastUTD - typical glory hunter.

    Where to begin?
    ------------------------------
    "I actually watch the Spanish League a fair amount, and while the skill levels are greater across the board than in the Prem, I am always shocked by the quality of defending."

    If your trying to play that game then I think Torres, Ronaldo, Robinho and even Santa Cruz can all attest to the fact that the defending is not all that in the Premier League.

    However that would demean that talent of those players and I would say that the defending is equally terrible (at times) in both leagues. Inface everytime a goal is scored its always down to "bad defending" but then something has to give when you have world class strikers playing in both leagues.

    ---------------------------

    "The English Premier league has the most complete style of game at the moment. There is skill and pace and tricks, but these things decorate a backdrop of athleticism, well organised defence, and great tackles."

    Yea sure, coz watching hoof ball football from Bolton, Blackburn, Stoke, Hull, Wigan etc is great for the purists and just like watching total football.

    ---------------------------

    "so don't be bitter, the english league is the best, all 4 teams have qualified at a canter "

    LOL didn’t seem that way when Liverpool was getting outplayed against Atletico home and away, or Chelsea struggling against everyone in their group, or Man Utd against Aalborg at home, Celtic away and couldn't even break down little Villarreal.

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  • 109. At 10:56am on 11 Dec 2008, Hex Enduction Hour wrote:


    "Contrary to the lead in this blog - if that's the best Man U can produce - they should fear EVERY team that's left in this competition."

    Well, very clearly it WASN'T the best Utd can produce, did you not see the team they had out? Thus, essentially, your statement is null and void.

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  • 110. At 10:58am on 11 Dec 2008, whatbill wrote:

    Another point worth making is that Liverpool's previous success has generally been acheived by sacrificing the premiership in order to keep the squad fit and focused on the CL. It will be interesting to see how they do if they are still fighting on 2 fronts when the CL resumes...

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  • 111. At 10:59am on 11 Dec 2008, Stat_Boy wrote:

    #93 - WestCoastUTD

    Man what are you on about, the Italian Serie A is over the Calciopoli scandal. Everyone has moved on, Juventus have recovered, as have Fiorentina and AC Milan.

    Your calling Inter Milan a fairly average side. Well then explain this to me, Chelsea go to Rome in the Champions League, and Roma thrash them 3-1, three days earlier we went to Rome and killed Roma 4-0, and killed them last season in Rome 4-1.

    There's more too, Roma only beat Real Madrid twice last season in the 2nd Round, 2-1 in both Rome and Madrid. Juventus only beat Real Madrid in Turin and Madrid as well this season.

    AC Milan only won the Champions League in 2007, and have been the premier side in the Champions League the last 5 seasons.

    Calling the Serie A boring, well all i can say is how many matches of Serie A have you watched this season?? Most likely no more than a handful, which shows your real lack of knowledge of the League. The standard this season is as high as ever, and while we now have a clear 6pt gap, the first 10 Rounds, their was 5 pts between the Top 8-10 sides. The Serie A is starting to lure the biggest names in the world too. Mourinho, Ronaldinho anyone??. We have some of the best youngsters going around in Pato, Balotelli, Giovinco, Lavezzi and Hamsik just to name a few.

    Come on mate, your argument is baseless, Inter Milan is a fantastic side, with a plethora of young and experienced talent, they haven't shown their true colours yet, that'll be shown come the 2nd Round of the UEFA Champions League, because quite frankly, the players just had no motivation in the Group Stages.

    Your probably like the rest of the English media who find Zlatan Ibrahimovic to be overrated don't you?? I can tell you now, he's to be the best forward in the world, he has every trick in the book, can beat defenders, create goals, scores goals, and has an all round ability that is second to none.

    I can tell you now, watch our for Roma, Juventus and Inter Milan, three Italian powers who are going to show the rest of Europe how it's done.

    FORZA Inter!!!

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  • 112. At 11:03am on 11 Dec 2008, HALLDA-Y01 wrote:

    When exactly is the champions league fraw? ive been told its 19th, but isnt that the uefa draw?

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  • 113. At 11:05am on 11 Dec 2008, madesina wrote:

    laumarvinho: "...As for my dream draw, I would love to see Arsenal vs Barcelona with the return of Thierry Henry. Man U vs Real Madrid, Chelsea vs Juventus with Claudio Ranieri back on english soil and Liverpool take on the special one's Inter Milan."

    These would be the most momentous moments of all time!

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  • 114. At 11:09am on 11 Dec 2008, Scottishscouser wrote:

    I don't think I've ever seen such xenophobic claptrap written by some of these posters. God help us if the 'little Ingerlanders' get their way.

    For the record, exactly what did England win between 1966 and 1992 (start of foreign influx)? NOWT! For that matter what happened in 74, 78 and 94? Again NOWT! To anyone of mediocre intelligence that would suggest England is not capable of producing enough worldclass footballers even with no or few foreigners (excepting ROI) in the game.

    I also suspect 'all' English clubs would have little chance of winning anything in Europe.

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  • 115. At 11:12am on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    Burgertron - ur austrailian.......what do u lot know about football down there???? not a lot?!

    id stick to ur egg chasing and hitting a ball with a wooden stick mate, something that u mite actually beat us english at?!

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  • 116. At 11:16am on 11 Dec 2008, Daquan Quartermaine wrote:

    There's no question English clubs will keep winning the Champions League. The question is; will they be doing so in front of large international audiences (which is what the CL is all about)?

    I doubt it. Viewer ratings for Champions League matches in the Netherlands have slumped despite the large number of Dutch players in foreign teams. Eredivisie games are now more popular. And this is a nation that traditionally actually gives a damn about the English premier league (few French people, for instance, do).

    So answer me this; if it's just the same (foreign) clubs contesting the Champions League over and over and over (courtesy of messed up regulations and finances) - why should I, a Dutchman, keep watching it?

    Cannon fodder aside, the Champions League is getting closer and closer to resembling the English FA Cup.

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  • 117. At 11:25am on 11 Dec 2008, Jimmy2Times wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 118. At 11:29am on 11 Dec 2008, BillBobJoeKenny wrote:

    I love the blog pages it really brings out all the nutters and crackjobs who just do not havea clue. And I must say Envy is definately the deadly sin on display in the replies to this blog.

    To all those who slate the number of foreigners in the EPL I would say this; the EPL is an open league which obides by the rules laid down by UEFA. The EPL welcomes froeign and european players that meeet the required criteria.

    There is nothing wrong with this, UEFA make the rules and the EPL is simply implementing them. The truth is that the EPL has been very successful at attacting some of the worlds best talent to play and coach in this league, that there are a lot of jealous people looking to slag it off.

    As far as dominating the CL/European Cup, please look at the 70's and 80's during which time (excluding the period English clubs were banned from Europe) Englisg clubs enjoyed European success, the 90's was not a brilliant decade but the occasional success, and now in 2000's English clubs are again a rising force.

    There is a paettern here, for the whiners campaign to UEFA change the rules, and English clubs will still come back and dominate European football.

    To all the detractors on this blog slagging off the EPL, just one simple question, English clubs won the European Cup every year from 1977 to 1982, a period when foreign players were lamost unheard of, this feet of dominance has never been matched by any other country before or since so please explain?

    You are simply jealous of how successful the EPL is, and it is pathetic.

    Now back to the blog in hand..........

    My predication for the 4 EPL teams left in the competition is as follows;

    Arsenal - Out in next round, as they have too many issues at the present time and need to get it together.

    Chelsea - Out in next round due to faltering European form and a lack of scoring prowess in Europe. Scolari needs to learn CL tactics.

    Liverpool and Man Utd - will progress and I would love to see an all English final, but I suspect the draw will be such that it is another all English Semi final. The Semi Final will be influenced by the EPL and the push for League Championship, but Liverpool to pip United to final.

    Final against Barcelona.

    Juve and Inter fans on this site you are dreaming you are not yet good enough, pure and simple.

    As for the final, well you know the Anfield anthem....."We always win in Rome......."

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  • 119. At 11:30am on 11 Dec 2008, MrBlueBurns wrote:

    #116 daquanqm

    It's probably a truism that when 'local' teams are not successful in a competition then 'local' viewers won't watch so much. I would imagine that, this years final aside, most Brits stop watching Wimbledon as soon as all the home players are out and we only really follow the foreign tournaments when a Brit is still in it.

    So, it follows that with limited Dutch interest in the later stages of the Champions League then viewing figures will drop. That said, as a football fan it is usually the pick of the world's best players that will feature in the later stages so if you are a football fan, I think you should tune in anyway.

    What I am getting at though is that Europe is not necessarily an emerging market. The far east for example will presumably tune in to watch 'their' teams in the later stages and due to the hand of the marketing men and the success of the Premier League, these teams will probably be from the 'big 4'. So, UEFA will still make money, whether it is for the good of Europe as a whole or not.

    This brings me to a point I having been making for quite a while now. It is my view that one of the issues that Platini et al are really worried about in their attacks is that one day maybe teams will start a European league outside of the Champions League because those teams are sole sellable in their own right that they don't need to be playing in competitions organised by other people.

    For now and maybe the foreseeable the Champions League is considered the be all and end all of non-domestic club competition but will that always be the case?

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  • 120. At 11:32am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The quality of the 4 English sides this season is roughly at the level of the likes of Sakhtar Donetsk or Marseille.

    3-4 great players, can produce good performances at times, but not strong enough for the latter stages of the competition.

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  • 121. At 11:33am on 11 Dec 2008, DMMeasor23 wrote:

    This blog, although criticised has nevertheless provoked thoughts and feelings so cannot be that bad Phil, keep it up!

    Australian football has and always will be weak as in the USA and other countries because other sports are more popular. Fact. I don't know that many world-class players Australia have produced? Probably would fit on less than one hand!

    As for the anti-English theme, I appreciate some of the points but how good would Juve or Inter or Bayern or Barca be without foreign players? I seem to remember Liverpool beat Inter easily and the 1, yes 1 Italian player, Materrazi got sent off. Man Utd and Chelsea have an equal number of home-grown players in their starting line-up as any other club.

    Barca without Messi, Henry or Eto'o who would score their goals? They have Puyol, Xavi and Valdes, maybe Iniesta but who else? Man Utd have Ferdinand, Carrick, Hargreaves, Scholes, Rooney, Brown etc who would all be staking a claim in the first 11. Chelsea have Terry, A Cole, Bridge, Lampard,J Cole who would all be fighting for the starting 11. Therefore no argument anti-English supporters. Inter are as bad as Liverpool and Arsenal for not fielding home-grown players.

    Regarding performances, all the supposed "bad" ones from English teams? Man Utd outplayed Villareal but Villareal play anti-football against United. The Aalborg result last night was when United were through. Chelsea United and Liverpool are all challenging for the EPL I don't know whether Real are doing that well from what I remember? 5th isn't it and have just got a new manager. Inter's performances have been inconsistent too in the CL but they are flying in Serie A.

    Even Barca had poor results in the group stages, not many mention that.

    The way the groups are drawn, if countries were forced to play each other, ok have Inter and Roma, Barca and Real in one group all you fans wouldn't be happy then!

    Bayern could be an interesting team in this season's CL depending on how the draw shapes up.

    Regarding the technical ability, this is the one point I agree with the anti-English fans. For too long England have failed on a world stage due to the inability to pass and keep possession. But how good would the English teams be when the coaching improves!

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  • 122. At 11:34am on 11 Dec 2008, BillBobJoeKenny wrote:

    113. At 11:05am on 11 Dec 2008, madesina wrote:
    laumarvinho: "...As for my dream draw, I would love to see Arsenal vs Barcelona with the return of Thierry Henry. Man U vs Real Madrid, Chelsea vs Juventus with Claudio Ranieri back on english soil and Liverpool take on the special one's Inter Milan."

    These would be the most momentous moments of all time!



    I agree this would represent some great football ties, perhaps even the Dutch might like to watch a couple of the games.

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  • 123. At 11:37am on 11 Dec 2008, matchboxmaster wrote:

    The Italian league used to pay the highest wages and transfer fees - Italian clubs dominated Europe.

    The Spanish league used to pay the highest wages and transfer fees - Spanish clubs dominated Europe.

    The English league currently pays the highest wages and transfer fees - English clubs are dominating Europe.

    The cycle will move on and things will change at some point. At the moment though there is no denying that the English clubs are the strongest around. Only Barcelona are strong contenders to them.

    The final will probably be Man Utd v Barcelona.

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  • 124. At 11:45am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    People keep on bringing as 'proof' of the quality of the English teams that all 4 qualified and reached the latter stages recently.

    ARE THEY SO STUPID TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALL THIS IS BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL TOP SEEDS IN THEIR GROUPS?

    ENGLAND GET 4 (FOUR) TOP SEEDS, SPAIN ONLY GET 2, NOT TO MENTION THE OTHER NATIONS. WORK THAT ONE OUT.

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  • 125. At 11:46am on 11 Dec 2008, bell22 wrote:

    I loved the fact that someone pointed out earlier that ‘All English teams that were knocked out of the Champions League last year were beaten by…other English teams’

    Just a few points to make

    1. Lets not call it the ‘EPL’ can we? We’re not American (thankfully).
    2. Whoever said that Messi was ‘home grown’ needs to have a word with the authorities! The little scamp has being playing for Argentina for years! I have seen him posing in photos in an Argentina shirt and everything! How does he get away with it? Next you’ll be trying to tell me Fabregas isn’t a home grown youngster from Islington whose Dad drives a taxi in the East end. I still don’t know why Capello never calls him up….
    3. Did I really hear Pique referred to as ‘World Class’? Was this the same guy that was behind Wes Brown in the pecking order for centre back for united last year or does he have a twin brother they have been keeping under wraps? I just hope his first name isn’t ‘Ice’ (sorry)
    4. Australian Football (soccer) league. I really don’t need to add anything to that statement to make it any more hilarious than it already is
    5. Just because a team win a group game it doesn’t mean they become better than the opposition – does this mean Hull and Stoke are better than Arsenal? Nobody (except possibly a Spurs fan would agree – but then what would they be doing reading an article about the Champions League?! :-) ) So lets not read too much into Porto 2-0 Arsenal or Roma 3-1 Chelsea
    6. Last seasons champions league was great – (aside from the penalties in the final – I am a Chelsea fan after all…) the only thing I was a bit gutted about was Arsenal v Liverpool was on the same night as Chelsea in the QF. The only thing stopping English clubs from dominating again is how the draw shapes up for the QF’s - when the same country divide is taken away – we could see all English teams separated (and non English fans would immediately be writing about conspiracy theories) or all pooled together (some English fans would then come up with the conspiracy theories :-) ) meaning only 2 would be in the Semi Finals. This is assuming of course that they all come through the Last 16 unscathed (fingers crossed for Panathanikos!) I’d like to see Barcelona kept apart as it will mean an exciting line up later on – but then the two games Barca and Chelsea played in the early knock out stages in the last few years were classics – so we should be in for a good tie!
    7. Winning your group isn’t necessarily a good thing! Have you seen Barcelonas only viable opposition? Chelsea, Arsenal, Lyon and Inter. I bet they are delighted with that outcome….

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  • 126. At 11:46am on 11 Dec 2008, Kaloloo wrote:

    Alot of people have been saying we've won 2 european cups in the last decade which is untrue, its been 3 as the last decade includes manunited's win in 1999, liverpools in 2005 and manunited again in 2008.

    Also people have been commenting on the media preaching about english teams been dominating of late saying its false. Also had some-one trying to be smart by linking a table headed "all time club records" despite the fact it dates back to 1991 and last time i checked, football, and the european leagues, existed way before this.

    We could quote facts, statistics and history to make any league or team look good but all in all, each nation seems to have its period of history with which its 'stronger' than the other leagues. Englands one is now although this could all change very quickly.

    For those who don't know, UEFA have a ranking system used to to decide which teams go into what pots at the start and if it ever came down to there being a complete draw in a group stage (same points, same results agaisted each other, same goals scored, same goal difference) then this ranking would denote who progresses (with the highest going through). This 'rank' or better known, coefficient is currently as follows

    1) Chelsea
    2) AC Milan
    3) Liverpool
    4) Barcelona
    5) Arsenal
    6) Manchester United

    So as we can see we have 4 English teams in the top 6 rankings. These rankings are made up of the last 5 seasons and include all results including group matches.

    As for my predictions, I think Chelsea will struggle this year and I think Real Madrid are one of the most overrated teams of late. In my opinion the top favourites would be as follows:

    1) Man United
    2) Barcelona
    3/4 Liverpool (as a fan i can't leave them out :D )
    3/4 Inter Milan
    5) Juventus

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  • 127. At 11:46am on 11 Dec 2008, Jru430 wrote:

    Hmmm so no English domination despite 4 of the top 8 clubs of the past year being English ... Thanks Nikos. But yews barcelona are the best club at the moment and I think it is stupid to say any team would not care about drawing the instead of say Porto or Panathinaikos.

    I cannot see either Chelsea or Man U rolling over to any team and unless they draw against some of the very good teams (e.g. Barca, Inter and maybe Juve) then I see no reason for them not to reach at least the semis. I know Liverpool have a good track record in europe but I am never actually convinced by their displays, and feel one time they might be slightly unlucky or even not get lucky and so go out (inter having someone sent off both legs last year, or Arsenal playing better or even the 'goal' against Chelsea) As for Arsenal, yes they are inconsistant and that isn't necessarily good but a) they have played well against big clubs as others have said and b) they are accused of playing in too much of a continental style for the premier league but ... this is the european champions league and so their style will not be an issue - hence I think they will do somewhat better here than in England at present. Having said all this I think Chelsea and Man U will qualify at least as far the Semi finals and one of Arsenal and Liverpool or both could easily join them depending on the draw and who gets the luck in their games. Having siad this I would like to see the English clubs against the best - Arsenal/Chelsea vs Barce or Juve and Liverpool/Man U vs Inter or Juve would be good ties. Hope to see Mourinho return against at least one English team (personally I hope Chelsea or Manu)

    Looking forwards to a good draw and more exciting knockout stage football - this is where it gets interesting!

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  • 128. At 11:54am on 11 Dec 2008, daveblath wrote:

    I sick of hearing about foreign players in the english game and how its effecting things, It really grinds me down..

    People should really face the facts, there were 10 english..thats ENGLISH players that started in the CL Final last year and what a final it was...is this not good enough?

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  • 129. At 11:55am on 11 Dec 2008, Smoggy Bob wrote:

    Just in response to the allegations that The premier leagues mid table teams wouldn't fare well against other mid table teams from European leagues.

    One word "Boro" fair play Seville battered us in the UEFA cup final but they are a top Spanish side definatly in their "Big 4" but on the way we did beat Roma, Stutgart, Basle and Steau Bucharest all CL regulars.

    And with an English Owner, English Manager and a good English core of Players.

    Lets face it all the big teams hava a mix of homegrown and foreign players. Anyone trying to deny that is deluding themselves.

    Long may English Football flurish!!!

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  • 130. At 11:57am on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "I have to say I believe United and Liverpool could deal with pretty well all of their potential opponents, and Chelsea would probably want to avoid Barca."

    Also Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Atletico, Bayern, Villareal, Lyon and Porto have shown that they could deal with pretty well all of their potential opponents.


    "In some respects, even thought I have played down their chances, Arsenal are hugely unpredictable and could actually beat anyone if they get it right."

    Even though I've player down PAO and Sporting's chances, the truth is they are hugely unpredictable and could actually beat anyone if they get it right.

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  • 131. At 11:57am on 11 Dec 2008, Santino wrote:

    The Champions League is a joke. It's all about the money. Liverpool haven't bin Champions since 1990, so why do they play in a league called the "Champions'' League.

    They should better call it the ''Predictable League''.

    These day's it's more of an achievement if a English club doesn't win the Champions League then if they do.

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  • 132. At 11:59am on 11 Dec 2008, Welsh_Red2008 wrote:

    Have you ever conisdered why they are all top seeds? Maybe becuase for the last 5 years or so they have all been consistently reaching the latter stages of the Champions League so their Co-Efficeint would rise hence neing higher seeded whereas most of the big teams in spain and italy have fallen away over the last few years for reasons varying from corruption to idiotic boards who see sacking a manager as a yearly ritual. Stop looking for ways to rag down EPL teams achievements, they are all deserving top seeds and will do well in the Champions Legaue this year as they have done consistently for the last few, im not saying a EPL team will definitely win the Champions League but I will be suprised if they arent there or thereabouts.

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  • 133. At 11:59am on 11 Dec 2008, Wazza v3 wrote:

    I knew as soon as i saw the headline that people would take offence. Using the words 'English' and 'Elite' in the same sentence is like a red rag to a bull for some. FastBonux, NikosBg, burgertron etc.

    The relentless attack from posters like these on the English game just because of nationalities is pretty sad if you ask me. There's a term i would like to use for these people but i won't as my post will get pulled.

    The English sides haven't played great so far but with 4 teams still in it won't be a shocker if one of us lift the trophy. Personally, i would love to see a United - Juve final.

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  • 134. At 12:01pm on 11 Dec 2008, JM75UK wrote:

    "The quality of the 4 English sides this season is roughly at the level of the likes of Sakhtar Donetsk or Marseille.

    3-4 great players, can produce good performances at times, but not strong enough for the latter stages of the competition."

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Are you for real?!?!?

    Liverpool,Man Utd and Chelsea topped their groups and Arsenal were runners up and between them they still lost LESS games than Shakhtar Donetsk. Funny what you said about not being strong enough in the latter stages as i'm sure that since 2005 the EPL has had at least one finalist,not to mention last year where the last four were ALL from the EPL.

    A lot of the people moaning about the EPL, the amount of foreign players in the teams and their domination of the CL. Well I don't remember the same animosity when the Spanish and Italian teams were doing the same. These same people would suddenyl lose the power of speech if things changed back to Spanish and Italian teams being the dominant forces. These people are all hypocrites along with as BillBobJoeKenny put it,a load of "Crackjobs".

    Platini and Blatter are so anti English its untrue and no amount of bleating saying it is not so is going to change that fact. The longer we remain successful the more they try to come up with to try and undermine us. The thing is eventually he will bite the hand that feed him as EPL and other "Strong" leagues will form their own league,simply because the majority of money/interest in generated by the EPL and to a lesser degree the Spanish and Italian leagues,especially in Asia.

    As for the CL itself this year,i think it is going to be hard for everyone else to stop an EPL club winning it. Barca have some good attacking players but they have no plan b,which would be eveident if/when they come up against Liverpool,Man Utd and Chelsea who are v.v.hard to break down and know how to win games in a variety of ways.

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  • 135. At 12:04pm on 11 Dec 2008, gerimus wrote:

    I get the sense that one, maybe two or three, or outrageously none or four, of the 'big four' will reach the next round. But after that? Well, who knows. Perhaps Spanish giants might upset the party. Or even Italians. Or (heavens) the Germans. The French! Or perhaps some Others!!



    Navel-gazing.

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  • 136. At 12:05pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Chelsea should learn how to beat Burnley before having Champions League aspirations.

    United's midfield is one of the most shallow and lightweight of the last 16.

    And where are Liverpool going with such defenders?

    (I don't need to mention Arsenal, they are self-explanatory, particularly for those who watched that rout yesterday.)

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  • 137. At 12:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, Adriancork wrote:

    I think you have got it pretty much spot on Phil. Of the four English sides Arsenal will be the ones to struggle. Their record in the ECL does not compare with the other three teams and they don't appear to have any more mental strength than they had last year. Losing 5-1 to Spurs in the League Cup semi-final, 3-0 to MUFC in the FA Cup and 4-2 to Liverpool in the ECL tells you all you need to know.

    Oh and liverpool fully deserved to beat Arsenal in the ECL last year. Just because the referee, wrongly, didn't give a penalty against Kuyt in the first leg does not mean Senderos tackle on Babel should not have been awarded either because that was just as much a foul. Arsenal were guilty of over celebrating their equaliser and not having the bottle to see the game out from that point.

    I would love Liverpool to get Real Madrid as the tie of the round if not the season. 14 European Cups would be on show ! Amazingly we've only played each other once in Europe and that was the 1981 Final which Liverpool won.

    Bring it on !

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  • 138. At 12:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, Zidanepirouette wrote:

    Interesting that Liverpool finished with the highest points tally of the group stages (along with Bayern Munich) and were in arguably the toughest group. Rafa certainly knows how to get results in Europe.

    I would like to see us avoid Inter in the next round but have a feeling we'll get them simply cos of Mourinho, it's gotta be fate, Rafa v Jose again... and all the pre-match quotes that come with it. I'd rather just avoid the whole thing and get Sporting or Real.

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  • 139. At 12:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, Jools69 wrote:

    WOW! Seems like a few people on here has Platinitis...the anti English disease. Selective memories for most when you consider how much money was splashed by Spanish and Italian clubs when they dominated the tournament. Arsenal aside, the backbone of the English clubs is just that...English! Chelsea with Terry/Lampard; Liverpool with Carragher/Gerrard and Utd with Ferdinand/Carrick/Rooney. That's more than we can say for Inter. Real had 4 Spanish players against Sevilla and Barcelona's first choice team has 4 Spansih players (Victor Valdes, Puyol, Iniesta and Xavi). A lot of hypocracy going on from the English haters.
    Final word...look to 'neutrals' around the world who they would rather watch. The Premiership is a global success and more popular than other European leagues.

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  • 140. At 12:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, dribbles_ wrote:

    In response to 120 -

    Ok none of them have been setting the tournament alight so far but then is that not just further proof of how big the gap is now that the top contenders don't really have to put in that much effort to qualify. It's usually just a case of sorting out who comes first and second. The fact that the English sides have all gone through without even remotely hitting their stride says it all. Wait until the new year. Inevitably one of them will be there at least.

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  • 141. At 12:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, bell22 wrote:

    Apologies for my previous post (125) transferring my apostrophies as Question Marks - I am not actually as confused at the comment makes me look! :-)

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  • 142. At 12:08pm on 11 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    One key factor we must not forget is that there is now quite a gap until the last 16 ties are played in late February and early March.

    Many things can change in that time, mainly form and fitness.

    I suspect we will not see massive strengthening in the transfer market from any of the main contenders because the quality of player they will need is likely to be at a club that is still in the Champions League.

    Given those variables, are there any of the proverbial dark horses that might emerge unsuspected from the pack?

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  • 143. At 12:09pm on 11 Dec 2008, firstnameonthesheet wrote:

    You say Utd. will feel no need to fear any of the teams left in the Champions League.
    I think there are three from the EPL alone that Utd. would sensibly have some anxiety about meeting towards the end of the competition.
    Barca and Bayern, of the foreign teams, also look very good sides this year.
    I agree with you that of the four home teams, Arsenal need to improve the most.
    So providing all of our best players are fit
    and on form, such as Rooney Ronaldo
    (wasnt he a bird whistler?) Gerrard Torres
    Drogba Essien Fibreglass Gallas, and
    hopefully Walcott later on, we could have a
    good representation come quarter-final time.
    The big worry for me is what Platini might
    be up to. They have never forgiven us for
    what we did to Joan d'Arc.

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  • 144. At 12:11pm on 11 Dec 2008, danwhitworth wrote:

    burgertron y are even involved in this austrailia arent in the ECL and no-one cares what you think,

    When were an austrailian team in the world club cup??

    and at the last 2 RWC what was the score between england and austrailia?

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  • 145. At 12:12pm on 11 Dec 2008, I like cats wrote:

    Mr McNulty,
    Please use your newspaper columns for good and draw attention to the behaviour of Rooney against Aalborg.
    He was reckless to the point of deformity, almost a complete transformation from the Dr Jekyll who spoke softly and shyly to the kids on his Street Soccer programme on Sky, to a man with no regard for the damage he could inflict on a lowly Danish footballer on Wednesday.
    Retrospective punishment should be the norm in across ALL games where cameras catch obvious acts of deliberate violence on another player.
    This very fragile house of cards may find itself falling down around Alex Ferguson very soon either when Rooney snaps his own leg and another player's leg in a high-profile game.

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  • 146. At 12:14pm on 11 Dec 2008, Unbiased_Pundit wrote:

    Regarding dark horses...

    Although I'm happy to write the teams off as potential champions, Atletico or Villarreal could prove to be the dark horses of this competition - and they would indeed be welcome entrants to the latter stages of the tournament and wouldn't lie down. Players like aguero are deserving of the grandest stage that club football can offer.

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  • 147. At 12:18pm on 11 Dec 2008, #......VIDA......# wrote:

    Good blog once again Phil...
    Im well looking 4ward to the draw like, As a United fan there isnt really any1 that i wouldnt wanna meet,
    Roll on Rome....
    Hope i'll not have 2 eat them words lol....
    Bring it on!!!!

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  • 148. At 12:19pm on 11 Dec 2008, whatbill wrote:

    #130 What Phil is saying is that at their best, United or Lvierpool could deal with any other European team in the competition. I agree with him with the possible exception of Barca.

    All those other teams you list could cause Liverpool or United problems if they are weakened or out of form but if they are on their game I would expect the english teams to progress.

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  • 149. At 12:19pm on 11 Dec 2008, Unbiased_Pundit wrote:

    So Nikosbg - who is your money on for the champions league? Who will the semi-finalists be? Put your opinion on the line.

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  • 150. At 12:25pm on 11 Dec 2008, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    1. Chelsea and Man Utd have had disjointed starts to the season with multiple injuries. Come March/April you'll see totally different teams.

    2.Nobody wants to be peaking at this stage of the season. The English clubs have cruised through. Barca should worry that they may be peaking too soon.

    3.Liverpool will find it very different this year if they are still in contention in the League. The idea that they are a 'great' CL side is nonsense. Try being involved in a PL race AND competing for the CL and see how far you get.

    4.Arsenal........no chance.

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  • 151. At 12:32pm on 11 Dec 2008, Footy Fanatic - AFC wrote:

    RE, 10:

    "Arsenal were embarrassed by Porto in the most humiliating fashion (with nutmegs, ole's and the like)"

    I think people still do not understand that the team that was fielded against Porto was a reserve side.

    Our first team destroyed Porto 4-0 by making them look like schoolboys. Yet they can only beat our reserves 2-0.

    It suits Arsenal to be the underdogs, for the best part of a year we have had some of our most influential players missing and yet still beat the majority of the biggest teams in the world.

    All that is lacking in Arsenals cabinet is luck. Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea have had an abundence of luck in the CL over the last couple of years, surely its time that Arsenal had some, or does out-playing a team in the CL mean nothing these days?

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  • 152. At 12:34pm on 11 Dec 2008, arnoldric wrote:

    I just love English Football. And tell you what MAN UTD is retaining the trophy. Sir Alex is more than just a manager. So I give 75% Chance to Chelsea. For Arsenal and Liverpool, well let them wait a little while longer.

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  • 153. At 12:37pm on 11 Dec 2008, Armchair Dave wrote:

    I don't think English clubs struggled. If you look at the tables, with the exception of Barcelonas group where no Premiership teams were placed, each group is very clear cut. The top 2 teams qualifying with a bit of a gap between the bottom two.

    I think fans should treat 4 English clubs in round 2 as something special, rather than the norm.

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  • 154. At 12:38pm on 11 Dec 2008, whatbill wrote:

    #150

    Spot on

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  • 155. At 12:42pm on 11 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    I completley disagree with you in the following quotation

    " But lurking for all of these sides is the spectre of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, inspired by the brilliant Lionel Messi. They would provide the most serious obstacle to England's so-called Big Four"

    Liverpool 2 years ago was able to beat a Barcelona team that was flying and working on all cylinders, beat them comprehensively at the Camp Nou, and were unlucky not to beat them 4-1 at Anfield.

    Liverpool in the Champions League are capable of beating anyone, even the atmosphere at Anfield dramatically changes to fit the European stage, and so do Rafa's teams and tactics, Rafa was able to win the 2005 cup with a fragile team and reach the 2007 final with an ordinary team, but now with our new guns and much improved squad i think we have a big chance to win at Rome.

    BBBBBut you didn't discuss the aspect of Liverpool being top of the league, will it distract them or Liverpool are able to have a shot at both the EPL & the CHAMPIONS L

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  • 156. At 12:47pm on 11 Dec 2008, whatbill wrote:

    #151 I agree the Porto result is of little significance but disagree with your comments about luck. Out playing a team in the CL means a lot, winning the trophy (or even getting into the final) means a lot more.

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  • 157. At 12:49pm on 11 Dec 2008, collie21 wrote:

    For crying out loud, some of you guys need to get a life, NikosBg , you need to get your own blog.
    Sum up, of the 4 English teams still in it, Man United or Liverpool seem to have the best chances of going all the way. But none of them might get past last 16.........Barcelona for the final.

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  • 158. At 12:53pm on 11 Dec 2008, 4thlion wrote:

    nikos bg... how on earth did zenith finish 5th in the russian league but qualify for the champions league?

    also, i think we all know that united would batter them over two legs rather than an exhibition match... do we draw conclusions from the charity shield in this country????????

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  • 159. At 12:54pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Let us change the subject a little bit. For those blabbing the Platini/Blater anti-English BS, and the English clubs' so-called "dominance" of recent years, here is a list of the SURGERIES, MURDERS AND ATTROCITIES committed in cold blood on European football pitches from the 06 k/o stage onwards.

    ManU vs Lille 06 away clear goal disallowed for offside
    Liverpool vs Milan 06 final Gerrard dive penalty
    Liverpool vs Porto 08 penalty towards the end which was more of an offensive foul
    Arsenal vs Kyiv 08 away nonexistent penalty
    ManU vs Barcelona 08 away 1st minute penalty for Puyol handball a yard away from the header
    Liverpool vs Inter 08 red card 1 FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
    Liverpool vs Inter 08 red card 2 FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING
    Liverpool vs Arsenal 08 penalty at Emirates (this is an all-English affair so you would think authorities wouldn't intervene this time, but it has been proven over the years that UEFA are particularly fond of Liverpool Football Club for obvious reasons)
    Liverpool vs Arsenal 08 penalty at Anfield
    Arsenal vs Kyiv 09 away Gallas goal offside
    ManU vs Celtic 09 OT goal 1 offside
    ManU vs Celtic 09 OT goal 2 offside
    Liverpool vs Atletico 09 away offside no.1
    Liverpool vs Atletico 09 away offside no.2 & disallowed goal
    Liverpool vs Atletico 09 Anfield penalty no.1 not given to Atletico
    Liverpool vs Atletico 09 Anfield penalty no.2 not given to Atletico
    Liverpool vs Atletico 09 Anfield - 3RD MOST SHOCKING DECISION IN FOOTBALL HISTORY
    Arsenal vs Kyiv 09 Emirates dubious free kick / drop ball? and Bendtner most obvious hand ball (that if was not a hand ball it would defy the laws of physics as he controlled a ball coming from behing his head)
    ManU vs Aalborg 09 Rooney blatant sending off that would keep him off the k/o's
    ManU vs Aalborg 09 o'Shea penalty (this is more in the 50-50 than shocker category but Utd would defo have got it)
    ManU vs Villareal 09 away red card to Capdevilla for nothing (this is a double catch as keeps him off the Celtic match too)
    Villareal vs Celtic red card for nothing early on to make sure ManU top the group as they are not good enough to beat Aalborg


    This is how much UEFA HATE the English clubs and are trying to hold them back. It's all about making money you see, and one country stands above the rest in that department. The average football fan is too casual or biased to remember.

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  • 160. At 12:57pm on 11 Dec 2008, BennyT_1986 wrote:

    I genuinely believe the same 4 semi-finalists last season will be the same 4 this season. Liverpool Chelsea Man Utd and Barca.

    Im a Man City fan and passionately dislike United but take nothing away from them the 2 legs against Barca last season were a joy to watch as a neutral.

    Would love to see that again...

    Just maybe not have United winning the thing!

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  • 161. At 1:00pm on 11 Dec 2008, Joseshivers wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 162. At 1:01pm on 11 Dec 2008, karim1981 wrote:

    See, if the 2nd round etc was to be played in the next month or so id predict that Barcelona would indeed be strong favourites. The fact is, the 2nd round isnt until February and if anyone blows hot and cold between now and then, it does have a bearing.

    For instance, R Keane is going through a poor patch, whats to say in the games leading up to the 2nd Round, he scores a few braces and is on fire. This surely points to a positive for us.

    Also, Chelsea, United and Arsenal have all had rocky patches, so by February they should all be in 3rd/4th gear, whereas we havent yet come across this poor patch, which could be February.

    I agree with most coaches, it doesnt matter who your drawn against because in time, the form of each team is dependable on a number of variables.

    Whatever happens, in the last 16 there are possibly 8 or 9 teams who could win it which is a great thing for such a competition. But then after Porto won it in 2004 and we won it in 2005, would anyone bet against Panathainakos doing the business? All they have to do is catch a few teams on a bad day which could happen.

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  • 163. At 1:04pm on 11 Dec 2008, enviableobject wrote:

    - El-Liverbird

    Liverpool 2 years ago was able to beat a Barcelona team that was flying and working on all cylinders, beat them comprehensively at the Camp Nou, and were unlucky not to beat them 4-1 at Anfield.

    Liverpool in the Champions League are capable of beating anyone, even the atmosphere at Anfield dramatically changes to fit the European stage, and so do Rafa's teams and tactics, Rafa was able to win the 2005 cup with a fragile team and reach the 2007 final with an ordinary team, but now with our new guns and much improved squad i think we have a big chance to win at Rome.

    BBBBBut you didn't discuss the aspect of Liverpool being top of the league, will it distract them or Liverpool are able to have a shot at both the EPL & the CHAMPIONS L

    -----------------
    Liverpool have been fluking their way in the CL since 2005....everyone except Liverpool fans would agree.

    Even Atletico outplayed you twice this season before the ref bailed you out. Poor Torres didn't look too happy.

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  • 164. At 1:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, marrakoosh wrote:

    Definitely the 4 best possible fixtures are:

    Arsenal vs Barcelona
    Liverpool vs Inter
    Chelsea vs Juventus
    Man Utd vs Real Madrid

    Those are 4 ties I'd just love to watch.

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  • 165. At 1:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, Stat_Boy wrote:

    #106 - lfcfan9

    Liverpool streets ahead of Inter?? You must be joking. In that tie, everything that could have gone wrong for us did, Liverpool got all the lucky breaks in both Legs yet it still took for us to be down to 10 men for Liverpool to finally score.

    While Liverpool is 1st in the EPL this season, and while playing some very nice football, the fact of the matter is, you've done nothing in the EPL for 15 years, and even though your leading now, Man. United and Chelsea have too much depth for you, after the Christmas and New Year period, you'll be found out.

    At least we've won the last two Serie A Titles, we withstood all the garbage about "Wait until Juventus are back, and AC Milan start at the same amount of points". We withstood that and still thrashed everyone. The fact of the matter is, we didn't show our true colors in the Group Stages as we are concentrating on building a size able lead in Serie A, so come February when the 2nd Round starts, we'll have a big enough lead in Serie A to the re-focus on the Champions League.

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  • 166. At 1:11pm on 11 Dec 2008, malunited wrote:

    All teams need good players these days or in any time to win. The European clubs have had good foreign players long before it was allowed in England. The Italians started it and of course the Spanish followed it.

    Players like Puskas, Alfredo de Stefano were born in Spain and brought up just outside Madrid. Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor were born in Catalonia, Spain.

    I do not think that without these famous Spanish players, either Real or Barcelona would have been that good even in the old days.

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  • 167. At 1:12pm on 11 Dec 2008, adrianforrest wrote:

    As an Englishman who enjoys watching Manchester United i just thought i'd add my two cents (pennies):

    Whilst the format of the Champions League is exciting i do still find it disgraceful that a team can finish 2nd, 3rd or 4th and be granted a place in the the'CHAMPIONS' league.

    Yes i'm fully aware MUFC should not have, if my ruling was followed, been in the competition back in 98-99 same as Bayern Munich.

    The sooner it reverts back to a straight forward home away knock out competition the better. No seedings, no nothing. Just 53 names in the hat and draw them (add 11 byes to make it 64). Some teams may be lucky and get a bye, no two byes allowed to play each other. If home bye is drawn against away bye then away bye is thrown back in the hat. Comprende!!!!

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  • 168. At 1:18pm on 11 Dec 2008, enviableobject wrote:

    - Jools69

    "The Premiership is a global success and more popular than other European leagues."

    I'd have a bet that El Classico gets a much larger global audience than any Premier League match.

    You know, that little matter of Barcelona v Real Madrid.

    It's on this Saturday y'know. =D

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  • 169. At 1:19pm on 11 Dec 2008, StarLoner wrote:

    Hi greenmarkfo

    The point I was making was that very little of the debt owed by 3 of the 4 English clubs in the CL has been used to buy success on the pitch in the way of increased players' wages and transfer fees- most of which has been paid out of revenues generated contrary to what some other posters on here and also Plantini claim.

    The debts Man U and Liverpool carry is what the current owners borrowed against the value of the club in order to finance the acquistion (they wouldn't have been able to borrow more than the clubs' worth although that was in economically better time) and Arsenal debt has been raised for a new stadium. Not much of it was invested directly in player wages and transfer fees, although that is probably the case with Chelsea.

    Sure Liverpool and Man U may have problems in servicing their debt long term if they fail to qualify for the champion leagues for a few seasons, but all then that would happen is that the present owners would have to surrender their assets back to the banks who own the finance, the clubs will always be worth more a as going concern so they will be simply sold to a new owner - they won't disappear.

    Generally I don't understand what the controversy is about - the EPL has the strongest presence in the CL and has had for a number of years and therefore logically is the best league in Europe. Most of its current success is down to it being the best commercially run which means it can attract the best international talent which in turn raises the standard of its domestic talent and this is likely to continue for a few more seasons yet.

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  • 170. At 1:20pm on 11 Dec 2008, jollytinkerman wrote:

    Something tells me that regardless of Arsenal's unpredictable displays so far, there iis bound to be a silverware in their kitty at the end of the season, and it may very well be the Champions league. I am beginning to enjoy the underdog status.

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  • 171. At 1:24pm on 11 Dec 2008, jollytinkerman wrote:

    As an Arsenal fan, i hate to say this, if its not Arsenal for the Champion's league, then its got to be Chelsea. There is just too much quality waiting to return to fitness in the Chelsea side. At their full strength, they will be unplayable either in the premiership or Champion's league.

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  • 172. At 1:28pm on 11 Dec 2008, hetnoc wrote:

    Incredible anti-english comments. The fact is all the english sides are genuine contenders to win the title and I would bet money on at least one of them making it to the final.

    English football is the best, by that we are not judging by technical criteria as that would be impossible to do. What is meant is it is the most popular, probably because it is the most interesting to watch generally.

    Maybe the Google Zeitgeist for 2008 gives us a clue, top 5 football related searches:

    1. Man U
    2. Chelsea
    3. Chivas
    4. Barcelona
    5. Arsenal

    Maybe that is an indicator that english football is the most popular in the world.

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  • 173. At 1:30pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    158. At 12:53pm on 11 Dec 2008, 4thlion wrote:

    "nikos bg... how on earth did zenith finish 5th in the russian league but qualify for the champions league?"

    That's why you should go and read first, learn a few things and then come and write on this board.


    "also, i think we all know that united would batter them over two legs"

    Wait a minute - YOU think that. That's what YOU estimate. What I KNOW is that with their full squad they were outplayed.

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  • 174. At 1:33pm on 11 Dec 2008, LondonsFinestClub wrote:

    To be honest Rooney shouldn't be playing in the next Champions league match and shouldn't have been on the pitch to score last night! He is a vicous thug and it masks his obvious talent, but this has been a common theme in United throughout Fergusons' control. We've seen it with Keane, Cantona and now Rooney, if the ref. issues a yellow or a red, United's players go beserk as does Fergie. It's a disgrace and shouldn't be tolerated. I feel Rooney should be brought to bear for the stamping incident last night and of course that reckless and intentional lunge, it was common assault and could've ended a career. United love to play aggressively and force the other team into mistakes but can't handle it themselves. Effin disgrace

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  • 175. At 1:36pm on 11 Dec 2008, blueram wrote:

    Post 159 - brilliant!

    I knew Chelsea weren't getting a fair crack of the whip!

    You do need to get out more Nikosbg

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  • 176. At 1:43pm on 11 Dec 2008, Pranksteroflove-Carroll-singer wrote:

    Phil

    I was going to post on the Rooney assualt but the link came to you.

    How this thug gets away with his tackles and treatment of referees is a joke.

    Maybe the fact nothing is ever done about it is why he keeps on doing it.

    Regarding Europe I don't think much will change this season, barca, Real, and the english clubs the realistic.

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  • 177. At 1:44pm on 11 Dec 2008, Pseudo-Viking wrote:

    NikosBg

    The comments you make are so illogical!
    Who do you want to win the CL?
    Are you so afraid they will lose to an EPL team?
    Tell us, what your real acrostic problem is.

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  • 178. At 1:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    to 160

    Now they were not a joy to watch to neutrals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The most fascinating, dramatic enjoyable game was Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal both for neutrals and biased Liverpool fans!

    Liverpool and Manchester United are able to go to the final because they have 2 great Tactitcians in Rafa & SAF who have tasted the success in Europe with 4 finals and 3 cups under their belts, their squads physically have the edge with Man the holders and Liverpool being labelled the Ch/L nightmare team nobody wishes to face, please neutrals admit that!

    Scolari has struggled in Europe despite his fine start to the EPL, while Arsene Wenger doesn't now the taste of winning an International Cup + they are struggling at the moment despite beating the DrogbaLESS Chelsea and Manchester United(comprehensively)




    PS: why are these artice pre-moderated not POST-Moderated!

    Like the 606 this blog will be more efficient!

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  • 179. At 1:48pm on 11 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    comment 145 - Your speaking rubbish. The Rooney challenge was cleartly accidental. It will be an outrageous decision if any punishment is dished out in retrospect, allthough im sure Platini and Blatter are licking their lips at the chance to dish out undeserved punishment to an English club

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  • 180. At 1:52pm on 11 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    Nikos Bg...

    you say that Chelsea should beat Burnley before having serious Champions League ambitions. Errr you could also say that Inter should beat Genoa, Barca & Madrid should beat Getaffe, and Bayern should beat Bochum. Point being you cant judge a teams campaign on 1 (in this case meaningless) result. Every team has bad results!!!

    You say Utd's midfield is 1 of the most shallow and lightweight in the last 16. Are you serious? Anderson and Carrick are hardly lightweight, and with Fletcher and scholes (and sometimes hargreaves) they are hardly lacking depth.

    You say that Liverpool will get nowhere with there defence. There defence and keeper look pretty solid to me.

    You also keep referring to Arsenals result last night. I will spell it out as so many others have....it was a weakened team in a match that meant nothing. It was for all purposes a friendly.

    Please get some justifiable facts before criticising the English surge on european dominance!!!

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  • 181. At 1:52pm on 11 Dec 2008, dirtymeister wrote:

    fastBonux wrote:

    With four clubs (more than most nations) and a talent for borrowing money they do not have (due to lack of restrictions) it is no wonder why English clubs are so "dominant" (at least quantity-wise since the quality in England is usually Spanish, French, Dutch, etc). If you add the fact that those four English clubs never meet at the pool stage and they rarely have a strong opposition (this year Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United drew the easiest pools like the years before...) it would be a serious blow not to see them among the last 16 every year. Still, the fact Arsenal, Chelsea and ManU achieved some pretty average results tells me that they would not even reach the last 16 should they end up in pools including the likes of Real, Bayern, Inter or Lyon. You make your own luck has never been so untrue in football nowadays. Cannot wait to see Platini reducing the big nations to 3 clubs. Then put a restriction on foreign players (England Eurosceptics can thank the European Union right now) and Liverpool will probably "walk alone" for a little while...
    =============================
    Sounds like a touch of the old green-eyed monster to me or sour grapes.
    The EPL whether you like it or not is the most exciting league in the world.
    To talk about money and the EPL whilst failing to mention years of financial scandals in Spain and Italy just shows your ignorance.
    As for fans of the EPL needing to thank the E.U. I think that in a democratic Europe it was Europeans that voted in the legislators and it doesn't work any different for anyone in any of the European states; apart from the fact that freedom of movement/employment actually works in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia and in many other parts of Europe you pay lip-service to the concept.
    We also have plenty of top British/English players in the EPL.
    Diversity my little, sad, xenophobe friend; it's what makes the world turn around.

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  • 182. At 1:55pm on 11 Dec 2008, gooner4eva1982 wrote:

    sorry I had to laugh at all the talk of our top 4 doing rubbish in the CL without our foriegn input of players.

    Cloughie had loads of foriegners didn't he??????????

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  • 183. At 1:55pm on 11 Dec 2008, RugbyRugbyRugby wrote:

    Nikosbg, you mention people being blinded by there bias towards there own club then make ridiculous staements that Barca would eat any of them for breakfast.

    Whilst Barca are strong and along with United and probably Chelsea are the best teams in europe (not all three are playing well presently) and will be the favourites for the CL. To suggest that a game between them wouldn't be tight is ridiculous.

    Look at last season and the games between United and Barca. There were few chances for either team and in the end it was settled by Scholes brilliant strike. Or those close games the previous couple of years with Chelsea

    I wouldexpect a similarly tight game if we played you agin with the teams about even chancs for the win.

    Is it not possible you are blinded by your won dislike of English clubs and following of Barca?

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  • 184. At 1:56pm on 11 Dec 2008, footy_analysis - play beautifully - wrote:

    I think every English side has got a chance. There's so much quality in every team.

    I do agree that Arsenal have less of a chance due to their inconsistencies this season.

    It does also, however, still feel a bit bittersweet with Chelsea. As much as I love watching the quality of their players and the football they're playing under Scolari, there is still a sense that they've bought success and I'm not sure that, ultimately, this way of running a club which Manchester City are now following will do the Premiership's reputation much good as time goes on.

    Though, I wish every English team well.

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  • 185. At 1:58pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The way the British public and media treat European opposition is an annoying mixture of arrogance, ignorance and self-importance.

    Let us take a particular team, Real Madrid. The majority of the fans and pundits would claim comfortably enough that they are not good, they are not among the favourites and the English teams shouldn't be afraid of them / have the measure of them.

    Admittedly they have been playing poorly recently although this has probably more to do with the system than the quality of their squad. Because talking with FACTS and not fiction this is who they have in their squad:


    CASILLAS: BEST OR SECOND BEST KEEPER IN THE WORLD, SIMPLE AS THAT.
    CANAVARRO: ONE OF THE BEST CENTRAL DEFENDERS IN THE WORLD, VOTED AS SUCH RECENTLY, WORLD CUP WINNER ETC.
    SERGIO RAMOS: PROBABLY THE BEST RIGHT BACK IN THE WORLD, ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE EURO WHICH HE WON
    SNEIJDER: ONE OF THE TOP 3-4 MIDFIELDERS IN THE WORLD, AGAIN ONE OF THE BEST IN THE EUROS
    ROBBEN: WORLD CLASS AS HE GETS FITTER AS HE SHOWED YESTERDAY, BRILLIANT IN THE EUROS
    VAN NISTERLOOY: PROBABLY THE BEST STRIKER IN THE WORLD, CL RECORD HOLDER
    RAUL: CL RECORD HOLDER AND LEGEND, STILL GOAL MACHINE AND ON TOP OF HIS GAME. THE EQUIVALENT OF WHAT HE DID YESTERDAY IS STILL SHOWN IN EVRY CLIP ABOUT CANTONA-WHO?

    (I intentionally left out the likes of Gago, full Argentine international & gold medallist, and Van der Vaart also a high class midfielder. They'll also strengthen in the transfer window being the richest club in the world but I'm leaving that aside too)


    The truth is: Out of the 4 English sides, man for man, no single one has as many world-class players, established internationals of this caliber, as Real Madrid. NOT ONE OF THEM. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

    There are various other truths that the average fan in the UK would ignorantly dismiss, under the influence of the media hype and brainwash, such as: Totti/Ribery/Iniesta are better than Gerrard, Ibrahimovic is better than Drogba, etc.

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  • 186. At 2:15pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Now let's go through the ManUnited squad, which many fans and pundits regard as favourites:

    Wes Brown: Not world class
    Rio Ferdinand: Not world class
    Nemanja Vidic: Not world class
    Gary Neville: Definitely not world class
    Anderson: Not world class
    Nani: Not world class
    Giggs: Not world class
    Scholes: Not world class
    Park G.S: Not world class
    Michael Carrick: Not world class
    Berbatov: Not world class
    O'Shea: Definitely not world class
    Fletcher: Definitely not world class
    Rafael: Definitely not world class
    Possebon: Definitely not world class
    Evans: Definitely not world class
    Wellbeck: Definitely now world class

    You guys have to get your facts right. We are talking about established & proven internationals who are hot property and are talked about in football circles around the world. The cream of Brazilian, Argentinian, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Dutch etc football. Not guys who are considered legends and would leave a mark in the EPL only, but in 10 years after retirement they'll be forgotten elsewhere. Nor who have achieved something 5 years ago or may do 5 years on from now. This is NOT world class.

    Counter-argument is the same more or less squad won the CL last season. Looking beyond the results and into performances, late away goal at Lyon, they were outplayed by Roma for 60 minutes of the away tie, they were outplayed by Barcelona for the entire away game and weren't the better team at OT, and they were outplayed by Chelsea for half of the final at least. Not emphatic by any means and many would say not deserved.

    Nothing against United, they just have to spend more and buy more top-tier players. Such a squad does not belong in the latter stages of the CL. And being the only club with no summer transfers bar one is not acceptable. The owners cannot afford it as the club is built on huge debts, and they also don't feel they have to, as their supporters seem content to live on past glories.

    Finally I will sum up the quality and depth of United's squad with some wise words from their own manager:

    "Now that Danny Wellbeck is fit he's very much in the first-team picture."

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  • 187. At 2:25pm on 11 Dec 2008, Obaydah Al-Namer wrote:

    167. At 1:12pm on 11 Dec 2008, adrianforrest wrote:
    As an Englishman who enjoys watching Manchester United i just thought i'd add my two cents (pennies):

    Whilst the format of the Champions League is exciting i do still find it disgraceful that a team can finish 2nd, 3rd or 4th and be granted a place in the the'CHAMPIONS' league.
    ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

    easy weasy, change the name from the Champions league to the G14 League

    Or 2 The European League

    Keep the same rules and fromat, then nobody will complain about it being disgraceful that a team can finish 2nd, 3d, 4th or 5th(Liverpool) and still win it!

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  • 188. At 2:29pm on 11 Dec 2008, mohtechnix wrote:

    NikosBg: you have summed up the whole comments I would have made here, I can only say you are brilliant chap and I am still wondering where you hail from.. but regardless of that you are a legend.:).. English fans get too carried away and the press are the most shocking in the way they unsettle foreign players and coaches e.g Scolari is under pressure.. .. that I believe is absolute bananas... is london in any sense near brazil in football terms where every one is a coach... I guess no. I wouldnt blame the author of this article cos obviously he is English and he has boundaries as regards to what and what he pens down. 2 wins of the CL in the past decade and you are every where fantasizing about the future and bluffing on how you will the dominate world football. Top four coaches in the EPL, non is English. That been said only few English players make their club's first eleven in the league.

    What I personally regard as a top and imroving league is a league where you don't have the same team on the top four spots year in year out. look at spain we have had other teams improve and challenged the so called big ones: sevilla now better than betis in the city of sevill, Viallreal from second division, Atletico doing well.. etc.... Look at the Serie A too but here in Englans it is the same 4 teams which I think is appalling and speaks volumes in terms of improvement of other clubs.

    Dunno if you guys here watch la liga often and see how football is played at its finest..Espanyol vs Betis was a fantastic match to watch last weeknd.. in my opinion interesting and worth paying £40 for if you understand the beauty of the game and it was more fascnitaing in the eye than most matches I have watched in the EPL this season except Arsenal vs utd...


    One last sentence to summarize all these debates is........ As for the English league, clubs and fans..........Your future is italy and spain's past in terms of football.. keep it up though perhaps you might catch up in a couple of decades

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  • 189. At 2:36pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    The fact that the English teams are qualifying and reaching the latter stages is mainly down to the no.1 seeding the enjoy in their groups. Comfortable qualification, opponents the likes of Olympiacos or Fenerbache in the k/o's, and eventually then they'll end up facing each other - job done.

    All FOUR clubs in the EPL receive top seed, in comparison to just TWO of La Liga, an equal if not better league, which is downright shocking.

    This year the English clubs expectedly struggled to justify their ranking, and the 2 that did owe much to some shockingly favourable officiating. If the seeding was made on equal terms for the top leagues, and not the "may the strong get stronger" principle, judging from their squad quality and performances, in most likelihood 2 of the English sides would now be eliminated and 2 would have finished 2nd, badly hampering their chances to progress any further.

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  • 190. At 2:56pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    English football has:

    - The most money being spent by fans on tickets. English fans are so easy to deceive by the media that matches sell out of no importance or where unknown reserves are being used.
    - The most money being spent on TV rights, internationally and domestically ie. by fans mortgaging themselves to buy subscriptions.
    - The most money being spent on PR, commercial management and presentation, ie. 20 HD cameras in your bog-standard league bore.
    - The most money being spent by foreign billionaires, more often than not immersed in debt, to attract foreign talent, and in turn allow more money to be spent as above.

    Champions League and football in general is money, and we live in difficult times. Therefore on this evidence it is not at all hard to see why UEFA favours the English sides in every possible way such as seeding, officiating and finances.

    It is their own type of customer service to keep their business alive.

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  • 191. At 3:00pm on 11 Dec 2008, Roman Philosopher wrote:

    Well having watched Barca over the last few weeks, on their current form at least, there is not a side that comes close to them, and even more peturbing, all their players work so hard for each other, so there is no danger of prima donna syndrome. I am hoping Inter Milan draw them though because Jose does have a good record agst Barca and he does get under their skin, bit like the Benitez Chelsea connection.

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  • 192. At 3:01pm on 11 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    liverpool fan ere :O

    im quite happy to take any1 right now, even more so in a few months, i like the turn of the year from a supporters point of view coz we play the better football n get the better results.

    all the hatred needs to stop tho, results n tables dont lie, yeah, liverpool wer outplayed by marsielle, but class shines thru in the end, same with united @ celtic, not the best matches u'll ever watch, but they did wot they needed to do to get wot they wanted (well liverpool n united did anyway)

    as for the draw, the teams that ull get dont matter, its the home advantage u get that tends to make a difference, n united n liverpool have that advantage! from that i do think outta the english teams to get to the final ur looking at 1 of united or liverpool (but please, for the nerves, not both in the final)

    saying that, i wonder wot the stats are for the teams in the last few years that got to the final actually finnished top of their groups.. interesting maybe :)

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  • 193. At 3:03pm on 11 Dec 2008, jforbes wrote:

    With two ex Chelsea managers in the draw it seems almost enevitable they will get one. Don't right off Juve Ranieri is unfairly derided here. Had he not not lost his head with his substitutions against Monaco he could should have taken Chelsea to the final in 2004.

    It will be interesting to see if Liverpool can sustain a Premiership and CL campagn as both Chelsea & Man U did last season, Arsenal just seem too fragile to go very far this year.

    None of the English clubs has shone in Europe yet - even Liverpool only topped their group thanks to that dodgy last minute penalty at home to Atletico.

    Things may be different in the spring - but at the moment it looks like a very open CL.

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  • 194. At 3:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, laskeyst wrote:

    To reply to the blog is to ask whether anything has changed significantly this season. In the two previous years English clubs provided 3 semi-finalists, so the strength of the Premiership has been clear for quite a while now. Arsenal may be letting the side down a touch, but the club has never been more than moderately successful at this level, even in the days of Henry, Bergkamp and Vieira. In fact, to see them last night was to wonder what on earth all the fuss is about their brilliant youth policy. Porto outran, outthought and outplayed Arsenal so comprehensively, even Wenger must have wondered what he's doing in North London these days.

    What has changed in the rest of Europe is interesting though. For a start, Guardiola and Mourinho have new jobs. The growing maturity of Messi and Imbrahimovic is a sure sign of the tactical and motivational skills enjoyed by their two coaches. Messi is now combining his natural brilliance with a fierce hunger to hit the opposition where it hurts. No longer content to dazzle to no concrete purpose, he looks dangerous from beginning to end. Imbrahimovic, meanwhile, has snorted his way past reams of coaches. Only this season is he starting to look like the player football fans have long sensed ready to come alight.

    I think it will be a year of disappointment for the English clubs. Chelsea are still better good at beating moderate opponents than any other team in Europe, but there are no such clubs left in the CL. Similarly, Utd at their best play great football, strong in every department, but they are slowly heading for a monstrous fixture pile-up. Liverpool are probably the best bet, but I feel sure their defence is more fragile than it has looked so far this season. April will surely find out Carragher & co, even with Mascherano prowling ahead of them.

    My guess is that the last four years has been a peak from which the Premiership must now tumble. Arsenal are symptomatic of the problem. Too much talk about how good they are, not enough clear tactical thinking on the field. Fabregas is the only Arsenal player who seems to appreciate the full shape of the game in the instant of possession. For all their qualities, the rest of the squad looks limited at top level.

    Unfortunately, my money would be on the dark genius. Maybe he would even let Vieira come on for the last 30 seconds.










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  • 195. At 3:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    nikos, just to clarify, are u saying that ribery/totti(omg)/iniesta are better than gerrard? n that ibra is better than drogba?

    or was i just takin it in its wrong context, my bad if i was

    btw, not that i think he is better than gerrard but iniesta is a quality midfielder ill give u that

    ibra is good against crap opposition to b fair, never shows up when he is needed most (i point to home n away ties in the cl last year against liverpool as just 1 of many chances he has had to prove me wrong) drogba (who i can catigorically say i hate for a number of reason, not just the 1 that follows :P) can n does (again like against liverpool last season :()

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  • 196. At 3:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, malunited wrote:

    "The truth is: Out of the 4 English sides, man for man, no single one has as many world-class players, established internationals of this caliber, as Real Madrid. NOT ONE OF THEM. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong"

    I thought in a football match, the winner is decided by which team has scored more goals and not by how many world class players are in that side?

    Maybe that is how it is decided in Spain but as far as the rest of the World is concerned they do not go by that rule.

    Any of the top clubs in England, Germany,Italy and Spain can win on their day against other opponents of these countries. It just depends on the day and the luck.
    To say that Arsenal, ManUnited, Liverpool, Chelsea are better than Real, Barcelona, Inter, AC, or Juventus is silly and it is the same vice versa.
    Last year over two legs United were better than Barca as they defeated Barca but it could have gone either way and it will be the same if any of the top teams in Europe meet. It will be a very close affair.

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  • 197. At 3:16pm on 11 Dec 2008, collie21 wrote:

    At 1:55pm on 11 Dec 2008, gooner4eva1982 wrote:
    sorry I had to laugh at all the talk of our top 4 doing rubbish in the CL without our foriegn input of players.

    Cloughie had loads of foriegners didn't he??????????

    ______________________________

    Ah you mean the manager of Burton Albion?
    Com'on it's 2008 with all due respect, who is Cloughie? I think zero relevance for the point in hand.

    and Hey NikosBg I was serious you really should get your own blog. PLease!

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  • 198. At 3:22pm on 11 Dec 2008, Davestargalactica wrote:

    Nikos, stop spamming this blog with your inane babble. Your arguments are so flawed they would be laughable if they weren't so pitiful.

    I am not in the "ignorant fan" category you so eloquently highlight, and acknowledge that there are teams apart from the English quartet who have enough strength to see most opposition off.

    European teams are providing a sterner test to Premiership clubs this season, but I for one believe that this is down in some part to the close knit fight for the Premier leauge.

    It would not surprise me if three out of the top four made it to the Semi finals again, but nor would it surprise me if Barcelona went on to win it.

    However I do not think for one second that Barcelona would have any of the top four "for breakfast".

    Barca have kept a familiar squad that has been beaten by both Liverpool and Man United in recent seasons, whilst they have strengthened their squads, Barca have lost a superb players in Deco and Ronaldinho (on his day), whilst Liverpool and Man United have strengthened with players like Torres, Reira and Berbatov respectively, the only thing going for Barca is the fact Henry and Messi have stepped up their game.

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  • 199. At 3:23pm on 11 Dec 2008, Davestargalactica wrote:

    Nikos, stop spamming this blog with your inane babble. Your arguments are so flawed they would be laughable if they weren't so pitiful.

    I am not in the "ignorant fan" category you so eloquently highlight, and acknowledge that there are teams apart from the English quartet who have enough strength to see most opposition off.

    European teams are providing a sterner test to Premiership clubs this season, but I for one believe that this is down in some part to the close knit fight for the Premier leauge.

    It would not surprise me if three out of the top four made it to the Semi finals again, but nor would it surprise me if Barcelona went on to win it.

    However I do not think for one second that Barcelona would have any of the top four "for breakfast".

    Barca have kept a familiar squad that has been beaten by both Liverpool and Man United in recent seasons, whilst they have strengthened their squads. Barca have lost a superb players in Deco and Ronaldinho (on his day), whilst Liverpool and Man United have strengthened with Torres, Reira and Berbatov respectively, the only thing going for Barca is the fact Henry and Messi have stepped up their game.

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  • 200. At 3:25pm on 11 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    nikos, ur post on the united team, as much as i love to bash united as the next person, lets re-summerise shall we:

    rio is a top defender, no doubt (cept he does pass side to side n back at an alarming rate) vidic is again world class m8, even barca would have im, scholes has proven to b an all time great, hands down, giggs.. c scholes

    btw, no mention on ronaldo (n my god do i hate him) - was that just to make ur list look symetrical? coz u cant really deny his quality, no matter how bitter u are

    lets push that to some other english teams too shall we, in no particular order

    gerrard, alonso, riena, cech, terry, drogba, ballack, essien, fabregas, torres... all players barca would b proud to have on their books, especially in replacement of some of their players ie yaya toure, pique, abidal, kieta, sylvinho

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  • 201. At 3:25pm on 11 Dec 2008, Shifty65 wrote:

    I do not think that Arsenal have any chance of silverware this season, and definately none in the champions league. Their inconsistency has been evident throughout this seaosn and i do not think they are capapble of navigating their way through a two leg match ith one of europes elite when they cannot beat stoke city.
    As a liverpool fan i obviously am biased towards them but i think it is anyones guess as to which other english team will be in the final this year (and there will be one).

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  • 202. At 3:25pm on 11 Dec 2008, sirchampion wrote:

    #91

    And yes, a lot of teams in England have foreigners, but so do all the top teams. And the top English sides aren't even that bad: Chelsea has Terry, J. Cole, A. Cole, Lampard who are all key players, while United's strongest 11 includes Ferdinand, Carrick, Fletcher, Rooney, and you could always see Scholes, Giggs, O'Shea, Neville.
    (I'm counting all the brits)

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Since when is John O' Shea British? He is from the Republic of Ireland. Do you need a history lesson?

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  • 203. At 3:28pm on 11 Dec 2008, sirchampion wrote:

    #134

    Are you for real?!?!?

    Liverpool,Man Utd and Chelsea topped their groups and Arsenal were runners up and between them they still lost LESS games than Shakhtar Donetsk. Funny what you said about not being strong enough in the latter stages as i'm sure that since 2005 the EPL has had at least one finalist,not to mention last year where the last four were ALL from the EPL.

    -------------------------------------------------------

    Chelsea didn't top their group. Roma did. Get your facts right before you go preaching to others.

    You have your short-sighted EPL blinkers on.

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  • 204. At 3:28pm on 11 Dec 2008, malunited wrote:

    NikosB, now you are showing your ignorance of football.
    You are giving more credit to ManUnited than they deserve. To beat Roma over two legs, then beat Barca over two legs without conceding a goal and scoring a goal, and then to take the lead against Chelsea (could have been three up in the first 20 minutes) and yet hold on after conceding a goal and then went on to win on penalties with that riff raff bunch of no good players they have is an enormous achievement.
    With all those World class players that Real and Barca have, they could not go on on win the CL last year.
    Now logic says that something is wrong somewhere. Either the World class players they have are not really that good or the players playing for United are a lot better than you think.
    I feel that some players Real and Barca have are world class and so is the same with a couple of players with United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

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  • 205. At 3:31pm on 11 Dec 2008, riggy wrote:

    "have cast a huge shadow over the tournament"

    I would be a bit more positive on the big four maintaining a big presence in the UEFA Champions League.

    If others can't aren't as good and we are....is that our fault? Are we to blame?

    Hardly. It's a dog-eat-dog tournament so get used to it.

    The top four English sides are the best for a reason and after all...I don't see any other countries teams dominating the scene, maybe that's because they're not good enough....GEE dya think?

    May the English rule for as long as they're good enough to do so.

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  • 206. At 3:35pm on 11 Dec 2008, ripley11 wrote:

    The only thing I have to add to this is that last season NO continental side managed to knock out any of the Big 4 - Arsenal got knoced out by Liverpool who in turn got beaten by Chelsea - who then went on to lose to Man U in the final.

    Yes, last season saw defeats in the group stages but when it came down to the nitty gritty the Big 4 upped a gear and did enough to go through.

    So what has changed so dramatically since then. I think Barcelona, Bayern, Inter & maybe Real Madrid may have a shout of upsetting any of the Big 4 given a bit of luck but otherwise I think it will be business as usual.

    Depending on the draw I'd expect the Big 4 to come through plus Barca, Bayern, Inter + any one of Real, Roma or Juve...

    So what are the odds of Barca v Chelsea again???

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  • 207. At 3:38pm on 11 Dec 2008, Roman Philosopher wrote:

    Dear NikosBg

    Now you have demonstrated so clearly that you are without doubt the font of all knowledge, could you kindly remind me of how many players from the English Premier League appeared in this year's European Championships, and also in the most recent World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations? Afterwards perhaps you also kindly define the term "World Class " just for us mere mortals. I would be ever so grateful........

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  • 208. At 3:48pm on 11 Dec 2008, RedWristband wrote:

    Huge bias against English clubs here why?

    And I don't understand the reaction of xenophobes who argue that foreigners are ruining our game =S

    The English Premier League is the highest quality in the world which is why it's watched all over the world.

    We import the best coaches, pay the highest wages, enjoy the most capital, import the best players, managers and have the biggest support in terms of around the world popularity.

    This does have an effect on English players not coming through but not enough to make people worried, the only reason Capello is now managing England is because he has proved himself over many years as an excellent manager. The EPL doesn't have many top notch English coaches if any, but it does have some excellent managers from Britain including Alex Ferguson (as a Liverpool fan I refuse to knight him until he overtakes Paisley in European trophies :)), Martin O Neill, David Moyes, Roy Keane has shown himself to have potential, Mark Hughes etc.

    You only have to ask yourself how the national team are doing since Capello came in and how strong the under 21's too managed by none other than Stuart Pearce, the best English players will always come through, no matter how many foreigners there are in the EPL.

    Just stop complaining and enjoy the EPL's dominance and the beginning of our national teams resurgence before the pendulum swings back to the Mediterranean :)

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  • 209. At 3:48pm on 11 Dec 2008, Bearsridingbikes wrote:

    Seems quite sad that a xenophobic conspiracy theorist like NikosBg feels the need to devote so much of his time to these pointless ramblings.

    It's a game where some blokes kick a ball about for ***** sake, enjoy it!

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  • 210. At 3:55pm on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    NikosBg - are you on about the same Real Madrid that are languishing in 5th in their league????

    9PTS OF THE PACE!!!!!

    didnt this same Real Madrid, get knocked out of the Cpa Del Rey by

    Real Union!!!!!

    who correct me if im wrong.........are in the 3rd division of spanish football!!!!!

    is this not worse than chelsea losing to burnley, who are in the send tier of english football......so only 1league below chelsea?!

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  • 211. At 3:59pm on 11 Dec 2008, Rolf McHarris wrote:

    English elite face Euro test.

    Would that be the French run, foreigner filled Arsenal, the Scots run, American owned, foreigner filled Manchester Utd, the Brazillian run, Russian owned, foreigner filled Chelsea and the Spanish run, foreigner filled, American owned Liverpool?

    If so, I assume you are referring to the English ball boys....?

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  • 212. At 4:00pm on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 213. At 4:02pm on 11 Dec 2008, bobbieflowers wrote:

    "Champions League and football in general is money, and we live in difficult times. Therefore on this evidence it is not at all hard to see why UEFA favours the English sides in every possible way such as seeding, officiating and finance."

    good, good!

    as long as it keeps you crying into your paella every night...

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  • 214. At 4:03pm on 11 Dec 2008, Spoketoosoon wrote:

    Who cares?!?!

    The Champions League has become steadily more of a joke for years, geared towards keeping the perceived 'bigger' clubs in the tournament to satisfy the Media and Corporate element squeezing every penny (or Euro) out of the beloved game.

    It just shows the level of contempt the group stages are held in when the 'big 4' teams are fielding youth and reserve players - most still show the FA Cup a greater respect then that.

    This is suppost to represent the cream of Europe, and be once of the most coverted accolades of a players career.

    Honestly, its a joke to think that players such as Johnny Evans, Carlos Vela, John O'Shea, Danny Simpson (as good a prospect as some of those might be - and the list is endless) are playing in the CL, and have more appearances in the CL then the league!

    I'm a Hull City supporter, and when we signed Mark Lynch back in the Championship (injury crocked no-mark) HE'D APPEARED in the Champions League (and been sent off, as it turns out)!

    And this is what players like Gareth Barry are aspiring to - must have Champions League football! Ha!

    The whole 'seeding' system annoys me. If the supposed 'seeded' teams are so fantastic, why should they be forced to be kept apart???

    Don't get me wrong - I have no issue with English teams, and the whole argument regarding English club financing is also rubbish. As fans we pay the highest premium in Europe to watch teams in the EPL. This gives clubs larger income streams, invites development in bigger stadiums and demands a higher quality of product.

    As for no home grown talent, when you invite competition from all over the world, so players are forced to compete against the best, it raises the bar. Unfortunately this means less players are likely to make the required standard.

    Would lowering the standard of football improve English talent? No. It would simply mean the EPL contained more english players, the majority of which would be little more then mediocre, rather then world class.

    See Scottish football for details....

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  • 215. At 4:05pm on 11 Dec 2008, dirtymeister wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 216. At 4:05pm on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    NikosBg - ur just getting boring and tedious now mate?!

    come up with some new material rather than just repeating yourself, over and over and over and over again?!


    anyway oh NikosBg the wise, please tell us.....who.....in ur wise magnificent and obviously vast football(un-biased of course) view................who exactly is world class?????
    stop dodging the bullets and answer the question?!?!

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  • 217. At 4:13pm on 11 Dec 2008, SuperStrikerShivam wrote:

    Manchester United shall win the Champions League, again.

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  • 218. At 4:30pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Barca have kept a familiar squad that has been beaten by both Liverpool and Man United in recent seasons, whilst they have strengthened their squads, Barca have lost a superb players in Deco and Ronaldinho (on his day), whilst Liverpool and Man United have strengthened with players like Torres, Reira and Berbatov respectively, the only thing going for Barca is the fact Henry and Messi have stepped up their game."


    That's what I mean when I talk about ignorance. ManUnited fans believe their squad is strengthened by ONE transfer in the summer period. The also believe think that this player is WORLD CLASS. On the basis that he had a pretty good season in a mid-table PL team and he scored quite a few goals for Bulgaria. WORLD CLASS even though he has not taken part ever in a Euro or a World Cup, let alone star in it. And has not achieved anything with his club internationally therefore he is a NOBODY on the world stage. On this basis let's call David Healy WORLD CLASS shall we? He broke the Euro qualifiers goal record after all and Platini himself gave him the trophy.

    On the other hand you speak about Barcelona and say they have not been strengthened, ignoring the transfers of Keita, Hleb and Dani Alves. All 3 better than Berbatov IMO. So for instance Hleb was brilliant while he was at Arsenal, but now he's gone so let's ignore him. BARCA CAN AFFORD TO HAVE HIM AND KEITA ON THE BENCH MATE. MANU INSTEAD HAVE THE WANNABES, THE PENSIONERS AND THE NOBODIES.


    "especially in replacement of some of their players ie yaya toure, pique, abidal, kieta, sylvinho"

    To include players such as Toure (natural successor to Vieira) and Abidal (ahead of Evra and Clichy in the French pecking order) in a 'replacement' list just confirms what I'm talking about. On that basis, you have to admit that United's, Arsenal's and Liverpool's 'for sale' list is reaching double figures, surely!

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  • 219. At 4:41pm on 11 Dec 2008, creativefan wrote:

    considering the big four of english football, this year's CL may well be different if their performances are anything to go by like what we saw in the group stages. AT least one english team will make it to the final (man u or liverpool) while arsenal will make it to the quarter-final. Considering chelsea, they look like a shadow of themselves with big phil not getting his tactics right and considering the fact that teams like cluj, roma gave chelsea a run for their money is enough and that would give other teams the incentive that chelsea can be overcomed because the defence seem penetrable of late.obviously, they want to play more attacking football, but the need for a midfield mastro to un-lock defences becomes more and more important if they are to make it all the way to rome. SO will bosingwa or ashley cole be given the liberty to make forward runs cos that is where the bulk of chealsea goals have come from this season? a better quality team would definately be looking at that and if u can hold the ball, pass and move then chelsea will be coming home early this season....i just hope scolari won't have to go back to brazil as he hinted before the cluj game

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  • 220. At 4:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Unbiased Pundit

    I think Bayern are a dark horse, early doors they were nowhere but all of a sudden they have reinvented themselves in recent weeks, Lucio has rediscovered his form of 2/3 years ago. Ribery has returned from injury and his performance was very good, played a hand in Klose's second with a pinpoint assist and then scored with a neat cut in from the wing, he was such an important player to them last year and it proved last night, also Ze Roberto is another fine winger who is underrated and undervalued there. In Klose and particularly against better teams Toni, you have 2 strikers who can put the ball in the net, a priceless comodity in todays world, the emphasis now is more on second strikers/att mids yet to possess two players who know how to score gives a team a good advantage, with Ribery and Ze Roberto providing assists as wel, you cannot write Bayern off. Juventus are there because i think they may benefit from lesser expectations this time round, Del Piero is on form and playing well, Amauri has thus far been a solid purchase, Chiellini who starred for the Italians at the Euros is a reliable defender. They were very good against a weakened Real Madrid in both games this season but nonetheless to beat Real is still noteworthy plus they have looked more convincing than Arsenal this year so far. Apart from that i agree that its a close run thing this year and Atletico and Villarreal could very well prove dangerous opponents, also good to hear some good comments bout Aguero, this kid is gonna be some player if he continues his development

    All in all cant wait for the draw next friday, some fine ties lie in wait.

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  • 221. At 4:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, malunited wrote:

    Who cares if all these so called world class stars cannot beat a bunch of no hopers and pensioners?

    At the end of the day all matters is who scores more goals at the end of the match. The factor of the matter is last year Barca could not score against United after playing two legs while United scored a goal and won.

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  • 222. At 4:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, I_H8_LEHMAN wrote:

    People, dont forget how the groups are drawn, with the top teams as seeds hence facing "softer" opposition. Secondly, they are seeds becasue theyve all made the a final since 05! And finally my opinion, I dont think there is an easy team in the last 16, but in truth you would want to avoid barca, inter and man u.

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  • 223. At 4:52pm on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Nikos Bg the comment about Man Utd players not being World Class shows you up big time.

    Carrick - I actually think that Carrick is a underrated player and last season was probably the best CM in England, yes more consistent than Gerrard and Lampard, i wasnt a fan at first but his passing is very good and he is an asset to many a team, would like to see him more often in the CM for England
    Ferdinand - Not World Class, are you mental, he is a better defender than John Terry who imo looks better than what he is when he has a top defender like Carvalho alongside him, Rio has been for the last 2 seasons the best CB in England, the presence of a solid partner in Nemanja Vidic has arguably helped him but his class shines through.

    Besides if these players are not World Class how come they have CL winners medals, a poor post if ever there was one.

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  • 224. At 4:53pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Dear NikosBg

    Now you have demonstrated so clearly that you are without doubt the font of all knowledge, could you kindly remind me of how many players from the English Premier League appeared in this year's European Championships, and also in the most recent World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations? Afterwards perhaps you also kindly define the term "World Class " just for us mere mortals. I would be ever so grateful........"


    In the Euro I believe 43, a long way behind Germany's 55.

    More importantly, out of the Uefa-formed top 23 squad, only FOUR played in England, which again indicates the poor quality of the Premier League. In addition, the Golden Boot and player of the tournament were Spanish players playing in Spain.

    About the Copa Africa I believe most play their football in Ligue 1. Again the top scorer plays for Barcelona, as do Keita and Toure from the official top-18 squad.

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  • 225. At 4:58pm on 11 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    NikosBg - u wrote

    "That's what I mean when I talk about ignorance. ManUnited fans believe their squad is strengthened by ONE transfer in the summer period. The also believe think that this player is WORLD CLASS. On the basis that he had a pretty good season in a mid-table PL team and he scored quite a few goals for Bulgaria. WORLD CLASS even though he has not taken part ever in a Euro or a World Cup, let alone star in it. And has not achieved anything with his club internationally therefore he is a NOBODY on the world stage. On this basis let's call David Healy WORLD CLASS shall we? He broke the Euro qualifiers goal record after all and Platini himself gave him the trophy."

    So are you trying to say that George Best was not world class?????

    Just because he also never played in a euro champs or a world cup

    because he was hinderd by his nationality?!

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  • 226. At 5:02pm on 11 Dec 2008, jonnoz wrote:

    you people make me laugh , the fact of the matter is English sides have dominated the champions league for the last 4 years or so , and Manchester United are the current european champions , that in its self is enough to not write them off , lets face it the premier league is the top flight league in the world and it shows when it comes to the champions league , all you spanish / italian fanboys wait and see in febuary when the likes of arsenal knock out someone like real madrid haha its gonna be fun :)

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  • 227. At 5:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Spoketoosoon, your comments echo that of a certain Sam Wallace who wrote a similar article in the Independent on Monday. Here are some of the things he said

    'boring precession, same old teams plodding their way through'

    Incorrect, Atletico Madrid have really been plodding their way through the group stages over the last 3/4 years havent they, as have Sporting who have reached the last 16 for the first time, as have Panathinaikos who reached the Last 16 for the first time in 7 years on Tuesday night and were seeded 3rd to begin with, Atletico were seeded 4th, new teams have filtered through.

    A reference to something about CFR Cluj not proving too much hassle for Chelsea

    Again incorrect, CFR Cluj didnt just roll over and die, they gave Chelsea a decent fight, Chelsea have been very inconsistent in the CL this season imo, Scolari has been outcoached thus far this season by Benitez, Spaletti and Wenger in key fixtures.

    I personally dont have a problem with the CL group stages, do people really want it to go back to the so called 'good ol' days' when we had 12-0 scorlines in round between the Champions of Spain and the Champions of Malta?, no we dont, if that happened we'd be calling the Champions League pointless because of the ridiculous one sided games.
    Instead of having a go at the Champions League why not embrace it and be happy that we have it, some potential ties in the last 16 look very good indeed lets not have a go at the CL lets look forard to some fantastic footy in store after Christmas.

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  • 228. At 5:08pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Who cares if all these so called world class stars cannot beat a bunch of no hopers and pensioners?

    At the end of the day all matters is who scores more goals at the end of the match. The factor of the matter is last year Barca could not score against United after playing two legs while United scored a goal and won."


    You are making the usual mistake of judging a team on results and not on performance.

    You go happy or sad, satisfied or angry based on RESULTS as they are all that count.

    You judge if a team is good or bad, you praise or criticise individuals, or you compare different teams, on the basis of PERFORMANCE alone.

    For results to be a reliable indication of performance you need a sample of more than 30 matches or so. Rangers made the UEFA Cup final last year but were in all honesty pretty awful throughout.

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  • 229. At 5:15pm on 11 Dec 2008, goonergetit wrote:

    Rank outsiders, lost to Porto with the C team, not the B team ! Liverpool are the rank outsiders of the UK four. Arsenal have had VP Eboue and Diaby out half the season, Adebayor now has some competition in Eduardo so watch out for him,
    when the luck changes at the Emirates, watch out!

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  • 230. At 5:18pm on 11 Dec 2008, nextyearisouryear wrote:

    NikosBg's rantings are amusing. Even though EPL clubs have dominated the Champions League for several years he still manages to brush aside their achievments with claims of UEFA bias, dodgy seedings and bent refs.

    Your either a WUM (a poor one at that) or youve forgot to take your medication.

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  • 231. At 5:19pm on 11 Dec 2008, lukeyboy69 wrote:


    I agree that the English clubs havent exactly wowed anyone with their CL performances thus far, but they have all done enough, they are through to the last 16 stage whilst they have kept themselves in the premiership title hunt at the same time. (which has to be the toughest league in europe).

    The 4 clubs know that the real test starts in Feb and like last season i expect them all to move up a gear and show their class.

    When push comes to shove, Barcelona are the only club that are on the same level as the powerful English 4.

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  • 232. At 5:22pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "So are you trying to say that George Best was not world class?????

    Just because he also never played in a euro champs or a world cup

    because he was hindered by his nationality?!"


    I did not talk just about national team success. George Best was world class for a couple of years (not one of the best players ever though as he did not last beyond that) because he performed consistently for his club at the highest level in that period and he contributed to their European Cup success.

    When Berbatov reaches this level internationally he will too become world class.

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  • 233. At 5:22pm on 11 Dec 2008, Weallfollowunited wrote:

    BARCA CAN AFFORD TO HAVE HIM AND KEITA ON THE BENCH MATE. MANU INSTEAD HAVE THE WANNABES, THE PENSIONERS AND THE NOBODIES.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    The wannabe's, pensioners and nobodies that Barcelona proved incapable of scoring against last season. Honestly, the stupidity of some people is frightening.

    Barcelona have at times been brilliant this season, but i've seen them play without Messi and they were no more than ordinary.

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  • 234. At 5:29pm on 11 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    Thanks for all the posts. Some very interesting observations.

    One for the older posters is Zielhorst's complaint in post 131, effectively saying that the Champions League is a misnomer because so many teams who are not champions take part in this "league."

    I actually see where he is coming from there. How would you all feel if only the champions (or the holders if they were not domestic champions) were allowed to enter?

    Let's state right away that this is hypothetical because it will never revert back to the that format now. There is too much money and prestige involved.

    I thought the old format was superb, but modern demands dictate that it will never happen again.

    Remember the English champions in 1978 Nottingham Forest, drawing the English holders of the European Cup in 1978 Liverpool?

    Fantastic ties.

    Would anyone out there like a return to the old format?

    A poster also asked me to comment on Wayne Rooney's behaviour at Old Trafford last night.

    I mentioned in the match report that he got involved in too many needless exchanges with the opposition and made one wild challenge. It was not clever.

    He needs to eradicate that from his game, but like the Champions League reverting back to the old European Cup knockout styke, I fear it will not happen.

    Rooney is a fantastic footballer. He would be a better one if he did not get himself side-tracked by physical battles with the opposition that leaves him open to the risk of punishment from officials.


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  • 235. At 5:30pm on 11 Dec 2008, madeiraman57 wrote:

    Adelaide United would struggle to win one game in the C/L and would be laughed at.

    It's time for some more ' Bodyline' against these numbskulls.

    Any good at swimming or cycling yet ??

    You Aussies are a laugh a minute, myte.

    Time to swot for your eleven plus's, gday.

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  • 236. At 5:31pm on 11 Dec 2008, danwhitworth wrote:

    NikosBg i love your comments about manchester utd's players none of which are apparently world class and you said yourself they didnt buy any players in the summer yet last year they still managed to win the premier league and champions league with your so called 'non-world class' players, how you can say scholes, giggs, ferdinand, vidic and berbatov not world class is laughable and shows how much you dont know about world football, scholes and giggs are two of the greatest and most proffesional footballers to ever grace the game.

    Man Utd still seem to be able to top their group even though they havent hit top form and them not being beaten in the champions league for a year and a half shows how much they can do when still not playing at full capacity

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  • 237. At 5:35pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "The wannabe's, pensioners and nobodies that Barcelona proved incapable of scoring against last season. Honestly, the stupidity of some people is frightening. "


    So you, as an objective supporter, were satisfied with your team's performance against Barcelona over the 2 legs. Same against Chelsea, same against Roma, same throughout this season. They give you the impression and assurance of a team that is one of the best in Europe.

    Especially after last night everyone will be terrified coming to Old Trafford I assure you.

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  • 238. At 5:35pm on 11 Dec 2008, danwhitworth wrote:

    also the comments on rooney being a thug and needing to cut the physical side of his game out is just stupid, the will to fight and show aggression is what puts him above others, i dont see anyone calling gattuso a thug. its exactly what you need in a team and soon it will all be blocked out and we will be left with the namby pamby footballers like pires or a majority of the italian team excluding gattuso.

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  • 239. At 5:38pm on 11 Dec 2008, LSR wrote:

    I'm a United Fan but recognise that Barcelona are the big favourites and team to beat this year. After that there's United, Inter, Bayern and Liverpool. I don't think Arsenal can do in one of the above mentioned over two legs, and Chelski just aren't that good any more (in European terms). If Barca stay injury free, i don't think anyone will beat them to this title.

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  • 240. At 5:40pm on 11 Dec 2008, sensationalbodhran wrote:

    If you can hold Aalborg on your own patch, why would you fear anyone else?

    Let's face it, United have drawn twice with Villareal and once with the mighty Celtic, so Barca and the others, including Bayern (the winners) should not prove to be a problem

    It all makes perfect sense.

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  • 241. At 5:47pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "how you can say scholes, giggs, ferdinand, vidic and berbatov not world class is laughable and shows how much you dont know about world football, scholes and giggs are two of the greatest and most proffesional footballers to ever grace the game."

    Don't get me started on Scholes and Giggs, they may have been decent a decade or so ago but why they are still on a football pitch is beyond me.


    "Man Utd still seem to be able to top their group even though they havent hit top form and them not being beaten in the champions league for a year and a half shows how much they can do when still not playing at full capacity"

    Haha that's how we've learnt to call playing poorly now - NOT FULL CAPACITY

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  • 242. At 5:59pm on 11 Dec 2008, Isle of Manc wrote:

    NikosBg, you are arguing a lost cause. The fact is, that results are the only thing that matter, and that's why United won the Champions League last season, and Barca didn't.

    And those FIFA rankings you posted earlier were utter rubbish. It ranked Barcelona top with Liverpool and Man Utd tied for second. I'll just ignore the fact that Barcelona are not the best team in the world, but how can Liverpool and United be on the same level. We have won the Premier League back to back and won the Champions League last season, while Liverpool have won nothing since 2005.

    It's obvious that English teams are dominant in the Champions League, and if you can't see that then you must be blind. I'm confident that United, Chelsea, and Liverpool(Arsenal are too unpredictable at the moment) could beat any of the other teams remaining over two legs. Just wait a few months, and we'll argue again after Chelsea have knocked Barcelona out.

    Your argument claiming Barcelona are the best team in the world is just laughable. Madrid have won La Liga for the past two seasons, so Barca aren't even the best in Spain.

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  • 243. At 6:06pm on 11 Dec 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    All teams have a chance of winning the title.
    Porto proved that in 2004.
    Yes some teams have more chance than others such as Man Utd, Barca, Chelsea etc.

    But that is why football is such a great game.
    It is not gaurantee that they will win it.
    Any team can beat anybody else with luck, determination and hard work. (skill too).

    People seem to suggest that English teams are gauranteed to win it or get to the final at least.
    Would they put their house on the line for that. Doubt it.

    Nobody knows who will win it.
    I wouldn't be shocked to see Bayern vs Real or Juventus vs Lyon.
    Its not a huge possibility but there is a chance.

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  • 244. At 6:09pm on 11 Dec 2008, danwhitworth wrote:

    scholes has a better footballing brain than nearly any player playing in world football today.

    so manchester united drawing with Aalborg is terrible and they can never win the trophey with results like that but barcelona are great even though they lose to Shakhtar Donetsk where is the logic behind this argument?

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  • 245. At 6:09pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Mate I tell ya, every top side will be HORRIFIED coming to O/T to face the world superstars Gary Neville, Wes Brown, Rafael, Scholes, Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Anderson, Possebon, Gibson, Evans, Park, o'Shea, Fletcher, Manucho and Wellbeck.

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  • 246. At 6:17pm on 11 Dec 2008, popperaccio wrote:

    re 234

    I want to see how well the revamped Europa League fares next season before properly thinking about how the champo format could be rejigged.

    If the new branding and commercial rights packages are successful then I would like to see that become the 'stock' money making euro comp and leave the champions league solely for the champions.

    You said that we'd never get back to a competition that just involves champions because of the money and prestige.

    If the Europa package opens up the 'minor' league markets and starts making serious money then there might be a sliver of a chance they could move back to a champions only tournament which would then carry greater prestige?

    To facilitate the europa package making anywhere close to the amount of money the champo makes then Platini's proposal has to ensure that a fair few big fish end up in the europa league...

    If that does happen, then who knows. If Platini continues with his personal, not money related, agenda of making the champions cup a true elite comp and manages to make the europa league a highly profitable venture then i think it could happen. Even if the chances of it happening are small i would never say never.

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  • 247. At 6:17pm on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Madeiraman

    Adelaide United wouldnt even have a prayer of qualifying for the CL, the Asian section is far weaker than UEFA, as i posted earlier they would get beat by Anderlecht and Rangers and they didnt even reach round 3 of qualy.
    The poster earlier who said these people were crackpots is 100% correct.

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  • 248. At 6:27pm on 11 Dec 2008, Isle of Manc wrote:

    NikosBg, despite all your claims that United are rubbish, and that Barca are the best team in the world, only one of them won the Champions League last year. And what was the point in naming our reserve team while trying to prove that nobody will be scared of facing us.

    I'm pretty sure that almost every team that finished second in their group will be terrified of coming to Old Trafford and facing the likes of Rio, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, and Berbatov.

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  • 249. At 6:53pm on 11 Dec 2008, JM75UK wrote:

    #203

    Get my facts right?!?!? Says the person who thinks Shakhtar Donetsk are miles better than Prem teams who have al been to finals in recent seasons.

    I got one fact slightly wrong,where as you just spout absolute drivel simply because you are a jelous wum who can't take the fact that English teams are kicking backside in the worlds biggest club competition.

    Now get back to the asylum,they have a nice straight jacket and a warm padded cell waiting for you.

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  • 250. At 7:04pm on 11 Dec 2008, Shkelto wrote:

    sorry for changing the subject there might even be a separate forum for this I dunno... well there should be ...What about Rooney's behaviour last night. Might seem a bit unrealistic, but if that stamp is acouple of inches higher, it was potential career ender and the second tackle which i think was on Jakobsen is a red card in itself... His dashing good looks shouldn't stop a ban being put in place... At least 5 games I reckon.

    Anyway back to the point... with or without Rooney for the next 5 games I struggle to see past United and possibly Chelsea... and you can't tell what's goin to happen with Rafa's Reds. Talk of Barca I see it as rubbish...defence is too leaky and just not good enough to get past any of the English top 3... I think too that even with their "dream strike force", they'll struggle to get past the gritty backlines of the PL sides...especially Liverpool for that matter.

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  • 251. At 7:04pm on 11 Dec 2008, JM75UK wrote:

    "And those FIFA rankings you posted earlier were utter rubbish. It ranked Barcelona top with Liverpool and Man Utd tied for second. I'll just ignore the fact that Barcelona are not the best team in the world, but how can Liverpool and United be on the same level. We have won the Premier League back to back and won the Champions League last season, while Liverpool have won nothing since 2005".

    --------------------------------------------------------

    This is because in the last four years Liverpool have been to two finals and a semi final which urinates all over Man U and Barca's record. In terms of winning things I hate to tell you this but there are only two European trophies to win each season. Going by what you said the rankings should only have 2 teams in it each season.

    Doh!!!!!



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  • 252. At 7:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, danchu_uk wrote:

    Just been having a read through some of the responses on this blog, maybe read about 20, and to be honest can't believe what I am reading. A lot of you people are really negative. We got 4 teams through to the knock out stages, and no one of them has hit top form yet this season, that can only be a good thing.

    You gotta realise guys, these top, and not so top european sides, are not just gonna roll over for our millionairre premiership boys. In fact for many of them it is a dream come true to come and play england's finest in the home of the beautiful game. Our teams have to overcome players, who think all their christmas' have come at once, just by gracing the turf, and an Old Trafford, or Stamford Bridge.

    English dominence has been creeping into the CL for some time now, think we have had 75% of the semi finalists for the last 3 years, and long may it continue.

    As for predictions, I think it will come down to squad strength in the end, and think that will hit the Arsenal earliest. As for the rest, injuries, suspensions, players getting into scraps with each other. God knows what'll happen, but I know it's gonna be a lot fun finding out.

    A Man U fan, but good luck to all the english clubs, including Arsegrrrrrrrrrnal, lol.

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  • 253. At 7:11pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Now that Danny Wellbeck is fit he's very much in the first-team picture." - Alex Ferguson

    Europe watch out.

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  • 254. At 7:17pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    #203

    "Get my facts right?!?!? Says the person who thinks Shakhtar Donetsk are miles better than Prem teams who have al been to finals in recent seasons."

    If you're referring to me I said Donetsk have round about the same quality as England's big 4.

    The only reason the latter are progressing is the infamous seeding. Were ANY of them seeded no.2, or drawn in any of the 2 groups of death, it is extremely doubtful that they would manage to outqualify the likes of Donetsk, Marseille or Zenit.

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  • 255. At 7:19pm on 11 Dec 2008, malunited wrote:

    NikosBg, you are contradicting yourself now.

    "For results to be a reliable indication of performance you need a sample of more than 30 matches or so."

    That is roughly the season. Barca did not even win the La Liga last season. They did not even come second. They came third behind Villareal.

    Whats the purpose of fancy football and all these intricate passing in your own penalty area if you cannot even get the ball into the opponents goal?

    Of course results are what matters at the end of the day. For all the fancy footwork, if you cannot beat your opponents then you are not good enough. For all the World Class players in the side, if you do not win, then it is pointless to argue.
    Arsenal play the most attractive football in the EPL yet they have not won much. Liverpool did not play the most attractive football yet they beat AC Milan in the final.

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  • 256. At 7:41pm on 11 Dec 2008, JM75UK wrote:

    "If you're referring to me I said Donetsk have round about the same quality as England's big 4.

    The only reason the latter are progressing is the infamous seeding. Were ANY of them seeded no.2, or drawn in any of the 2 groups of death, it is extremely doubtful that they would manage to outqualify the likes of Donetsk, Marseille or Zenit".

    --------------------------------------------------------

    If you believe that then if I was you I would get the doctor to change your medication as it has obviously warped your mind.

    In recent seasons Liverpool have had teams in their group that have actually WON the CL,you don't get past those teams without quality regardless of seedings.

    The fact of the matter is that you are either a loon,someone who knows jack about football or someone who is merely a sad wum with too much time on their hands.

    Personally I think its a combination of all three,do us all a favour and stop posting you are becoming boring and also embarrassing yourself with statements like

    "it is extremely doubtful that they would manage to outqualify the likes of Donetsk, Marseille or Zenit"."

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  • 257. At 7:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Forget what the pundits say and all the media hype surrounding certain players, it's what they do to earn their money, open your eyes and see what's happening on the pitch.

    One mediocre performance in the group stage might be an off day. FIVE mediocre performances mean that your teams are simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH to compete at the highest level.

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  • 258. At 7:46pm on 11 Dec 2008, nextyearisouryear wrote:

    You have to give nicosbg 10/10 for persistence. Over 250 posts and NOBODY

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  • 259. At 7:47pm on 11 Dec 2008, nextyearisouryear wrote:

    ...shares his views, Yet he still continues talking the biggest load of tripe ive ever heard. If it wasnt so sad it would be amusing.

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  • 260. At 7:54pm on 11 Dec 2008, ajwad10 wrote:

    Liverpool chelsea and manchester united have the ability and will most probably wipe the floor with 9 teams out of ten in europe.
    Arsenal have been in the finals in 2006 which they lost but apart from that there hasn't really been a lot of success in europe.
    I just can't see Arsenal going into a tie as clear favourites.

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  • 261. At 7:56pm on 11 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Danchu_uk, good post about the smaller teams, in any sport the smaller teams always raise their game against bigger and better opposistion, they still may not be good enough yet they cannot and simply will not roll over and perish easily, minnows they may be yet they have spirit and fight in them.
    Take BATE Borisov for example, on Champions League Weekly after the first round of group matches they were saying how BATE Borisov didnt exist 20 years ago, now they have had the opportunity to play against Real Madrid and Juventus, they will greatly benefit from this experience and it may put some of their players in the shop window. Famagusta have pocketed 20 Million quid from this Champions League run, for a team like that to get that sort of money plus the prospects of earning even more for a club in Cyprus is like having R Abramovich buying them, with that incintive they arent going to roll over are they.

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  • 262. At 8:05pm on 11 Dec 2008, exquisitearsenal wrote:

    A very well-expressed, articulate article, with some valid points concerning the so called 'big four' but, as an Arsenal fan, i seem to be aggrieved on a regular basis by such posts. I don't know anyone, bar Arsenal fans who has any belief or confidence in Arsenal advancing beyond the first knock-out round in the Champions league or rectifying their mistakes in the Premier league. Arsenal may be lacking in some areas but that doesn't explain the perpetual criticism directed at the club; i think people see the youngsters' inexperience, notice their potential vulnerability and, as a result, feel it is safe to express unfair opinions and undermine Arsenal's progress in recent seasons because they recognise that a retaliation is unlikely. Arsene Wenger is in possession of some masterful management qualities and defends his team with admirable force, however he is not one to deter the pundits and sports journalists from making harsh, humiliating comments about his team. In that sense he could be neglecting his team's pride as it is easy to be influenced by the overpowering omnipresence of the media in football.

    However, Wenger is not all to blame. The media seem to, inexplicably ignore the positives surrounding Arsenal football club and actually take Arsenal's majestic football for granted, an attitude that is unforgivable. They give Manchester United, Chelsea and even Liverpool praise when it is deserved but omit Arsenal from their collective appreciation.

    I sincerely hope we can make an imminent recovery to prove the critics wrong. We have shown we can compete with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, but must introduce consistency into our game. Arsenal's lacklustre performance in the Champions league against Porto does not negate the threat we may pose in the latter stages of that competition as some papers suggested. For now, though, i think it is necessary to concentrate on listening tto the manager's guidance and maintaining a level of performance that ensures we pick up three points in most matches. Nothing else on the subject of football.

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  • 263. At 8:08pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Twinkletotsie

    Sorry but Iniesta and xavi are not the best players at Barcelona.

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  • 264. At 8:11pm on 11 Dec 2008, Djemba-Djemba-Djemba wrote:

    NikosBG -

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, I needed to thank you for all your posts, you've made my day. The way you've stirred up so many people by making all those obviously ludicrous and unsupportable comments is just hilarious. I mean, most people realised that the Ossie guy was just having a laugh, but everyone seemes to have taken YOU seriously! I give you massive respect as the comedy genius you obviously are. Fantastic.

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  • 265. At 8:15pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Nikos you know nothing about football. No teams in Europe have been outstanding yet.

    Barcelona are doing well but have had a very medicore group of teams to play including Basel who have the worst defence of any team in it.

    Villareal and Atletico both came second to English teams. Real Madrid who are in trouble came second to an average Juventus side.

    Fiorentina didnt win a game, Inter were pants. We all know Roma never get anywhere and will be beaten in the knockout stage once again.

    Bayern have done well, Lyon quite well but again Lyon never get anywhere despite the hype each year they get to the KO stage.



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  • 266. At 8:21pm on 11 Dec 2008, backofthekop2 wrote:

    NikosBg, Please stop posting.

    Barcelona the best team in the world? And then you claim they are the best team of all time (91-2007). That really is laughable. As a Liverpool fan I would have to say Real Madrid are probably the best team of all time.

    Liverpool may not have done that great against Athletico, but they still finished on 14 points, the last time I looked Barcelona finished on 13 points in the easiest group.

    I find it kind of funny that you can come on here having a bash at English clubs for relying on forgeigners to succeed. The next minute you say that Barcelona are the best and that Messi will destroy all the english clubs. Pot calling the kettle?

    I think any of the teams could potentially win the tournament apart from the odd few who would need a lot of luck. But it's not out of reach for any of the english teams.

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  • 267. At 8:23pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    All top 4 sides in England have been in the final since 2005. Can Spain or Italy say that?

    Only Barcelona and Ac Milan have got to a final.

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  • 268. At 8:23pm on 11 Dec 2008, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    The great thing about the knockout phase is that one below-par performance and you could be gone.

    Chelsea cannot afford a Roma away or carelessness at home, while Manchester United cannot be as wasteful in front of goal as they have been.

    Liverpool, a defeat to Benfica in 2006 apart, have been outstanding once they have hit the knockout stages.

    And Arsene Wenger still believes his Arsenal side can beat anyone, despite my reservations (which I am sure are a source of huge concern to him!!)

    Listening to the experts, it appears Barcelona are the team to beat, but everyone seems to have choice of their own at the moment.

    For me, that element of danger offered by the two-legged tie gives the competition an added lustre. I cannot wait to see some of the matches that will be made in the last 16.

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  • 269. At 8:33pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    I remember in 2006 when Arsenal were doing very poorly just as bad as they are now. Everyone was saying Real Madrid would knock them out easily.

    We all know what happened in Spain.

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  • 270. At 9:07pm on 11 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "I remember in 2006 when Arsenal were doing very poorly just as bad as they are now. Everyone was saying Real Madrid would knock them out easily.

    We all know what happened in Spain."


    You clearly don't remember very well.

    Arsenal then finished their group with 5 wins and one draw. They had shown some signs of quality in their side. And if I recall they weren't struggling deep in mediocrity against the likes of Kyiv/Fenerbache/Porto as they do currently, or Liege/Marseille/Celtic/Aalborg/Cluz/Roma/Bordeaux/Atletico like the other 3 of the so-called big 4.

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  • 271. At 9:29pm on 11 Dec 2008, LondonsFinestClub wrote:

    Chelsea have been competing for most of the season without Drogba, Essien, Carvalho and Joe Cole. Added to that the team has had to adapt to a new style of football. For people to say Chelsea will struggle is a little premature. Arsenal had to rely on a goal that wasn't and Liverpool a deflection. Chelsea are happier where they are than United, who only managed 10 points in total despite finishing top of their group. If Rooney is rightly charged by Uefa and suspended, United will be without one of their three most influential players, Chelsea have been able to afford such absentees, will United be able to do the same? Arsenal are hard to call but rely ver heavily on Fabregas, who if man marked can't deliver as he would like to, added to that their defence is suspect. Liverpool are the most consistent team in England at present, Benitez is a sneaky tactician and knows how to smother superior opposition. Chelsea have the most room for improvement and the most potential, United on the other hand should be without Rooney for at least 1 match because it was intentional and violent, and he did it twice!! Did he escape because the officials bottled it and if so, why? How many penalties have been against United at Old Trafford in recent years? How many red cards have they received or bookings for mouthing off to the ref. or officials? We all know if Rooney had been sent off that Ferdinand would've gone bezerk as always and Ferguson would've had a pop at the officials. United have become petulent, aggressive and often unaccountable. Uefa have the benefit of technology to review Rooney's behaviour and the Ref's ineptitude. These decisions or lack of them stink and this sort of behaviour is not acceptable and not what we want our kids to witness. Drogba was rightly banned for three matches for his behaviour and Rooney should be subject to the same process. Precedents need to set and adhered to!

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  • 272. At 9:50pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Nikos,

    Who won the group, Atletico or Liverpool.

    Who won the group, Manchester Unted or Villareal?

    Thats half of Spains teams in the competition finishing below the English teams. Madrid also poor.

    Inter qualified with only 8 points in a group of mediocre teams yet are dominating Serie A.

    Can you imagine Man United losing to Panithaniakos and Bremen in consecutive games?

    Arsenal were universally panned before they played Madrid in 2006 they were doing badly in the league and not given a chance to beat Madrid, you have the short memory.

    When it comes to the UEFA cup Russian teams have done as well as the Spanish, with two recent wins.

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  • 273. At 10:17pm on 11 Dec 2008, blueamsterdam wrote:

    Always makes me laugh when the Jocks write about English arrogance (media etc)..

    The reason they think this is because most scottish born people are living south of the border and reading English papers!

    I have lived in footballing several countries and they ALL spout off when they do well...it's what sells papers!

    Arguing against English people on here regarding whether the English teams are the strongest in Europe right now makes you look ridiculous...as they statistically are....end of.

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  • 274. At 11:24pm on 11 Dec 2008, gringo Loco wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 275. At 11:30pm on 11 Dec 2008, zolamagic wrote:

    Man United won't win it. They haven't been convincing enough either domestically or in Europe and thats with a more or less full strength squad. Considering they have three quality strikers, they seem to be struggling to find the net.

    Liverpool, have been riding their luck recently, don't seem to have the strength and depth with in their squad. Too many average players and their bench isn't much too look at. They have scored the least amount of goals at home this season out of the top four teams, it's a matter of time before Chelsea righly reclaim THEIR place at the top.

    Arsenal, well they've been blowing hot and cold this season. I don't think they have what it takes to win the CL, not enough consitentcy, but you never know they've won some big games.

    This obviously sounds biased but just think about it.

    If any English club has what it takes it's got to be Chelsea. They have coped well with many players injured; Carvalho, Essien, Drogba, Joe Cole, Ballack, Deco. Despite losing at home to Arsenal and Liverpool they have set ANOTHER record, this time 11 away games undefeated. Drogba and Joe Cole are back, Essien and Carvalho soon as well. Fringe players have hade the opportunity to make their mark in the first team during this period.

    It couldn't be a better scenario for Chelsea, Christmas around the corner with the team nearly back to full strength and they can put the so far disappointing CL campaign behind them for the time being. Bring on February.

    All this talk about whether the English clubs are the strongest in Europe is ridiculous. It is quite apparent English clubs are dominating European football at present. All you have to do is look at the sorts of players that are coming to the PL. It certainly isn't for the weather now is it.

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  • 276. At 11:45pm on 11 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Its too early to judge the teams now anyway. 2 months is a long time in football and the Janaury transfer window will also have an effect.

    Anyone who thinks Barcelona have their name on the trophy is jumping the gun.

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  • 277. At 11:55pm on 11 Dec 2008, Smirk wrote:

    The only team who have played at their normal level this season has been Liverpool. They are not playing much better than normal, it is the dip in form of the other three that has allowed them to top the table.
    I do agree that the English four (and I use English in the loosest possible way) have reason to be optimistic. Now that we're into the knock-out phase, the competition is open to anyone, but like FA cup, we might get a non-premiership side into the semis or even the finals, but how many have won it?

    Unless young Cesc surprises us by becoming a giant within the dressing room, and they avoid injury, the Gunners are too inconsistent. They can beat anyone on the day, so I'm not counting them out, but I'd rather keep my money in my pocket.

    Liverpool are much more consistent and Benitez has proved that he has a gift for cup competitions, especially the European ones. With Torres injured however, I think they lack the cutting edge that would take them through. They have come to rely too much on him, much as they have on Gerrard. With either injured Liverpool suffer, so much depend on their form, and we don't know how well/ quickly Torres will recover.

    Chelsea have more strength than ever. With Drogba finding fitness again, and Deco back in the frame, and Anelka in the form of his life, they are still the side to beat in the Premiership, and will be one of the sides no-one wants to face in the knock-out phase. The returning players will restore much of the confidence lost after a shaky start, but points dropped in both Premiership and Champions League have exposed defensive frailties you would never have seen under Mourinho. You can't doubt the opposition will be studying every mistake Chelski make in their weekly games.

    ...and finally the current Champions. As a Man U fan, I will readily admit I'm biased. We still miss Van Nistelroy, with neither Rooney, Tevez nor Berba being prolific goal-scorers (Tevez being the closest). Ronaldo has made up that gap with his flickr feet and goals to boot. He's still recovering, but nearing his best (and Man U have relied far too much on his skill and so looked lacklustre this season without him). It was going to be hard to live up to the standards set in defence last season, but confidence will grow once Ronaldo puts us back on dominating (not just winning) ways. I still have high hopes for Nani and Anderson, and injuries to Hargreaves and Carrick have limited our options.

    With Messi in scintillating form, I agree that Barca is the biggest obstacle, but I'd be nervous about the great strategist Mourinho and the potential of the Inter squad, and the quality of Bayern. Both these others are doing well in their leagues and full of confidence.

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  • 278. At 00:25am on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Talking fact and not fiction: What we have seen so far in the competition is all 4 English teams having serious problems against the so-called 2nd seeds of their groups - Atletico, Porto, Villareal and Roma - and regularly struggling performance-wise against the weaker sides - Liege, Aalborg, Cluz, Bordeaux, Celtic, Kiev, Marseille and Fenerbache.

    So would the same teams be able to cope if they came head to head with the stronger clubs in the competition? The serious contenders?

    The answer is: Yes they could. If god fell asleep like he did in '99 and '05 they could. The icebergs might also melt and WW3 commence on the same day.

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  • 279. At 01:02am on 12 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Nikos the blinkers on again.

    Inter struggled as top seeds

    Madrid struggled as top seeds.

    The Spanish teams are meant to be as good as the English teams as you claim yet both finished SECOND to English teams, Atletico and Villareal.

    Villareal are Second in Spain.

    The English teams were all top seeds for a REASON.

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  • 280. At 01:07am on 12 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Arsenal destroyed Porto 4-0 and Fenerbache 2-5. Manchester United beat celtic easily 3-0.


    Villareal lost to Celtic,
    Inter lost to Panathinakos AND bremen
    Roma lost to Cluj
    Barcelona lost to Donesk
    Madrid lost to Juventus home AND away.
    Fiorentina won 1 game.

    There were only two English defeats out of the 4 clubs entire list of games. They were against Roma and Porto, hardly pub teams.

    Nikos you live in a world of illusion and double standards.

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  • 281. At 02:17am on 12 Dec 2008, dandolinho wrote:

    nikos, 1 more, how many games did liverpool loose in their group n how many did barca loose?

    who had the tougher group?

    results matter m8, its wot we love football for, simple as, u watch to see ur team win, u dont go to watch nice football only to loose.

    u have a great amount of passion for ur club n on THIS seasons performances u have very right to b confident but RESULTS are what have made u confident... remember that

    i think i speak for everyone tonight in saying that we need a regular blog from u, u are crackin us up :P

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  • 282. At 02:36am on 12 Dec 2008, Williedaho wrote:

    People should really give this a rest.
    Everybody has their own team to support and their favourite to win the Champion's League.
    Maybe ye can talk about about (wait I mean argue, A LOT) once it gets closer to May.

    Usually the group stages are not what determines who wins or gets to the final anyway.
    Most team get enough points to just qualify, whether 1st or 2nd.
    It doesn't matter until the knockout phase for most managers anyway.

    Hell you could play all 6 group match win 6 and score a load of goals.
    it makes for good reading on paper but nobody can maintain form like that for a whole season. The greats of the past have their ups and downs, so what makes these teams go 6 months invinsible.
    I personally say, they peaked too soon.

    People say Barcelona, Man Utd, Chelsea, but there is still more than 2 months to the knock out stage,
    Injuries, poor form, arguments, suspensions (Rooney possible banning for foul play?) can dictate who really is gonna do well.

    Can we talk about something else now,
    Until at least next Friday until the draw is announced.

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  • 283. At 03:43am on 12 Dec 2008, Sevenseaman wrote:


    Based on general overall form I have devised my own temperamental seeding of teams. It is based simply on my idea of their current form or the impression I have of it and is not related to any outside feeds or how the teams have finished.
    1. Barcelona
    2. Manchester United
    3. Liverpool
    4. Inter Milan
    5. Juventus
    6. Bayren Munich
    7. Real Madrid
    8. Arsenal
    9. Chelsea
    10. Villareal
    11. Roma
    12. Athletico
    13. Porto
    14. Sporting
    15. Lyon
    16. Panathinaikos
    How do you see it?

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  • 284. At 07:21am on 12 Dec 2008, Stat_Boy wrote:

    I think the problem here is that people are taking way too much out of the Champions League Group Stages, i mean seriously, as long as your're through to the 2nd Round, there is nothing to worry about. To win the Champions League you have to beat the best eventually.

    Also we're forgetting that these 2nd Round ties are played in February, so much can change in that time, there is the January transfer window to worry about as well. You want to be playing your best football in February, March and April, not in November and December when it's not as important.

    Here's my Top 10 Teams in Europe as of now.

    1] Barcelona
    2] Inter Milan
    3] Liverpool
    4] Juventus
    5] Manchester United
    6] Bayern Munich
    7] Roma
    8] Chelsea
    9] Vilarreal
    10] AC Milan

    If you have a look at my Top 10, AC Milan isn't even in the Champions League, but they're equal 2nd in Serie A, and are through to the next Round of the UEFA Cup.

    How can teams like Real Madrid and Lyon be in the Top 10??
    Lyon have lost 3 matches in a row in all competitions, and Real Madrid have lost 2 of their last 3 and are leaking too many goals.

    My rankings will change depending on results, but i think League form at this stage of the season should be taken into account more than the one off Champions League matches, which is why i have my team Inter Milan at 2nd, because in the League, we've beaten Udinese, Juventus, Napoli and Lazio in our last 4 games, all Top 8 sides in Serie A.

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  • 285. At 07:57am on 12 Dec 2008, thehandofblog wrote:

    Many seem to think that Liverpool's recent achievements in Europe make them a good bet also for this year. But it's worth bearing in mind that for the first time Benitez will take Liverpool into the knockout stages of the Champions League with his Premier League hopes still alive. I believe that Benitez's European success with Liverpool is for that reason overrated and that with the dual Premier/Champions League focus to deal with they will flounder in both.



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  • 286. At 08:58am on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    Phil, interesting article and all though it pains me to say it, I think you are right to be dissmissive of Arsenal of winning the tournemant itself.

    I think in England we have become a little 'blinkered' about our teams. I would advise against ignoring the Spanish teams this year.

    Barcelona on current form are for me the best team in Europe. There is no real doubt about that. Some of their performances this season (particularly their 6-1 demolition of Atletico) have been simply breathtaking.

    Real Madrids season has been described as 'a crisis' but in reality there biggest problem is there incredible bad run of injuries (heres hoping that Ruben de la Red will be okay, even if he is not able to play again). Once their injury list clears up and with the addition of Huntelaar and who knows who else, they will be tough opposition again.

    Villareal have proven to me that they are capable of a surprise, more so then Atletico. I think Atletico, like Arsenal, are about to come unstuck (particularly with no home crowd at their next home game) but Villareal are an exciting team capable of some really entertaining football and with the old men of Pires and Senna leading the midfield alongside young guns like Rossi and Cazorla anything is possible.

    Away from Spain, Bayern have shown that they will be a tough nut to crack and of course, there is always the spectre of Inter Milan led by 'The Special One'.

    Its not all that easy for the english clubs, and we shouldnt be surprised if none of the teams reach the final.

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  • 287. At 09:16am on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    One other thing, some posters seem to think that English Football is dominating Europe at this time.

    Lets not be fooled. Financially yes, there is no doubt there. But look at facts.

    Since United won the CL in 1999, english teams have won 4 UEFA titles (2 differant teams), Spanish clubs have won 7 (4 differant teams).

    If you take the top four teams from each league, there is no doubt that the strength of our top 4 is greater - but so is the gap between our top 4 and the rest of our league.

    If you take the top 10 from Spain and compare them to the top 10 in England, I am sorry but English football behind the top 4 is lacking any real strength or quality overall. The variety of clubs that qualify each year from Spain is a testament to their strengh of depth in clubs. How many years have we asked can any other club finish higher than fifth in england?

    Further proof of that will come when we play Spain next year - if the FA can decide where they are not too scared to play!

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  • 288. At 09:35am on 12 Dec 2008, gringo Loco wrote:

    England get 4 seeded teams because of their recent performances. ALL 4 have been finalists, and are perenial qualifiers for the knockout stakes.

    How can Barca be no 1 in the World when the've won nothing since 2006.

    The big 4 are fielding reserves (as are Barca and others) because they are already qualified for the knockout stages.

    In Barca's case, they will have a rested team to play Real Madrid on Saturday anbd confirm Schuster's comment that it is impossible for Real to win. It will be a harsh christening for Juande Ramos.

    The big 4 do not show more respect for the FA cup, but they will if UEFA have their way of 3 from the league plus the cup winners. This would bring back the prestige to the cup. The oldest club competition in world football.

    There are too many restrictions to the draws. Let's have the 4 pots, but no other restrictions. And the knockout stage round one 8 group winners agains 8 runners up. Man U gainst Chelsea in the next round would be great footy.

    Aguero, this kid is gonna be some player if he continues his development. Especially if his father-in-law has any say in the matter!

    Let's see the draw and the close of the window, then get down to real cup football. yummy Yummy.

    Bring on Barca in January, they could play in gloves and bobble hats, in the snow.

    Robbo, how about a blog about everybody wearing gloves etc.

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  • 289. At 10:50am on 12 Dec 2008, Can You Smell What Bassong is Cooking?! wrote:

    Enough with the bashing of the English clubs. Teams in Italy and Spain have also been average in their groups. Nobody has really looked that special in the groups stages. Man Utd to retain it, as much as i hate to say it.

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  • 290. At 10:56am on 12 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Alex Ojideagu

    2 comments i slighty disagree on with your posts

    1 - About the English sides finishing ahead of the Spanish sides, i know trying to have an argument with Nikos is extremely difficult, and his comments are silly yet tbh one would expect Man Utd and Liverpool to both finish ahead of Atletico Madrid, they have superior squads.

    2 - 'Lyon never quite get anywhere after the group stages'.
    What is a good CL Campaign for Lyon, they may be moving into a new 70,000 stadium soon, they may have some top players and the success they have had over the last 5 years in Europe has been impressive, yet Lyons problem is that even like Bayern they are a selling club, look at the teams they have had in the past, and the players that departed them, Essien, Diarra, Edmilson, Probably Toulalan, Benzema and Lloris also in the future, maybe you could argue that with their ability to continue producing good teams in spite of being a selling club that hey should have made the semis at least one/two seasons out of the past 5 seasons yet tbh they deserve credit for their ability to continue reproducing their teams in spite of others lapping up their talent.

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  • 291. At 11:04am on 12 Dec 2008, Monjo wrote:

    A few points since I commented before:
    1) To argue that MUFC, CFC, LFC, and AFC are "lesser" sides because the Premiership's overall standard is below Italy's or Spain's leagues is just ludicrous. Whether the league argument is true or not.

    2) All 4 Premiership sides are packed with quality players, English, British, and other. If the German league had the most players at the Euros, then maybe that reflects the fact that England, Scotland, Wales, RoI and Northern Ireland all failed to qualify. Whereas a German league with germans, Austrians, Swiss and Poles was well represented.

    3) At the top end of football the difference between success and failure is very small. England has a smaller population than Brazil, Italy or Germany - and our international record would best be compared with Spain's. It should not be judged soly on wins, but also appearances in SFs and QFs. England is reasonably consistent - but England does have a lack of people who are tidy passers or dribblers.

    This small difference is also why attractive attacking teams flatter to deceive in earkly rounds, before falling later in tournaments: Argentina in WC06, Russia and Holland in Euro08, etc etc.

    4) Liverpool's squad can deal with the Premiership and Champions League. It is a fallacy that players need "rest". Similarly, Arsenal's team is superb and the are capable of raising their game (ask Man Utd and Chelsea). They do not have the consistency for the premiership and are more like how Liverpool were over the last 2 seasons.

    5) A team is not a collection of world class players (think Galacticos). A team is a collection of players who bring the best out of each other. Yes it helps to have a couple of brilliant match winners to decide a tight match. Man United (it pains me to say) is an excellent team - and it has Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, and Berbatov, all of whom can win a match. Meanwhile Van der Sar, Vidic and Ferdinand has been the best defence in Europe over the past 20 months.

    6) Frankly I think the slow, immobile continental defences are all browning their pants with worry of containing pacy, powerful attacking lineups. Barca's and Inter's included.

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  • 292. At 11:14am on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "one would expect Man Utd and Liverpool to both finish ahead of Atletico Madrid, they have superior squads."

    Liverpool's squad superior to Atletico's, are you taking the mickey? They only finished above them because of the 3rd most shocking decision in football history, along with 3 further shockers in the matches between them Re:159

    Liverpool shouldn't even be in the CL, they were played off the park by Liege home and especially away for goodness sake!

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  • 293. At 11:14am on 12 Dec 2008, Monjo wrote:

    @290 : Lyon is a buying club in France and other French teams lose their better players to them.

    @287 : Aston Villa is an emerging side. Tottenham are now finding direction. Man City will have about €500 million to spend over the next 2-3 years. So the depth is coming. The problem with the UEFA cup is that the rewards for doing well in it are less than the financial rewards for finishing a couple of places higher in the Premiership and qualifying for it.

    In Spain where the TV money goes 90% to just 2 clubs, the financial reward from UEFA success makes it more of a priority.

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  • 294. At 11:23am on 12 Dec 2008, King-Dion wrote:

    Personal loyalties aside (I will be lucky if my team qualifies for Europe ever again) it has to be good for English football to have as many of our teams as possible in the semi finals. I hope all four make the semi's and that one of the London clubs wins, preferably Chelsea. But I will be delighted to see any English team lift the trophy in reality.

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  • 295. At 11:38am on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "2) All 4 Premiership sides are packed with quality players, English, British, and other. If the German league had the most players at the Euros, then maybe that reflects the fact that England, Scotland, Wales, RoI and Northern Ireland all failed to qualify. Whereas a German league with germans, Austrians, Swiss and Poles was well represented."

    Indeed who has most players in the Euros doesn't mean much, which makes the question asked void and meaningless. In other words he fell in his own trap.


    "4) Liverpool's squad can deal with the Premiership and Champions League. It is a fallacy that players need "rest". Similarly, Arsenal's team is superb and the are capable of raising their game (ask Man Utd and Chelsea). They do not have the consistency for the premiership and are more like how Liverpool were over the last 2 seasons."

    Liverpool's squad are one of the most shallow in Europe. Not only haven't they got a strong bench, they have virtually NO bench whatsoever. As for Arsenal being able to raise their game, it doesn't mean much, the same can be said for almost every team, I could say the same for Panathinaikos or Werder beating Inter when they needed it for instance.


    "5) A team is not a collection of world class players (think Galacticos). A team is a collection of players who bring the best out of each other. Yes it helps to have a couple of brilliant match winners to decide a tight match. Man United (it pains me to say) is an excellent team - and it has Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, and Berbatov, all of whom can win a match. Meanwhile Van der Sar, Vidic and Ferdinand has been the best defence in Europe over the past 20 months."

    As you said in (2) the quality of a team equals the quality of the players on the pitch. On that basis: Arsenal only have Van Persie who is wasting his career as he deserves better, and possibly Fabregas one click below. ManU and Liverpool have 3-4 world-class players but beyond that they come short, which is not good enough. Chelsea have the highest quality out of the 4 for me but haven't clicked so far also due to injuries.


    "6) Frankly I think the slow, immobile continental defences are all browning their pants with worry of containing pacy, powerful attacking lineups. Barca's and Inter's included."

    People here tend to think that Ferdinand, Vidic, Terry, Garragher are all good defenders. Some even think they are world class! The truth is that they are decent defenders for the football style of the PL. They are good at being physical, heading the ball, and maybe the best at HOOFING the ball, but technically they come short. The are terribly slow, uncomfortable with the ball, and their positioning is poor. WITH THE BALL PLAYED ON THE DECK there are lots of pacy and nippy strikers who can round circles around them, there are several examples when this has happened in the past.

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  • 296. At 11:58am on 12 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Nikos Bg , are you seriously trying to compare Atleticos squad to Liverpool, there is probably only 2 players in the Atletico first team who would get in the first team of Liverpool, thats Maxi Rodriguez in place of Kuyt and Aguero in place of Keane/Riera. The rest of Liverpool's squad is far stronger. Atletico are one of my favorite sides in La Liga along with Sevilla and yet i dont spout off rubbish that their squad is superior to Liverpool's, im sorry its nonsense.
    Liverpool were fortutitous against Standard Liege but thats Liverpool, they get the job done, people who arent Liverpool fans myself included dont particularly like them for it but they get the job done, thats European football for you.

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  • 297. At 11:58am on 12 Dec 2008, Badgie wrote:

    this has to be the most open champions league in years! ALL the big teams have made it through whereas in previous years, juventus have'nt been there, Real didn't make it through last year etc. This year everyone whos in this stage has a chance of winning except maybe panathinaikos and villareal. If i was a betting man i wouldn't know who to put my money on because anyone could win it, lets just hope the Mighty reds of manchester make it though and chelsea and arsenal stutter because that would be great! Liverpool playing well at the moment would they be able to break down a stern defence? we'll have to see...

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  • 298. At 12:03pm on 12 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Nikos Bg

    Are you seriously trying to tell this whole thread that Rio Ferdinand isnt a world class defender, he has been the most consistent player in England over the last 2/3 seasons, better than Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard the lot of them. Also he isnt a so-called English defender who lunges into tackles, he is the nearest thing we have to a Cannavaro/Nesta style libero defender, Ferdinand has natural pace allowing him to sweep the ball away from others without being in a poor posistion to do so. There are not many defenders in Europe like him, only examples i can think of are Nesta, Cannavaro, Carvalho, Meira and Puyol

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  • 299. At 12:08pm on 12 Dec 2008, Pseudo-Viking wrote:

    Mr McNulty
    If you measure a blog's success by the size(not necessarily quality) of the reaction, then well done! You have managed to open a bumper-sized can of worms! I alternate between laughter at some of the ridiculous posts and genuine respect for some of the more insightful.

    I was wondering if you could please give us a reaction to NikosBg - not to each post, of course, but to his (much repeated) line of reasoning and conclusions.

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  • 300. At 12:12pm on 12 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Cyborgia, i am aware that Lyon buy up the cream of Ligue 1's talent, they have the most financial clout, Bodmer, Makoun II are 2 good examples of this, but my point was that Lyon are still a selling club despite impressive performances in the Champions League recently, however, what i will say is that Lyon may be able to buy up the cream of Ligue 1 but tbf you still have to do a half decent job when you do that, PSV are the biggest club in Holland and along with Ajax have the majority of the cash and yet since the Semi Finals in 05 when they nearly beat Milan they have plummeted sharply, they are only 5th in the Eredivisie below McFools FC Twente even!

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  • 301. At 12:22pm on 12 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    Jay Jamie Matt

    Agree with you that it is very open this year and by Febuary, the form of teams can change so dramatically, 2 months is a long time in football. A good post, getting this blog back on topic, can we have more posts like this please.

    A sidenote though, do not ignore Villarreal, they may have bored the pants off us against United this season but they have a difficult to pierce defense and some good players like Nihat, Rossi, Pires is still top draw, i think until Wenger bought Nasri, he didnt properly replace Pires, whilst Hleb was good he was no Pires imo.
    Panathinikos are probably the weakest team left in the draw, but if they can beat Inter Milan, there obviously is something about them, Ten Cate was the brains behind the attacking genius of Barca 05/06, Rijkaard got the cerdit yet it was Ten Cate's tatics, and in Gilberto Silva they may have pulled off the signing of the season, 1.5 Million, the way he played vs Bremen and Inter was outstanding, Wenger doesnt often get it wrong but with this one i fear he may have.

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  • 302. At 12:53pm on 12 Dec 2008, Boonting wrote:

    I think one thing we have discovered in this blog is that Nikos loves English football.

    What a nut!

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  • 303. At 12:53pm on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    Cyborgia I take your point about Villa. You have to respect Randy Lerner for his handling of the club and O'Neill for his management. Time will tell though if they can really break through and more importantly, hold on to their top players.

    Man City is a funny situation, one wonders what direction they will go and what their owners intentions will be. Aside from Robinho, this January will be their first real indication. But they are unlikely to finish in Europe this year on current form so how can they willhave to work hard to convince more players to come in.

    As for Tottenham, at the moment Harry has them bouncing along, but with Levy in charge there is no stability as far as I am concerned.

    Its true that in Spain the gap between the top two and the rest is massive. And that gap may increase in one respect this January when Valencia can expect a few bids, particularly for Villa and Silva. For all their successes there are many faults here still (violence is still a problem, new allegations of bribery surfaced a week or so a go with clubs, the TV revenue issue as you mention - its not like the other teams are never shown, in fact the other teams are shown just as often as the big two).

    Regarding Lyon for me they have always been an interesting team. As an Arsenal fan, I cant help but to see similarities. Attractive football and lots of exciting players, big in their domestic league but yet to really make that breakthrough in Europe. You get the feeling that like Arsenal, they are just missing that first CL title. Even then, I doubt they will ever stop being a selling club to the rest of Europe - just like Ajax.

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  • 304. At 12:59pm on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    NikosBg to take up one of your points, slightly off the point of the post, but if "Van Persie is wasting his career because he deserves better". How much of his career is wasted by Arsenal and how much of his career is being wasted by injury and suspension?

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  • 305. At 1:12pm on 12 Dec 2008, blueram wrote:

    As regards this whole debate, I have to repeat one of my mantras... "in a Knockout competition, you're either IN or OUT". So far all 4 English clubs are IN.

    Bearing in mind a break of 2 months between rounds, all that matters is that you're still IN and *not*how you got there. Between then and now, top players can be bought, sold, lose form/gain form, get injured; managers move on/changes coaches/go mad...

    FWIW, I think Chelsea have a chance but only if they get Drogba, Essien, Carvalho fully fit and don't lose Lampard and Joe Cole on the way. Man Utd have the squad to do it again if Ronaldo and Rooney stay fit. Arsenal I think lack experience and grit. Liverpool have a great record of over achievement in Europe - as pointed out above, can they do it now that they finally have a League challenge that doesn't look like it will be over by February?

    I would be surprised if there aren't at least 2 English teams in the Semis however. Roll on next Friday - then we'll have something to talk about...

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  • 306. At 1:30pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "NikosBg to take up one of your points, slightly off the point of the post, but if "Van Persie is wasting his career because he deserves better". How much of his career is wasted by Arsenal and how much of his career is being wasted by injury and suspension?"

    He is wasting his career because he has quality and seems to be on top of his game this season, so maybe deserves at least the chance of coming close to winning some silverware, as well as a few teammates of comparable quality around him, certainly not the Denilsons Diabys and Eboues, and the defence that is the laughing stock of Europe at the moment.

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  • 307. At 1:30pm on 12 Dec 2008, jollytinkerman wrote:

    Phil,
    As much as i appreciate what wenger has done for Arsenal, the development of young talents and the attractive style of football, the fact is we have gone three solid seasons without a silverware. That should bother an average arsenal fan.
    With the present team, what bothers me is not even the inconsistency that they have shown, but rather the lack of hunger or desire to win matches. Several times this season after some disheartening performances, you will see Cesc and co smiling and shaking hands, like its normal, just one of those bad days. Thats not the arsenal way, in the past, you couldnt even imagine that in the faces of Viera or Henry, there are just some matches that we have no business drawing or even worse losing. Then i begin to wonder, if Wenger has lost the ability to instill the Arsenal mentality in our young squad..i guess only time will tell.

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  • 308. At 1:32pm on 12 Dec 2008, DougCoglan wrote:

    ...what's the point it'll only be moderated. The truth is out there...

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  • 309. At 1:38pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    Btw what about the news about VDS's contract being renewed. Talk about owners being immersed in debt and getting away with using the ridiculous earnings to write it off. All because of puppet fans resting on their laurels and past glories. Follows in line with renewals for Neville, Scholes and Giggs, and forming a bench full of unknown youngsters.

    Honest, is this the way you think you can be one of the top teams in the world? Not by building a squad packed with the cream of world football?

    Don't get me wrong, VDS was for me one of United's better players for the last few seasons but he'll be as old as Shilton soon.

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  • 310. At 1:56pm on 12 Dec 2008, Nixon Mclane wrote:

    I have no idea why a bit of optimism has been greeted with such negativity. Fair enough, the English media have their agenda and they have their opinions but that doesn’t mean that the 4 teams representing the Premiership are going to perform poorly. I see you’re basing this on results so far. How is this for a comment? Liverpool appear to make a habit of playing badly and making the final.

    In the last two seasons English clubs have performed fantastically well and we have dominated the last 6 years of the competition. All I can see is serious jealousy from rival fans looking in.

    I’m pretty sure all the fans supporing a club in the ECL are optimistic.

    P.s. Whoever said Madrid are a better team than the English clubs should review their performances this season. The only other competition for the ECL outside of the EPL teams comes from Inter and Barca.

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  • 311. At 2:06pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Nikos Bg

    Are you seriously trying to tell this whole thread that Rio Ferdinand isnt a world class defender, he has been the most consistent player in England over the last 2/3 seasons, better than Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard the lot of them. Also he isnt a so-called English defender who lunges into tackles, he is the nearest thing we have to a Cannavaro/Nesta style libero defender, Ferdinand has natural pace allowing him to sweep the ball away from others without being in a poor posistion to do so. There are not many defenders in Europe like him, only examples i can think of are Nesta, Cannavaro, Carvalho, Meira and Puyol"


    Ok here are 4-5 recent incidents that spring to mind without too much thinking, involving the defensive legend called Rio Ferdinand:

    Against Hull this year when the Hull forward -I don't even remember his name, not Marlon King a heavy black guy- left him for dead not only in the penalty incident but 2-3 more times.

    Against Everton this year when for some reason he started giving assists to the Everton midfielders and his blunders were to blame for 2 or 3 openings.

    Against Boro end of last year when an unfit and overweight Afonso Alves made him look like a fool time after time but United got away with it.

    Against Arsenal this year when Bendtner -who is by no means the best striker in the world- should have scored a hat-trick in the first half because of his positioning, enough said.

    Against Zenit when Danny with the ball on the floor had him going one way then the other and beat him single-handedly with remarkable ease - you can easily find the replay of this one and have a good laugh.


    Dedicated with love to those who watch football with their eyes open and don't swallow the media dumbgrass.

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  • 312. At 2:33pm on 12 Dec 2008, Samwell2804 wrote:

    I like how still NikosBg continues with his English Bashing and hatred of all thisngs English or to do with English football and its representatives

    but he still continues to elude questions and put his money where his mouth is!!!!!!!

    he referrd to Real Madrid as a Top team, the same real who are sitting 9PTS adrift in La Liga and who went out of the Copa Del Rey to 3rd div Real Union

    also he still cant put a finger on these World Class players he keeps referring too?!

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  • 313. At 3:01pm on 12 Dec 2008, nextyearisouryear wrote:

    nicosbg wrote:

    "Don't get me wrong, VDS was for me one of United's better players for the last few seasons but he'll be as old as Shilton soon."
    --------------------------------------------------------
    LOL....how is this possible?? does VDS age faster than other human beings?? is his life measured in dog years???

    Seriously though, you will not find anyone who agrees with your views here nicos. Your clearly a bit of a crackpot (or crackhead - not sure which)

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  • 314. At 4:01pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 315. At 4:41pm on 12 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    I must say its nice to see that for possibly the first time ever (most) Man utd, chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool fan seem to be uniting as one against Nikos.

    Nikos you are a legend I must say, your ridiculous and illogical views have kept me entertained over the last 2 days at work.

    As a very bored office worker, I salute you!

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  • 316. At 4:55pm on 12 Dec 2008, The Realist wrote:

    How on earth can some foreign people come here on 606 and claim that Barcelona are the team to beat?

    sorry to rain on their parade but La Liga is a vastly inferior league to the Primier League. Niether Barcelona, Real Mardid or anyone from Spain would finish in the Top 4. It is as simple as that.

    All four english clubs will beat Barcelona and even Pep knows it, Mourinho certinaly knows that this years winner is going to come from England.

    And the last I looked, there wasn't many Spaniards in the Barca and Real teams for the last 25 years so for a Spaniard and a bitter Frenchman to come here and say the same about English clubs is a bit rich.

    The truth of the matter is that outside of England, there are no teams with the killer instinct when the time comes around.

    Man Utd easy favourites.
    Chelsea second favourites.
    Liverpool a very close third favourites.
    Arsenal a distant fourth favourites.
    Barca are fifth favourites but the La Liga style of footbalkl has been rendered absolutely obscelete by the English game.

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  • 317. At 5:19pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    As the previous post has been referred to the moderators (it's a bit censored xXx now that I'm thinking about it), have a look at Rio Ferdinand dancing the zorba whilst singing Duffy's 'Mercy':

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 318. At 5:32pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Man Utd easy favourites.
    Chelsea second favourites.
    Liverpool a very close third favourites.
    Arsenal a distant fourth favourites.
    Barca are fifth favourites "

    You're talking about the FA Cup right? Barcelona aren't in it I'm sorry to inform you, in spite of the FA's expansive plans. And after all this is supposed to be a Champions League board.

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  • 319. At 6:11pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    People I have a conspiracy theory here. What if this looser, NikosBg is actually Phil McNulty or his pal(with all due respect). Have you heard Phil responding to this guy's feedback. Come think of it what better way to promote a blog than to utter such ludicrous and absurd statements about the best teams(EPL) currently on shore in the world. The way he/she seems to watch and know the EPL games may back my hypothesis.

    At first the drivel that NikosBg was "showering " about the current European champions(Man Utd not Barcelona mind you) got me puffed up but i realized that if you argue too much with a fool people won't notice the difference. NikosBg, deep down in your heart you really like and envy Man Utd. Go ahead and admit, it it's not a shame mate. Phil if it's you, you are a genius.
    May the Big 4 progress further and may Man Utd outwit the other 3 to retain the cup. Go United...Go United...Go United.... I know you like this NikosBg.Don't resist.

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  • 320. At 6:25pm on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    Mighty Morfa Power Ranger - firstly I dont know who the spaniard is but I am English. I just happen to live in Madrid!

    With regards to your comments your quote that Arsenal are fourth favourites for the tournement - whilst welcome (I thankyou for the compliment) - are way of beam and show a little ignorance too. I would put Arsenal (my team) closer to seventh or eighth favourites based on the current squads.

    You should re-read my posts, I have never said that the spanish league/game/players were stronger or weaker. I have only given differant perspectives and said that we should not simply write off the other teams. No-one can say who is the stronger league. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. One can only point to a few facts and that is that yes, in recent years the english teams have performed better in the CL whilst the spanish teams have won more trophies.

    I look forward to the drawer and the next round - when the real football begins.

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  • 321. At 6:28pm on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    NikosBg sorry to disagree - perhaps Van Persie can join Chelsea and enjoy picking up those medals from his sick bed.

    As an arsenal fan I love to watch Van Persie play - when he is fit or not suspended in those far too few games of the season when we are granted a view of his talent.

    Arsenals lack of success in recent years has been compunded by people like RvP who are made of nothing more than china - but insist on being paid more and more and more and more and more.

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  • 322. At 6:38pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    Phil are you NikosBg,just feeding the troll. You seem content on moderating my insightful comments to NikosBg.In all of them I have conducted myself properly and haven't resorted to any obscene/derogatory words. Why? do you want this NikosBg drivel to go unabated. Anyway talk is cheap NikosBg,loathe it or not, the Big 4 are through to the next round and let the games decide who the champions would be come May. Man United are the current UEFA champions need i say more. Barcelona are not.simple as that. My advice to NikosBg is live a little mate,life it too short. Bitterness has really enslaved you, break free from those shackles.To tell you the truth, i think if you retain your sanity you might start to be objective. From your responses it seems that you are a regular EPL spectator, keep up the good work mate. I'm taking your hideous comments about Man Utd as a reflection of your envy and attachment to the greatest team in the world("it's just my biased view don't go bashing off other fans.") .United..United..United..I know you can't get enough of this team. Isn't it good.

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  • 323. At 6:51pm on 12 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    NikosBg by the way - regarding Liverpool and Atleticos squad - you seem to forget that Atleticos one or two injuries have seen them collapse in the league. So much for superior. What was it..6-1 at Barcelona? How many games did they go without a goal? Take away Kun and Sinema-Pongolle and they have no strike force. Atletico and Villareal (and I would even say Real Madrid) do not have the quality of strength in depth that the english teams have (aside from Arsenal).

    Of course in a cup competition, anything can happen - as other posters have said. Dont rule anyone out.

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  • 324. At 6:56pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    Please moderators, if you don't want our input, just say so....disappointed

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  • 325. At 7:44pm on 12 Dec 2008, Mandryang wrote:

    I think Barcelona,Bayern and Chelsea are playing the best football in Europe.
    Why are you insisting in Mourinho?Inter will be eliminated in the first knock out round.

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  • 326. At 8:06pm on 12 Dec 2008, Donald Donaldson wrote:

    if i remember correctly it was the season when arsenal scaped fourth place, that they also reached the champions league semi final, the two competitions arent proportional, arsenal can win it, as can any of the other top four.

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  • 327. At 8:38pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 328. At 8:47pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    Oh! i eat my 324 post for the other 2 posts but not for 103.

    anyway NikosBg i want to get under your skin mate. How old are you. As much as I like Barcelona, I get the feeling that they might not make it past the semis. Instead of your EPL whining put your semi predictions and let us meet again on this blog around Mar 2009. For someone who talks too much, you surely are afraid of putting your bets on the table.Can it be a sign of lack of Confidence in your team or just the inevitability posed by the English contingent.

    Put your pride("if you have any") on the line. Thank you.

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  • 329. At 9:40pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Atletico and Villareal (and I would even say Real Madrid) do not have the quality of strength in depth that the english teams have (aside from Arsenal)."

    Hang on a minute mate. What strength in depth are you talking about? And ok, for Chelsea maybe I can accept it, they have plenty of decent internationals. What strength in depth have Liverpool got? Wasn't a good part of that "depth" thrashed by bottom of the league Tottenham a month ago? Who are the "depth", the Keanes, the Benayouns, the Aggers, the Dossenas, the Arbeolas, the Pennants, Aurelios, Lucases, Hyppias, nGogs and the rest I haven't even heard of? Who are they at this level?

    And about United we've said it before. Strong attack, half-decent defence, but they haven't even got a FIRST SQUAD midfield good enough for the highest level of competition, let alone strength in depth.

    Apart from the Chelsea game, have you seen van Persie playing for the Dutch recently? He's the best you've got, I don't think it's wise to want him out.

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  • 330. At 10:10pm on 12 Dec 2008, sawbospur wrote:

    Nikos comments may seem very strange to all you guys on here, but don't worry, those of us who have been on the F1 board are used to his sometimes Racist, biased comments which make me smile just realising that someone can be so deluded!

    I am by no means a Man U fan, in fact domestically I can't stand them, but to claim that they have no world class players is quite frankly laughable and shows a lack of any knowledge.

    Vidic, Ferdinand and Ronaldo would get into any team in Europe. Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov etc all top, top players. I could go on.

    Claiming half the Madrid team are world class is just as laughable. 'Van Gol' was, but he had his best years for Man U, Casillas looks great in Spain but he is not so hot on crosses and I would like to see him try to handle other leagues. Some of their other 'class' players have never proved anything as they can't stay fit for more than a couple of weeks. You only have to watch some of La Liga this year to see how far Barca are ahead to the rest and Madrid are a joke this season(hence the change of manager.... for a manager who failed in the premier league).

    End of the day, No continental team beat a premier league team in the competition last year, and that says it all about the relative strengths of the teams.

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  • 331. At 10:28pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    NikosBg wrote:

    "...And about United we've said it before. Strong attack, half-decent defence, but they haven't even got a FIRST SQUAD midfield good enough for the highest level of competition, let alone strength in depth....."

    The fact that you fear engaging my hypothesis, just shows me that you are a sissy,coward and absolutely deluded. These needless,spiteful jibes aimed at the Man Utd community just reiterates how good the Red devils are. Remember this cliche, when you are average people easily forget your contributions but when you are exceptional your footprint lives on forever( Man Utd,Sir Alex, Jose, etc are examples). Your nagging bubble about Man Utd seals your jealousy in your lonely life.

    The last time I watched Barcelona vs Man Utd, one ingenious Paul Scholes did what your so - called World Class midfielders couldn't replicate. Need I mention that Anderson is currently featuring prominently in the Brazilian team but fights very hard for his position at Old Trafford. Carrick, enough said. Fortunately for you Hargreaves is injured. Fletcher is evidence of the fact that working hard reaps reward. The contemptuous nonchalance of your unfounded allegations really irks me.

    It's a shame that your view of the words "World Class" is so shallow. God Have mercy on this world if there are still such high levels of illiteracy.

    I will say it again,whether you love it or not..Man Utd, with it's so called FIRST SQUAD unfit midfield, brushed aside Barcelona en route to their current coveted, accolade possession. We are the Champions of Europe and England. It's a pity that your derogatory remarks won't change the facts.
    Who has been named the best European player of the year.

    At least you fear standing your ground against a Man Utd fan. I would rip you to shreds and eat you for the breakfast.

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  • 332. At 10:51pm on 12 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Now that Danny Wellbeck is fit he's very much in the first-team picture." - Alex Ferguson

    "It's my dream to play for Real Madrid" - Cristiano Ronaldo

    I don't need to add anything myself.

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  • 333. At 11:03pm on 12 Dec 2008, idoitforfootball wrote:

    I hope we get to see Inter Milan v Chelsea. That would be something! I dont think an english side will win the UCL this time.

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  • 334. At 11:30pm on 12 Dec 2008, Isle of Manc wrote:

    And about United we've said it before. Strong attack, half-decent defence, but they haven't even got a FIRST SQUAD midfield good enough for the highest level of competition, let alone strength in depth.
    ----------------------------------------
    Is this the same "half-decent defence" that conceded the least goals in the Premier League last season...And the same defence that your beloved Barcelona couln't score against even over two legs?

    Also, Paul Scholes, part of United's amateur midfielder....wasn't he the guy that scored that cracker that put us in the final last season. This might spark your memory:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 335. At 11:30pm on 12 Dec 2008, tgbutd wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 336. At 01:20am on 13 Dec 2008, jollytinkerman wrote:

    in all honesty Phil, don't you think the English media has done more damage to the English players than help. Why all the hype on players that ordinarily should have either been very good players or slightly above average. These players like Ferdinand, Lampard, Carrick, Terry, and Rooney, are great players for their clubs, but their best is inspired because they are playing alongside foreign world class players like Carvalho, Vidic, Ronaldo, Drogba, etc. When they come together in the National team, they are unable to enact the same club form. An English player gets a good day at work and the media immediately crowns him as the player to watch and a potential world class player. The unnecessary pressure comes on them, happened to my dear Theo Walcott, luke young is another target, Jack Wilshere is another target, if only the media can just be patient and allow them to grow, perhaps they will eventually come to their full potentials. Apart from Steven Gerrard, the others have been media assisted world class players. Good players no doubt, there are few with a better work rate than Rooney, but until they can stand up and be counted internationall for their national teams, good players they will remain, world class, not yet.

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  • 337. At 07:14am on 13 Dec 2008, liverpool_steel wrote:

    NikosBg is deluded...

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  • 338. At 07:16am on 13 Dec 2008, liverpool_steel wrote:

    There you go NikosBg, time for you to revise your football knowledge...

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  • 339. At 07:44am on 13 Dec 2008, liverpool_steel wrote:

    NikosBg You have failed to mention:

    1. Barcelona lost to Shaktar Donetsk 2-0 in the 2004-05 group stage and then to Chelsea 4-2 in the Last 16.

    2. Barcelona have been buying Arsenal's rejects for years (Henry, Overmars, Petit, Sylvinho & Hleb)

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  • 340. At 09:22am on 13 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    It just makes me laugh the double standards of some people.

    Real Madrid are 5th in the league sack their manager and come second in their group.

    Yet they are now world beaters?

    Chelsea have a better squad and are doing better then Madrid in the league yet they are now hopeless with no chance of winning the Champions League?

    Chelsea have been to 3 semi finals in 4 years and 1 final.

    Madrid have not got past the 1/4 final since 2003 knocked out the second round 4 years in a row.

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  • 341. At 10:35am on 13 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    As always the truth is always in the middle of what people like NikosBg and those who claim the english quartet are the best in Europe. For me, you would have to put the top three english teams in the top five with Barca and Bayern - and Arsenal in the group of outsiders with Real and the rest.

    For me, the 'dream scenario' is Arsenal in the final - ideally against Madrid as I can have some fun with the in-laws when we beat them again! But its unlikely to happen.

    Ties I would like to see:
    Arsenal vs Panathonikos
    Inter or Real vs United (that'd get Fergies moaning going!)
    Chelsea vs Barcelona (they are always great games)
    Liverpool vs Inter (Benitez vs Mourinho again!)

    Roll on the draw.

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  • 342. At 11:24am on 13 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Sir Alex, Jose, etc are examples"

    Examples of what, of selling intellect and making the occasional half-wit comment that causes contempt? Sure they are.


    "The last time I watched Barcelona vs Man Utd, one ingenious Paul Scholes did what your so called World Class midfielders couldn't replicate."

    Do you mean in the 2nd half when Messi did something to him and he WENT COMPLETELY THE OTHER WAY AND FELL OVER? No Barca players couldn't replicate that. But it's worth seeing it again just to have a laugh.


    "Need I mention that Anderson is currently featuring prominently in the Brazilian team but fights very hard for his position at Old Trafford."

    If ManU have ONE Brazilian international mate, SEVEN of them play in Serie A. Cesar, Doni, Maicon, Dani Alves, Lucio, Marcelo, Mancini and Adriano compete in the CL, yet I don't see you give them or their clubs any mention let alone any respect for that matter. Talk about double standards. Same for Argentina, you've got Tevez, what about Heinze, Zanetti, Burdisso, Demichelis, Maxi, Gago, Aguero, Lucho and Lisandro? If you're proud of having one or two internationals, what should Inter, Real, Bayern, Porto say? Not afraid of them eh? Don't these even exist for you? Don't worry knockouts coming up and hopefully you'll find out about them. It's the ignorance, self-importance and disrespect I was talking about.


    "I will say it again,whether you love it or not..Man Utd, with it's so called FIRST SQUAD unfit midfield, brushed aside Barcelona "

    Ha! Nice. You brushed them aside with 10 men behind the ball and the player of the year 2008 running after hoofed balls. Mate your wonderful logic says that Arsenal and Liverpool BRUSHED YOU ASIDE this season, in even more emphatic fashion, so they're both BETTER than United. YES OR NO?


    "Who has been named the best European player of the year."

    The guy who said it's his dream to play for Madrid, whilst contracted to you. Only footballers playing in the lesser teams have dared say something like this in the past.


    "Carrick, enough said. Fortunately for you Hargreaves is injured. Fletcher is evidence of the fact that working hard reaps reward. The contemptuous nonchalance of your unfounded allegations really irks me."

    Cheers, these are exactly the players that epitomise the average quality of the current United squad. Michael Carrick and DARREN FLETCHER! Also Wes Brown, John o'Shea, Park, Nani and the pensioners Scholesy & Giggsy. Not to mention the formidable strength in depth.

    One more thing. Ferdinand got injured, EVANS comes on to replace him. And Ferguson comes out and says he's a magnificent defender. Wes Brown gets injured and you have NEVILLE and RAFAEL. For the other side you have o'Shea. Instead of buying the best in the world IN EVERY POSITION, you go and renew the retirees' pensions like VDS yesterday. And the best is, fans are happy! You have to realise that the American that looks a bit like Santa IS FOOLING YOU. The one that I doubt whether he knows the rules of football (not HIS football) let alone having watched any of your matches. He's cashing in the huge revenue from the season tickets / tv rights/ flukey CL win, and instead of investing it back in the squad, puts most it in his pocket to write off his debt. Fair play to him, I don't care if he fools you or not, but you're bound to be disappointed.

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  • 343. At 12:00pm on 13 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "1. Barcelona lost to Shaktar Donetsk 2-0 in the 2004-05 group stage"

    Mate this is nothing, 3 years ago the legendary football club Manchester United finished BOTTOM OF THE GROUP behind Villareal, Benfica and a famous team called LILLE. The following year they didn't learn and they were played off the park away to Lille but needed a good goal given offside to scrape through (as well as a free kick with no keeper on the line but that's ok). Ferguson afterwards was his usual pitiful intimidating self, going beserk about the away fans' and players' behaviour instead of sorting their own mess.


    "and then to Chelsea 4-2 in the Last 16."

    Yeah I remember that one, it's the one Barca were comfortably going through with the 3-2, but then somebody manhandled Valdes off his position in the most blatant fashion (not just an arm, he literally grabbed him and pulled him down rugby-style) creating an open goal, the ref pretended he hadn't seen anything and the goal stood, job done Re #190. If I recall the English press pretended they hadn't seen it either and the incident has now been conveniently forgotten.


    "2. Barcelona have been buying Arsenal's rejects for years (Henry, Overmars, Petit, Sylvinho and Hleb)"

    Lol funny that. Henry and Hleb REJECTS? What was the reaction when they left, I remember most gooners felt let down if not in mild despair! I suspect Flamini is a REJECT too?

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  • 344. At 1:14pm on 13 Dec 2008, nextyearisouryear wrote:

    Like a broken record going on and on and on............

    Nothing you have said is going to prevent people from KNOWING the EPL is the strongest league in the world.

    Now go and spend 20 more minutes typing a demented response with ridiculous bullet points, and i'll check back in an hour for a good laugh.

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  • 345. At 2:05pm on 13 Dec 2008, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:

    The Big Four English Elite Football Clubs look formidable. They have the firepower to take on the giants from the rest of Europe. Footballers from Africa, Latin America and those from the Rest of Europe are adding newer dimensions to English football. Big teams from other countries may not find it that easy to take on the men trained by the legendary Ferguson, Wenger, Benitez and Scolari. Best of luck to the four in the CL.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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  • 346. At 2:14pm on 13 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Claiming half the Madrid team are world class is just as laughable. 'Van Gol' was, but he had his best years for Man U, Casillas looks great in Spain but he is not so hot on crosses and I would like to see him try to handle other leagues. Some of their other 'class' players have never proved anything"


    The players that set the Euro alight Casillas Ramos Sneijder Robben VanN, Pepe 2 of them winning it and being in the current best XI of the year have never proven anything, the World Cup holder and recent world player of the year has never proven anything, the 3 regular Argentine internationals with or without medals have never proven anything, above all the top 2 CL goalscorers and arguably biggest legends in CL history with over 60 goals and a rate of 0.6/0.8 per game AND INCREASING have never proven anything.

    And United's NOBODIES of #186 have.

    That's called hybris mate, show some respect please coz fire is gonna drop from the sky and burn us all.

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  • 347. At 3:00pm on 13 Dec 2008, firstnameonthesheet wrote:

    I have not seen the Wayne v. Kasper bout
    so I cannot comment on suitable punishments for Wayne, but I draw the line at removing body parts.
    Gratuitous dirty play should not be condoned. Nor the insidious old continental
    (mainly Italian) style of cheating. (Pinching,
    scratching, spitting, pulling hair,- I know this
    would not work on Wayne- poking etc.) and
    whispering in the ear. We dont know what
    Kasper might have said, that caused Wayne
    to become so angry, that he felt he had to
    strike out in retaliation. In my experience,
    actions such as those described to me are
    often the response to unbearable provocation. 'The Tongue is sharper than the Stud'. What mental scars might Wayne
    have to bear?
    In my opinion, retaliation to provocation
    can be justified in some circumstances.
    The question is, 'What is fair retaliation'?
    What is a fair punishment/compensation
    for a red card offence? Yes, send off the player. But why reward future opponents
    by banning the offender? I suggest sending
    off the culprit, and awarding the victims a
    penalty, even two penalties for a really
    nasty offence, as in basketball, irrespective
    of where on the pitch the offence was committed. Of course you still need to rely on the referee to be vigilant.
    If Wayne is guilty, (the instigator), as the
    Merseyside Lynch Party would have me
    believe, what is fair punishment, fair compensation, and to whom?
    If proven, and Kasper is the injured party,
    and to a degree, the Aalborg team, and
    their supporters, they alone should receive
    compensation.
    I doubt if Kasper would settle for a public
    stamping on Wayne's chest, even in the
    centre of Radhuspladsen Sq. as compensation. But he might accept a couple of weeks of Wayne's wages.
    The referee did not see the incident, so any
    action to be taken will be a judgement based on the views of a panel after they have watched video recordings of the incident. And who will be the rightful benificiarys of this inquisition?
    The answer is no-one.
    There will be those who will benefit, but they are not the rightful beneficiarys. The
    only parties to benefit significantly will be future opponents of Manchester while Wayne is banned. Why should they be rewarded? And how will this compensate Kaspar, Aalborg and their supporters?
    If this trial goes ahead, what then? Do we make referees obsolete? Do we study recordings of EVERY match, ( if it is right to do it on this occasion, it must be done on every occasion, else there is no justice), in
    order to determine what happened, and to decide who really won the match?

    Do not misunderstand me, I do not condone
    violence, heaven forbid that we should slither back to the dark ages of football, when Leeds and Liverpool had their heydays, when their game plan from the kick-off was to injure out of the game their opponent's most influential player, and only
    after this was achieved, would they turn their attention to scoring a goal.

    But just as dangerous for our game is if it
    were taken in the direction that Wenger and Platini would have it go.
    They would prefer that football became a
    non-contact sport.
    Imagine if you can, you watch the match on
    a Saturday afternoon, then in the evening
    you tune in to your tv. to find out how many points you have been awarded by a panel of
    stylists, (number of goals scored is now irrelevent), on the lines of strictly come dancing.
    Is this the sort of game you want to talk to your mates about over a pint n pie?
    No, this sort of game would be discussed by
    one, as one sipped one's martini and nibbled one's prawn sandwich, which has been cut into dainty little triangles of course.

    I know I have not dealt with the deterrent
    issue, this needs a steadier head than mine.

    I can hear footsteps, they are coming for me


    to be observant

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  • 348. At 8:03pm on 13 Dec 2008, end2endgame wrote:

    While it's great that again we have four teams reaching the knockout phase, we don't 'own' the competition like some fans who've posted on here seem to think. That just smacks of arrogance and a failure to recognise the genuine threat that many of the other teams pose.

    Unlike in some years, there dosen't seem to be a team that's head and shoulders above everyone else. Even Barca (who are blazing it in La Liga aren't all conquering in Europe e.g. the home result against Shaktar Donetsk proves this: 2-3). I thought that Man Utd would be better this season (with Berbatov) but I'm not sure they'll win it this time. No one has managed to win the competition in sucessive seasons since Milan in 89 and 90 - along time ago now.

    I think three of the four English teams will go through to the last 8 with Arsenal coming unstuck. Beyond this, it's anyone's guess. There could be two english teams in the final like last season or there could be none.

    I've a hunch (as a Chelsea fan) that we'll meet either Juve or Inter next. I reckon Man U could get Athletico, and Arsenal, Bayern who are definitely good enough to eliminate the gunners. Bayern have to be the competition's dark horses but what about Sporting?.. As for Liverpool? maybe they'll face Real...who knows but this year predictability is not such a given even though it may look that way at the moment.

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  • 349. At 8:34pm on 13 Dec 2008, Cassano99Nutcase wrote:

    One final comment i will make is that this blog has been interesting, Goonermadrid and others like him have been excellent to talk with and debate football with, they are very open minded and raise good and interesting points. People like NikosBG and the other clowns who troll are just fools. There are a third group however who have just been paraphrasing everything that the likes of Redknapp and Souness have been saying, to the guy who put the 4 English clubs as 4 favorites, so Arsenal and Chelsea on this seasons evidence are 2nd and 4th favorites? Liverpool imo have a better chance than Chelsea and on evidence thus far Arsenal are about 7th favorites.
    We have Chelsea who havent achieved a victory on home soil against any of the big 4 thus far this year, the same Chelsea that were outclassed in the Olimpico by Roma who one could argue had a stronger squad last year when they had Mancini on the wings. Scolari has been outcoached thus far in big games and Chelsea only just qualified for the last 16 in arguably the easiest group of all the 4 English teams. Arsenal 4th favorites? i even know some Arsenal fans who would only put them around 7th favorites. Arsenal were outplayed by Dynamo Kiev away this year, fair enough they still got a point and at the end of it got through yet against a team like Bayern/ Barca they wouldnt have got the same result. Wenger has not bought an experienced head in midfield and that means extra responsibility on Fabregas and despite being a fine footballer is not superman. This is the same Arsenal who lost to Hull City at home, in 2 months time a lot could change no one disputes that but come on, on this seasons evidence thus far anyone who puts Arsenal ahead of Barca on the favorites list is blinded by the remit from sky. Fair play to GoonerMadrid, he is an Arsenal fan who would like to see his side do well yet is realistic about his sides ambitions based on what has happened thus far this season.

    Liverpool and United will reach the Semis this year, Chelsea QF's, Arsenal woud have to pick up significantly to go further than the QF's.

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  • 350. At 01:37am on 14 Dec 2008, duellingbanjo wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 351. At 05:35am on 14 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Real Madrid are out of the title race, Chelsea can go top of the league on Sunday.

    Of course Madrid are now one of the favourites for the champions league and Chelsea have no chance.....

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  • 352. At 12:26pm on 14 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Real Madrid are out of the title race, Chelsea can go top of the league on Sunday.

    Of course Madrid are now one of the favourites for the champions league and Chelsea have no chance....."


    Madrid mate are out to what's currently the best team in the world by a mile that has they best squad in the world and a goal difference of +40 already. Who are Chelsea beating to the top, the Liverpools, Uniteds and Arsenals that with their strongest team can't beat the Boros, the Hulls, the West Hams, the Wigans and the Tottenhams? And their fans have the audacity to say they aren't afraid of the giants of Europe?

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  • 353. At 12:45pm on 14 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    316. At 4:55pm on 12 Dec 2008, Mighty Morfa Power Ranger wrote:

    "the La Liga style of footbalkl has been rendered absolutely obscelete by the English game."


    If you mean the high tempo and pressure on the ball of the English game I'll go with you.

    If you mean the leg-breaking tackles, the "put the ball in the box" principle as the main attacking objective, the "get rid" as the main defensive objective, the "big target man" employed by all but few of the PL teams, the training and development system based 80% on fitness 20% on ball use, and the fact that a long throw in the box is considered 'quality' by some, I'm sorry to say that this was precisely the style of the 50's and things have moved on since then.

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  • 354. At 7:54pm on 14 Dec 2008, goonergetit wrote:

    does someone get paid to read all this nonsense ?

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  • 355. At 08:06am on 15 Dec 2008, ervolucio wrote:

    Yes, it's true.
    Most of Barça's players aren't spanish.
    Etoo Camerun
    Henry France
    Hleb Belarrusie
    Keita Mali
    Toure yaya African?
    Messi Argentinian
    Alves Brazil
    Silvinho Brazil
    Puyol Catalonia
    Xavi Catalonia
    Valdés Catalonia
    Bojan Catalonia
    Busquets Catalonia
    Piqué Catalonia

    Iniesta Spain
    Pedrito ?

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  • 356. At 09:56am on 15 Dec 2008, mark_biker wrote:

    #352 just for the record Barca's GD is not +40 it's 37, although I'm not arguing that is extraoridinary.

    My issue is how you list the teams the "Big 4" "Can't beat" but fail to list the teams Barca "can't beat".

    For the curious it's Shakhtar Donetsk, who beat them at the Nou and scored 3, Basel, Getafe and Racing Santander who all got draws at the Nou camp and the mighty Numancia, currently 1 point off the relegation zone with 3 wins all season who beat them in the league. So if we apply you're logic should Barca be scared of the "giants of Europe" to?

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  • 357. At 10:12am on 15 Dec 2008, DaBush78 wrote:

    To Post 25 by derbymax

    Puyol, Valdes, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Bojan, Pique, Busquets, Sanchez, Rodriguez and Pep Guardiola, manager himself are all products of Barcelona youth system – La Massia. That’s true power of Barca. Please name English club who can also claim that they have 6 world-class homegrown 1st team regulars.


    Well, there is one slight problem with this post. Pique, although he played with Barca's youth team, then went to Man Utd as a youth player, (Man u got him free) and developed there, before re-signing for Barca, so technically a large part of his development was completed in england at man u.

    Now i'm no Man u fan, but i think it shows that in england we can actually develop youth players.

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  • 358. At 12:01pm on 15 Dec 2008, john wrote:

    Firstly thanks to Cassano99Nutcase - you realise though that as impartial as I can be, I hope with every bone in my body that I'm wrong and can finally experience being a fan of the 'European Champions'.

    Others have eluded to the fact that league form and CL form are differant and this is always true - although I think I am right in saying that Sir Alex has spoken of the 1999 season and said that playing big games week in week out (ie the cup semis, the league games against arsenal alongisde the CL games) helped to maintain a focus and keep the team going. If thats not the case, then I stand corrected!

    Does anyone know how many times the team who won the CL qualified as the Champions in their league (and didnt qualify as 2nd, 3rd or 4th placed qualifiers)? Its not a fact I know of the top of my head.

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  • 359. At 4:13pm on 15 Dec 2008, kevthered83 wrote:

    I see UEFA has finally made a sensible decision and will not be taking action against Rooneys stamp!

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  • 360. At 10:13pm on 15 Dec 2008, Joe wrote:

    Wow! 359 posts when I typed this and there will probably be more by the time I have finished.

    Phil, do you want to hire NicosBg to do a small spot the way Ali G did for the Eleven O'Clock show all those years ago? You would be the serious and professional one who never gets any laughs (just like the 2 presenters who were as funny as a summer cold) whilst Nicos could rant on and keep us amused with his claptrap. I can just hear him saying 'Is it 'cos I is black?'

    I have to say that post number 159 is the most amusing 'serious' comment I have ever read in all my years. I hate Leeds but they were robbed against Bayern Munich all those years ago so to accuse UEFA of looking after the English clubs is most bizarre. Yes, they so kindly didn't kick us out of the CL after 1985 either. The Leeds result was a travesty but Nicos is good at only using the information he wants to. Would make an excellent politician! By the way, does he have the ability to look into the future as he uses the date '09' a lot in his post 159?

    Sometimes I have to accept that people who are xenophobic are still making a good point when they criticise other people and races. Whilst others have already pointed out that Nicos is not getting that much support for his views (Probably because UEFA are removing any post that agreed with him!) it is nice to see that some people actually think he is only having a laugh!

    What concerns me is that only someone with hopefully not too serious mental issues or an obsessive personality disorder would have continued to keep on banging away like this and I echo many others posts by saying that Nicos really should get some professional help as he is taking matters a bit too far. Still, I read all the 359 posts because I did not want to miss any of his so thanks for the entertainment. Glad you have something to keep you busy that is relatively harmless!

    Bottom line is that the 4 EPL teams should do ok but I think another country will win the CL next year. Nothing scientific or well thought out like Nicos - just a gut feeling.

    Regards, Joe.

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  • 361. At 00:44am on 16 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    Nikos you live in a world of contradiction. One Minute you say the Premier League is not competative for the top 4 then you say

    "The Liverpools, Uniteds and Arsenals that with their strongest team can't beat the Boros, the Hulls, the West Hams, the Wigans and the Tottenhams"

    Hold on, doesnt that mean its a competative league then.......

    IN YOUR WORLD:

    If the top 4 smash everyone its not a competative league and LA Liga is superior.

    If the top 4 draw and lose games it means they are weak and the La Liga is superior.

    Is there any scenario in your tiny brain that would make the Top 4 English teams and the premier league superior? Champions League domination prehaps? Oh wait...

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  • 362. At 1:28pm on 16 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "I see UEFA has finally made a sensible decision and will not be taking action against Rooneys stamp!"

    English supporters not only don't feel embarrassed about the constant favouritism -the above only the latest addition in the long list of forgotten scandals- which has played a considerable part in their teams' recent progress; they actually seem quite pleased about it!

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  • 363. At 1:32pm on 16 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    361. At 00:44am on 16 Dec 2008, AlexOjideagu wrote:

    "Nikos you live in a world of contradiction. One Minute you say the Premier League is not competative for the top 4 then you say

    IN YOUR WORLD:

    If the top 4 smash everyone its not a competative league and LA Liga is superior.

    If the top 4 draw and lose games it means they are weak and the La Liga is superior.

    Is there any scenario in your tiny brain that would make the Top 4 English teams and the premier league superior? Champions League domination prehaps? Oh wait..."


    No.1, never said the PL is not competitive.

    No.2, it's not exactly rocket science is it?

    Are the so-called "elite" (sic) finding it hard and struggle against teams such as Boro, Hull, West Ham, Wigan, Tottenham? Also occasionally against the likes of Bordeaux, Liege, Aalborg, Cluz, Celtic, Kyiv, Fenerbache?

    Are Barcelona, Real, Atletico, Villareal, Porto, Inter, Juventus, Roma, Bayern, Lyon MUCH BETTER quality-wise than ALL THE ABOVE?

    Does this mean that each of the "elite" should feel concerned and not too confident to say the least, if not afraid, should they face any of these, unless their form or squad improves quite dramatically?

    End of story.-

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  • 364. At 2:57pm on 16 Dec 2008, mark_biker wrote:

    #363, #352 #356

    Nikos you're happy to keep throwing out the same points without explaining issues it raises.

    As I have already posted Shakthar, Basel, Getafe, Numancia and Racing. all teams Barca "can't beat".

    Are the "elite" of the premier league better than "ALL THE ABOVE" - well yes they are.

    So using your logic, any team that can beat any of the above are teams Barcalona will need to be "concerned" or "afraid" of surely?

    End of story??

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  • 365. At 5:18pm on 16 Dec 2008, bayern_123 wrote:

    First of all id like to say to people who are really proud of english teams being successful in europe, that none of the top 4 contain a significant amount of english players. liverpool and arsenal name hardly any on champions league nights and chelsea and manchester utd may name around 4 or 5 but you should look at what position these english players have in the national team.

    Take chelsea first: Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry are the only english regular starters in the champions league for chelsea. Take a look at their england status: probably all of them are first team regulars in the england team.

    Next take manchester utd: Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick are the regular english starters in the champions league for man utd. Their england status is mainly first team with the exception of maybe Michael Carrick.

    You dont even need to consider any english players in the arsenal or liverpool team for the champions league only Gerrard (another england regular).

    What this shows is that the top 4 may achieve success in the champions league but this is due to mainly foreign players. The fact that all of the enlish starters in the champions league are in the england national squad shows that the premier league has no depth of english talent. Any other team in the premier league cant boast any england regulars.

    Looking at any other country like Germany for example these are the top 4 clubs:

    Bayern munich
    Werder Bremen
    Schalke
    Bayer Leverkusen

    each of these top four teams include at least 4 international regulars. If you look at any lower clubs in the german league you will find that many of them contain germany internationals as well as future prospects.

    German teams may not be that successful in the champions league but then neither should any other country because if the majority of players stay in their country then we would have a much more even contest in the champions league.

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  • 366. At 6:35pm on 16 Dec 2008, nibs wrote:

    "Nikos you're happy to keep throwing out the same points without explaining issues it raises.

    As I have already posted Shakthar, Basel, Getafe, Numancia and Racing. all teams Barca "can't beat".

    Are the "elite" of the premier league better than "ALL THE ABOVE" - well yes they are.

    So using your logic, any team that can beat any of the above are teams Barcalona will need to be "concerned" or "afraid" of surely?"


    In the defeat to Shakhtar Barcelona had 5 players from the bench and 6 from the 3rd team. For the same reason I did not mention Liverpool's, Chelsea's and Arsenal's Carling Cup exits even though they were more embarrassing.

    The difference to Barcelona is that they have 2 draws - 1 defeat as well as a goal difference of almost +40. In contrast the "elite" have had 6 to 8 bad results, have been inconsistent against the rest of the top 4, and 2 of them come Christmas have done as well as Aston Villa.

    The other difference is that in the CL Barcelona had topped their group 2 matches before the end, in contrast the "elite" had to wait til the last day and 2 of them did not make it.

    For the above reasons and also for reasons of squad quality and depth, the answer is yes, Barcelona will be concerned facing English opposition, but they will not be afraid of any of them and, should Messi play, will go into the matches as slight (vs Chelsea/ManU) or heavy (vs Arsenal/Liverpool) favourites.

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  • 367. At 10:47am on 18 Dec 2008, BumbleBeeTuna wrote:

    I dont know what everyone is talking about when they say barcelona have alot of foreign players and not enough home grown players. Theres Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Bojan and dont forget Messi came through the ranks as he was signed when he was thirteen, and also dont forget all the players that have been stolen from english clubs namely Arsenal as they took Fabregas and Merida. The home grown players for barcelona are the most important, without puyol their defense is weak, without messi they lose that star quality and most importantly without xavi they lose everything as hes the one that keeps them ticking. Spain produces great footballers hence why they won the european championships this year, its simply because they have a better youth system and concentrate more on the technical side of football rather than the physical side of football, which is why England havnt really produced world class players lately, i would say at this moment gerrard is the only real top quality player english player. So the only reason people say the premier league is the best league in the world is simply because of the foreign players that make it strong and more exciting. As far as the champions league goes none of the english sides have done very well, and at this moment theres only one winner and thats Barcelona.

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  • 368. At 4:16pm on 02 Jan 2009, AllyRosa19 wrote:

    Please tell me that some of the posts are jokes...


    "ENGLAND GET 4 (FOUR) TOP SEEDS, SPAIN ONLY GET 2, NOT TO MENTION THE OTHER NATIONS. WORK THAT ONE OUT."

    erm.
    Don't you have to do well in the competition to be seeded? Is it my imagination that english clubs go far in the competition?

    -----

    Post 40 is even more deluded.

    "we would murder any English side hands down,"

    Australians?
    have you won anything?
    Ever?
    You've only ever qualified twice in the world cup. Enough said there.

    I'd would enjoy Adelaide united coming to OT or Anfield or the Emirates, or come to think of it ANY PL TEAM (maybe you could beat West Brom?)
    Adelaide lost heavily over two legs to Gamba Osaka in the Club world cup.
    I rest my case.

    -----

    I would like to end this post with a nice little rant about NikosBg.

    What the hell?

    Please tell me with a name like Nikos, you can't be English, am I right?
    I am not a Man U supporter but I'm hardly going to deny their quality or squad. Berbatov is an exceptional forward. Giggs was and is a truly hard-working and clever midfielder. Their squad is packed full of good players who can shine on their day.

    Real Madrid have been poor yet have a "star-studded" team. Yeah, it's the system. What a whinge, nit-picking! Their team has failed this year to make any impression whatsoever, and all of their players are over-paid because of their names. People like Robben and Raul are getting on, and will never produce what they have.

    Also why have you left out the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, Evra and Van Der Sar?
    Oh wait! because they are world-class INTERNATIONALS.

    Plesae get off your high horse, and stop hating all things British. Personally I am not english, my mother was born in London but I am Greek and Italian. I in turn truly support Arsenal.

    End Of All.
    :)

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