English teams draw blanks in Europe
I think its fair to say it has been a disappointing week for English teams in Europe. With Tottenham going down 2-0 in the Ukraine, Manchester City crumbling to a last minute equalizer to draw 2-2 with FC Copenhagen and Aston Villa drawing 1-1 with CSKA Moscow. With Harry Redknapps's recent comments I can't see Spurs progressing and I see the same fate for Aston Villa as they face a tough task away to CSKA.
However, I don't think its a case of 'the grass is always greener on the other side'. In my opinion Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all face very tough opposition in the last 16 of the Champions League. I can definitely see at least two of the remaining four British teams crashing out. Here is my preview of some of the Champions League games coming up. Feel free to disagree or not take any notice at all as I chose who will advance and key players to look out for in each of the games.
Champions league preview
Arsenal v Roma
An intriguing tie here, I think it all comes down to what Arsenal turn up. Will be it be the fluent, easy on the eye attacking football Arsenal or the Prone to mistakes Arsenal? Roma currently lie 6th in Serie A and like Arsenal will certainly not be winning a league title this season. Roma's failures have mainly been at the back this season having conceded an incredible 31 goals in the league. If Arsenal could exploit Roma's frailties at the back I think they stand a good chance.
Players to watch:M. Vucinic and R. Van Persie.
Team to advance: Tough call but I think Arsenal will just about edge it.
Inter Milan v Man United
This one is definitely without question my tie of the round. Yet another Ferguson vs Mourinho tactical battle. Both teams are at the summit of their domestic leagues and both have played some world class football this season and it will be disappointing to see one of these sides go out. Two players who could be key to each teams success are Inter Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Man United's Cristiano Ronaldo. I'm sure we all know what both of these players can do and that is why I think they are both going to be a crucial part of their teams chances of progression into the quarter finals.
Players to watch: C.Ronaldo and Z.Ibrahimovic
Team to advance: This one could really go either way but...Inter Milan.
Lyon v Barcelona
What more can be said about Barcelona? They are having an absolutely phenomenal season and are taking La Liga by storm. With the likes of Eto'o, Messi and Henry all in sensational form I think it would take a miricale for Lyon to stop Barca from advancing to the quarter finals. However, Lyon do top Ligue 1 but haven't had it as easy as they have in previous years. Karim Benzema is a huge reason for their succeses and he will be key if they are to stand any chance of ousting the seemingly unstoppable Barcelona.
Players to watch: L.Messi and K. Benzema
Team to advance: Without a doubt in my mind, Barcelona
Chelsea v Juventus
Claudio Ranieri returns to Stamford Bridge in what is sure to be an enthralling encounter. With Chelsea's title hopes now in tatters Guus Hiddink may now focus his attention on the Champions League. While Juve currently occupy 2nd place in Serie A but are 9 points adrift of rivals Inter Milan. Personally I feel this game could turn out to be a classic Champions League match, both teams are under pressure to deliver success and it doesn't look to be coming in their domestic leagues.
Players to watch: F.Lampard and Amauri
Team to advance: Yet another hard call but I'll go with Juventus.
Liverpool V Real Madrid
Usually by this stage of the Champions League Liverpool are not surprisingly out of the race for the Premier League, however this year they still have a little bit of life in their title challange and I believe this will signal the end of their champions league hopes. Any year they have done well in the champions league they have not had the distraction of the premiership. The same could be said for Real Madrid, although they are all but out of the race fo the La liga title, I think this could work to their advantage. If Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres aren't fit for either of these games I cant see Liverpool having much of a chance therefore I am going to predict that Real Madrid will be in the draw for the quarter final of this years champions league.
Players to watch:S. Gerrard and G. Higuaín
Team to advance:Real Madrid
So by my reckoning Spurs, Villa, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea will all be OUT of Europe by the time the draws are made for the next round of each competition. A bold call I know, but I feel the Premier League has been poor this season and this will reflect in the Champions League. Maybe I'll be writing my next post with egg on my face and all the English teams will indeed have done themselves proud but looking at it right now ... I doubt it.