We’re half-way through the first Champion’s League kock-out stage, and the English teams have already crashed by the wayside – though they’ve not been helped by the referees! With United probably lucky to beat Olympiakos in current form, all hopes now rest on Chelsea if we want to see the trophy coming back to London in May.
Both Manchester City and Arsenal knew they would have to be at their best to progress against the best footballing sides in Europe – Barca and Bayern – but they made it hard for themselves, and never really looked like getting anything from the matches, even when it was still 0-0, and everyone had 11 players each.
City can count themselves as more unlucky than Arsenal – whilst Demichelis’ lunge was clearly a sending off because he was the last man, the actual offence was committed outside the box. Barca may well have scored from their close-range free-kick, but it would have given City a better chance of holding on. As soon as they went a goal behind with ten men the match was only ever going to go one way. And at 2-0 down in the home leg the tie is effectively over.
Arsenal will be rueing the missed opportunity, when Ozil contrived to miss a one-on-one from 12 yards with only the keeper to beat, but can have no real complaints about the penalty or sending off. Again at 2-0 down in the home leg, Arsenal are as good as out. The fact that Bayern have won 148 of their last 155 matches should give you some indication as to Arsenal’s chances in the return leg.
On the plus side, both Arsenal and Man City will be able to concentrate on their league matches instead, which should see an exciting end to what has been the closest and most-open Premier League season on record. (That’s probably bad news for Liverpool fans by the way!)
All of which leaves us relying on Manchester United and Chelsea… United have flattered to deceive so far this season, and given that they have crashed out of both the FA and Carling Cups, you can hardly claim that Moyes is a knock-out specialist. They should still get past Olympiakos, but will crash and burn as soon as they come up against more meaningful opposition – can you imagine how they would have got on against either Barca or Bayern!?
Chelsea should beat Galatasaray easy enough, with Mourinho’s tactical nous helping him to take on Mancini and Drogba. How they cope against Atletico, PSG, Bayern, Barca, Dortmund or Real in the next round remains to be seen…