On Tuesday night both English teams enjoyed positive results last night in the Champions League; Arsenal sneaked a gritty 1-0 win in Romania against Steaua Bucharest while Manchester United beat a Roma side packed with quality by the same score. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney scored the goals- they will be doing that a lot more should their respective sides progress further in the competition.
English sides have done well over the past few years- final appearances for Liverpool twice in the past three years (winning it in 2005) while Arsenal reached the final in 2006 (losing to Barcelona). Along with a few semi final appearances, it is clear that English sides have the capability to go far, and this season may see one of them win it yet again.
Wednesday’s matches saw two contrasting results; Liverpool went down 1-0 against Marseille at Anfield while Chelsea pulled off a promising result away from home, winning 2-1 against Valencia after a Drogba winner in the second half. Marseille were without Nasri and had been poor in the league yet still managed to deal a severe blow to Liverpool’s Champions League hopes- they now have just a point after their opening two games. Chelsea negotiated their tricky tie well despite conceding the first goal to David Villa; their comeback now means they top their group.
While Liverpool are five points off top place they should still qualify as it is all in their own hands and Chelsea are in pole position to finish top now after yesterday’s result. If all four English teams qualify as expected, there is a good chance that the winner of the UEFA Champions League 2007/08 will be from the Premiership.
Why? Well, this season all the English sides definitely have the squads do go far. Arsenal, perennial underachievers in the Champions league seem to have picked up some steel; Manchester United have bought in the players to fill the gaps in their squad; Liverpool now have the firepower up front while Chelsea are capable of getting a goal and then shutting up shop. Yes, a few of the English sides have had poor starts to the campaign, however the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan have also stuttered. League performances mean nothing in Europe, as AC Milan showed- they finished a massive 36 points (including the 8 deducted for match-fixing) off top place last year, yet managed to win their 7th Champions League title.
In knockout competitions, we all know that anything can happen. No one expected Liverpool to win the competition after losing Michael Owen; even less expected AC Milan to do so after their match fixing points deduction and poor form. Should the English sides improve their performances, there is no chance we will not see one of them pick up the trophy. In the past, only two Premiership sides have won it since its inception- Manchester United in 1999 and Liverpool in 2005. Both those sides will be looking to do so again, while Arsenal and Chelsea will look to finally claim the ultimate European prize that has eluded them these past years.