Womenforfootball.com- Beside the unexpectedly cold Winter, Englishmen and women faced another issue to rant about this year. As I posted here back in December, English Premier League had the fewest representatives in the Round of 16 throughout their history, but because both Arsenal and Manchester United were also knocked out of this year’s Round of 16, this year marked EPL’s worst record in Champions League since 1996. After all, the last time there was no English team in Quarter Final stage of Champions League would date back to year 1996.
Manchester United which faced a tough opponent led by Jose Mourinho, in a close-contested match lost 3-2 in aggregate to Real Madrid. Ironically, former Manchester United star, Christian Ronaldo was Real Madrid’s hero for his last grasp goal in return-leg match.
In another match, Arsenal faced last season’s Champions League Finalist, Bayern Munich, and with continued squad depth problems, Gunners could not bypass Bayern Munich and were knocked out.
One thing that has truly stood out in this season’s Champions League games so far, is the fact that the gap between participant teams is clearly reduced and no longer a particular league or a particular team has total superiority throughout the competition. Who could imagine Turkey’s Galatasaray would eliminate Bundesliga’s Schalke to reach Quarter Final, their first in 11 years? Even though, their fantastic coach, Fatih Terim, can get most of the credit for it. Another surprising factor of this season’s Champions League was the sheer brilliance of Spain’s Malaga for their first ever presence in Champions League and also progressing to Quarter Final stage so far. Most pundits were discounting Malaga against Porto, well-known for its Champions League glory few years back.
In terms of league teams’ progress compared to last year, Bundesliga teams marked their best record among other league teams, by having 2 teams among top 8, twice the number of German teams last year at this stage. La Liga(Spain)’s representatives, thanks to Malaga’s surprise factor, have increased from 2 last year to 3 teams in this year’s Quarter Final games. Italy’s Serie-A and France’s Legue 1’s number of representatives remain unchanged with 1 team each at Quarter Final. And as indicated at first, English Premier League’s record has only got worsened with no representative in this year’s Quarter Final, while at least they had 1 representative last year at this stage.
Nonetheless, the Quarter Final draw invites great excitement and bids among football fans starting next Tuesday April 2nd, until April 10th. Another round of two-leg games will determine the fate of top 4 teams making it to the Semi Final stage.
For now, here is the schedule:
Malaga – Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid – Galatasaray
PSG – Barcelona
Bayern Munich – Juventus
Can Galatasaray and Malaga continue their surprise factor into QuarterFinal? Or considering their big-name opponents, it is too soon for them to eliminate likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund? And who can possibly predict Bayern Munich vs Juventus clash outcome? Will Bayern Munich defeat all opponents all the way to the Final, as they did last season, but lose again in the Final? And will Barcelona make up for their last year’s glory disappointment and bring back CL title to Camp Nou? We shall see.
But one thing is clear, English fans and club officials of Arsenal, Manchester United, and last year’s defending Champion, Chelsea, will be watching the games with envy.