First of all, let me just say this article is one myself and Manuel Traquete have been planning for a little while, ever since he told me he thought no English teams would make it to the semis this year, and I said he should put his money where his mouth is.
Now of course, there is no money on BR, so we have both composed an article arguing whether an English team can make it to the final four. I hope you enjoy!
English teams have done especially well in the Champions League, especially in this millennium. While only two winners have emerged, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have been a constant thorn in the sides of the other European giants.
The 2008-09 season had three English teams in the semi-finals, as did the 2007-08, with Manchester United beating Chelsea in the final. The 2006-07 season also saw three English teams in the semi-finals, and the 2005-06 season saw one—Arsenal, beaten in the final. The year before that, Liverpool was victorious over AC Milan in what must be one of the most dramatic finals of all time.
It looks unlikely that there will again be three English teams in the semi-finals, but it wouldn’t be wise to bet against at least one of them making it.
At this stage of the Champions League there are 16 teams left, four of which are English. Based on the principle that only one team can win a football match, the next round will host eight teams, with chance suggesting that two of them will be English.
Of course it’s not that simple, otherwise nobody would ever watch football, but would tune in to Countdown instead.
The fact that Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have all secured the top spot will certainly help the English cause. Arsenal, who finished second in their group, will be one of the most feared teams out of those who came second.
All four of the English teams left in the Champions League bring something strong to the table.
Usually, journalists would be discussing Liverpool’s European credentials at this time of year, but a different side finished in fourth place and pushed themselves into the Champions League for the first time. That side is Tottenham Hotspur. Although they might be greener than a cabbage patch, they’ve shown they’re not pushovers. Taking first place in a group featuring last year’s winners Internazionale, Twente, and Werder Bremen shows they deserve to be in the Champions League.
They may be lacking in defence, but Tottenham can hurt you in attack. They have the pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the wings, the height of Peter Crouch, the instinctual finishing of Jermaine Defoe and the control of Luka Modric.
They probably won’t get as far as the final four, but they will provide a serious challenge to whoever they play.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are all regulars in the competition and teams will be more familiar with what to expect from these giants of the EPL.
Analysing form now and saying how it will affect the teams in the Champions League is a little like looking out the window now and guessing if it will be a hot summer in July. The next round of matches will be played in February and March. Even though Chelsea are in a bad run of form, and Arsenal’s defence is looking shaky, everything can change in those intervening months.
Plus, there is a big month coming up...
Instead of partying up on January the first, 2011, football managers around the world will be feverishly trying to improve their squads. Although a lot of the top talent around the world is cup-tied and ineligible to play for a new CL team, there are some quality players even in the Premiership who could help the English cause.
But, the most important thing to look at is of course the draw.
When the draw was made yesterday, England had a mix of good and bad luck.
Arsenal drew Barcelona, arguably the toughest team in the tournament. You could argue it was written in the stars, what with the way the two giants played last year and Arsenal’s insistence they would be happy to play against Barcelona. It won’t be an easy match at all for Arsenal, but hopefully they won’t have the same level of injury problems as they did last year, and should provide more of a threat to the Catalan side. Arsenal will definitely want revenge for the humbling they received last year.
Manchester United got Marseille. As strong as the French side are, this was not a bad selection for Manchester United. While anything can happen in football, over two legs you would have to say Manchester United are the favourites to progress.
Tottenham drew AC Milan. This should be a very interesting match-up, experience against inexperience. Of course Milan have a very strong team, and are top of their league, but don’t underestimate Arsenal’s North London neighbours, who will undoubtedly have a speed advantage over the tired legs of Milan.
Chelsea drew Copenhagen. With all due respect to the Danes, this should be a walk in the park for Chelsea, even if their bad form continues. Chelsea were definitely the most fortunate of all the English teams, and unless there are major problems Chelsea should advance.
Taking into account that there will probably be at least two English teams advancing into the final eight, it looks likely that there will be at least one English team in the final four.