Champions League Half Way; Are The English Teams Losing Their Grip?

Garry CullenContributor IApril 9, 2009

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 08:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou stadium on April 8, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

With the Champions League Quarter Finals at the half way stage, the English teams still involved either have a mountain to climb or are still finely balanced, with the exception of Chelsea, who must fancy their chances of a last four place after a great victory at Anfield.

Barcelona remain favourites after a more than convincing win at the nou camp against a Bayern Munich team that may have been overrated after a landslide victory over Sporting Lisbon in the Second Round, Lionel Messi once again bamboozled the opposition with his velcro like close control having a hand in or scoring Barcelona's four goals.

Rumour has it, Jurgen Klinsmann asked English referee Howard Webb for another ball at half time because Messi was playing with that one!!

Arsenal appear favourites for their tie after a pleasing 1-1 draw in the Madrigal, a superbly taken equaliser by Emmanuel Adebayor cancelling out a fine first half strike by Marcos Senna. Although Arsenal paid the price with injuries to skipper William Gallas and 'keeper Manuel Almunia.

With home advantage Arsenal must surely be favourites, but with a tendency to leak the odd goal, Gallas and Almunia out, they must make sure they do a thoroughly professional job against a Villareal that could pack a surprise or two.

The Holders, Man Utd look anything but certainties to retain their crown after a continued less than assured performance against a Porto side that look like they could be the dark horses of this tournament as they were in 2004 under Jose Mourinho. With no English team ever prevailing in the Dragao, and United conceding another two goals at home after giving away two in the last league game against Aston Villa and four in the game against Liverpool that seemed to have started the defensive rot, coupled with the loss of defensive rock Rio Ferdinand, expected back from a back injury at anytime, United have it all to do.

Still shellshocked after a convincing defeat, Liverpool must now look to re-group if they are to keep their Champions league hopes alive. Picked apart defensively far too often by a Chelsea performance desribed as their best of the season, Liverpool will now sweat on the fitness of captain Steve Gerrard, who did not look 100% fit suffering from a groin niggle, but will be boosted by the return of Javier Mascherano who's defensive tenacity was sorely missed in the middle of midfield protecting the fullbacks runs.

Another positive for Liverpool must also be the suspension of 'skipper John Terry, for a second bookable offence for following in on goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Liverpool must now hope for a comeback of Saint Eteinne proportions next tuesday, if they are to have any chance of reaching a semi -final tie that looks to have Barcelona awaiting.