It’s hard to tell much after just one group game, but a string of unimpressive results and performances from English sides in the Champions League this week has left me wondering, do fans of the top four sides need to re-evaluate their expectations?
No-one expected Arsenal to travel to Borussia Dortmund and thump them but not even the most cynical of Gooners would have expected such a shambolic display. It’s probably safe to assume that Arsenal fans, perhaps, had the most realistic expectations of all the top four sides when it came to how their team are likely to do in the Champions League – this isn’t their first time around the block in this competition – but unless they get themselves together and learn how to handle this new 4-1-4-1 formation Arsene Wenger has implemented, they could, realistically, struggle to get out of the group stages for the first time since 99/00.
After the group stage draw concluded, most people were content that Chelsea had been handed a favourable draw once again and given their form this season so far, it was expected that they would breeze past Schalke at home. Not so as the German side left London with a draw. Even though Jose Mourinho admits that star-man, Diego Costa, will be unable to play three games in a week, Chelsea still seem to offer England’s best hope of doing well in this competition. It might not, however, be as easy a group as most imagined.
Liverpool were welcomed back in to the Champions League with a kind draw, and with Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets at home in their opening game, they had the perfect opportunity to get their campaign off to a flying start. The only English side to win in the opening round of matches, they needed a penalty in the dying minutes to do so and will have been reminded that even the alleged whipping boys in this competition can provide a tough test. How they juggle European football with their domestic obligations will largely determine how well the Reds do but it won’t be as easy as many thought when they were first seen paired with Ludogorets and FC Basel along with Real Madrid.
Joe Hart believes that City were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Bayern Munich but he must surely be the only person, because for the rest of us watching, they were lucky they only lost by one goal. Despite being Premier League Champions, the current seeding system for the Champions League always meant that City would face a tough group. While CSKA are off to the worst possible start in the group, Roma will be a formidable rival to City in the search for the second qualifying spot in the group. Their demolition of the Russians at the same time City were struggling to compete with Bayern Munich underlined their credentials.
With five matches still to play, all four English sides will be hopeful of being able to progress from their groups. How far they are able to get in the competition, however, is still up for debate.