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English elite face Euro test

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Phil McNulty | 22:06 UK time, 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.


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  • Comment number 1.

    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!

  • Comment number 2.

    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.

  • Comment number 3.

    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

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    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...

  • Comment number 6.

    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.

  • Comment number 7.

    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.

  • Comment number 8.

    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.

  • Comment number 9.

    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)

  • Comment number 10.

    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.

  • Comment number 11.

    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!

  • Comment number 12.

    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.

  • Comment number 13.

    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.

  • Comment number 14.

    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.

  • Comment number 15.

    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.

  • Comment number 16.

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

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

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

  • Comment number 17.


  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    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.

  • Comment number 20.

    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!!

  • Comment number 21.

    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)

  • Comment number 22.

    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).

  • Comment number 23.

    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).

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

  • Comment number 24.

    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.

  • Comment number 25.

    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!

  • Comment number 26.


  • Comment number 27.

    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 :(

  • Comment number 28.

    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!

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    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

  • Comment number 31.

    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.

  • Comment number 32.

    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!!!

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    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?

  • Comment number 35.

    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.

  • Comment number 36.

    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.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    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!

  • Comment number 39.

    #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.

  • Comment number 40.

    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!

  • Comment number 41.

    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.

  • Comment number 42.

    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.

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    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.

  • Comment number 45.

    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.

  • Comment number 46.

    Nikos you really should get out more

  • Comment number 47.

    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!

  • Comment number 48.

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

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • Comment number 50.

    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.

  • Comment number 51.

    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!

  • Comment number 52.

    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.

  • Comment number 53.

    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.

  • Comment number 54.

    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.

  • Comment number 55.

    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.

  • Comment number 56.

    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.

  • Comment number 57.

    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?

  • Comment number 58.

    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.

  • Comment number 59.

    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....

  • Comment number 60.


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

    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....

  • Comment number 61.

    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!

  • Comment number 62.

    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.

  • Comment number 63.

    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.

  • Comment number 64.

    #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.

  • Comment number 65.

    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.

  • Comment number 66.

    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

  • Comment number 67.

    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.

  • Comment number 68.

    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'.

  • Comment number 69.

    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 ?

  • Comment number 70.

    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.

  • Comment number 71.

    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.


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

  • Comment number 72.

    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.

  • Comment number 73.

    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.

  • Comment number 74.

    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.

  • Comment number 75.

    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

  • Comment number 76.

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

    Only by being offside both times


  • Comment number 77.

    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.

  • Comment number 78.

    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

  • Comment number 79.


    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 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'.

  • Comment number 80.

    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!

  • Comment number 81.

    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?!


    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

  • Comment number 82.

    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.

  • Comment number 83.

    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.

  • Comment number 84.

    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.

  • Comment number 85.

    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?!


  • Comment number 86.


    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.

  • Comment number 87.

    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

  • Comment number 88.

    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!!!

  • Comment number 89.

    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

  • Comment number 90.

    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.

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    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

  • Comment number 93.

    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 thats 4 contenders from england, and 4 from the rest of europe...hmmmmm

  • Comment number 94.

    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.

  • Comment number 95.

    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.

  • Comment number 96.

    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.

  • Comment number 97.

    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...

  • Comment number 98.


    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'?

  • Comment number 99.

    the best barcelona players are NOT spanish

    have you not heard of Xavi or Iniesta???

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

  • Comment number 100.

    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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