This is a massive week for English football in the Champions League and the
prospect of Manchester United losing to Olympiakos is unthinkable for David
Manchester City and Arsenal
are both goners after losing their first legs last week so the
responsibility falls on United and Chelsea to show that Premier
League clubs can still compete against the best teams in Europe.
For Moyes, a defeat to Olympiakos over two legs would send them back to square
one, but reaching the quarter-finals would undoubtedly give him some respite
and show United are on the right track.
This has been a season of transition for them and while I don’t expect them to
go on and win the Champions
League, getting into the last eight would still give Moyes something
to look forward to for next season, especially when you consider he will
make a number of big signings in the summer.
We’re at a stage now where United are grasping at every piece of good news
they can lay their hands on. Wayne
Rooney signing his new contract is obviously fantastic for them and
even though the figures being thrown around are astronomical, when you strip
away the financial aspect the fact is he’s still there.
A United team going forward without Rooney is a grim prospect and it’s
obviously far better to have him there than not.
Victory at Crystal
Palace should usually be seen as the norm but Saturday’s 2-0 win is
now viewed as a major positive.
If they get through against Olympiakos, which they should do, Manchester
United are back in business. For most of the season it’s been bad
news for Moyes, but this would be a step in the right direction and would
show that the manager’s methods are working.
I can’t see them going any further than the semi-finals, though. They are
still in there fighting and you only have to look at how Liverpool
came back to beat AC Milan in 2005’s final to realise anything is possible.
That year Liverpool had an average team, yet still recovered from 3-0 down to
beat a great team – but I’m afraid lightning doesn’t strike twice. It would
be another miracle if United were to win it with the team they’ve got at the
moment and I can’t see it happening.
Chelsea are far better structured for the competition and they offer more to
the Champions League than the other English teams. Their defence is better
than anybody else’s, but the problem is they haven’t got a centre forward
who can score them a goal when the game is tight.
They are actually the complete opposite to Manchester
City, who sat back for the first 20 minutes against Barcelona
and didn’t get it right. They had too many players back and didn’t have an
outlet when the ball came back at them.
They will now have to take the game to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the second
leg, but that’s just playing into their hands and I can’t see them getting
This year we all thought City would win it but they will have learned from
their experience. They have definitely improved in the competition under
Manuel Pellegrini and will come back stronger.
It could have been different for Arsenal against Bayern
Munich, especially after the way they started at the Emirates, but
Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty changed the game and they’ve fallen short again.
They won in Munich last year and if they’d had another five minutes could even
have won the tie but the smart money is on the defending champions to go
City and Arsenal’s results undoubtedly made it a bad week for the Premier
League as a product.
The Premier League is where all the money is and where you want the best
players and teams. You would want at least two of the four teams to progress
but it’s all cyclical.
In 2008 there were realistically three English teams that could win it.
Three of them were in the semi-finals and then two in the final. Football
always works in cycles so it was never going to last – but it will come back
But the Premier League arguably needs some positive results this week to show
English teams can still be a force to be reckoned with against the top clubs
in Spain and Germany.
Last week was a sobering dose of reality so it is up to United and Chelsea
to deliver some good news in the next few days.
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