With the latest Uefa coefficients published at the end of last month for the upcoming Champions League campaign, fans of England’s top four teams have experienced vastly different levels of enthusiasm. Chelsea, currently milling around 9/1 odds for the tournament outright, are sitting pretty in fourth, behind Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. Arsenal are next placed in seventh, thanks to their innate ability to reach the knockout stage year after year. Manchester United fans, to their dismay, sit 20th, four places below archrivals Manchester City, thanks to their absence in the competition last season.
But which of English football’s representatives in the Champions League will go the furthest?
Man Utd, with their new look side and the ferocious Louis van Gaal, will be fired up no end. None can doubt their European pedigree, and they will be hell bent on re-announcing themselves on club football’s biggest stage in a big way. First they will have to traverse the qualifiers, and will come up some of the biggest teams in the competition in the group stage, due to their lowly perch in the coefficients.
It is hard to see them falling early on, considering the talent at Van Gaal’s disposal. The Dutchman is well versed in Europe’s premier competition, and won the trophy in the 1994/95 season with Ajax. His prowess in cup competitions was shown once again in the last World Cup, where he took the Netherlands to the semi-finals. That may be just beyond United, but a quarter final finish is a decent target to aim for. What’s for sure is that the odds on the Red Devils will be more than tempting!
Last year’s Premier League champions Chelsea are looking good. A fully preserved first eleven from last season’s success, an unquenchable thirst for glory instilled by Jose Mourinho, and with only four defeats in all competitions last season. Despite crashing out at the first knockout stage on away goals to PSG after two draws last time out, Chelsea’s recent adventures in the Champions League have been promising.
A maiden victory against Bayern Munich in 2012 put the Blues on the map, and its tough to envisage anything less than a quarter final berth in the coming campaign. Diego Costa will be key to their hopes, as that front line looks a little light. Well worth a flutter, and could reach the final with the wind in their sails.
Man City, for all the money invested in them, have so far failed to deliver in Europe. Demolished by Barcelona in the knockout stages last season, Manuel Pellegrini’s big ask for the new campaign is a prolonged assault on Europe – but we aren’t sure that he and his squad are up to it. Europe does not fear City, and why would they? The first eleven is strong, but never seem to show up on the continent, and considering the strength of the opposition, and limited reinforcements made to their squad, we see another damp squib of a campaign for the rich kids.
Finally, Arsenal, have cause for optimism. Strong foundations, and a know-how concerning the group stage; Arsene Wenger’s side look to be in brilliant shape, perhaps as good a squad as the one that lost out to Barcelona at the death in the 2006 Champions League final.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini is the only surviving member of the Arsenal side that was beaten 2-1 by the Catalans in Paris, and there’s no chance of him breaking into the first team now, considering the wealth of talent at Wenger’s disposal! With a favourable draw, its not hard to see the Gunners hit the semis. From there, anything is possible.
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