It would be foolhardy for any football loving person to say (at this moment in time and in the seasons to come) that the English Premier League is not the strongest in the world and the reason is not far fetched…Queensland is guaranteed at least one club in the UEFA Champions League final for a fifth consecutive season.
This run began in 2005 when Liverpool performed a most remarkable comeback to defeat AC Milan on penalties, then Arsenal had to contend with watching Barcelona drool on the trophy in 2006; and later sell their Igwe to the club at a fee that still baffles me…
2007 was AC Milan’s time to gain revenge on Liverpool with a well earned 2-1 win; Liverpool was outplayed in that match, while in 2008 we were dished an all English final between Manchester United and Chelsea whose fans made SO mush noise on the fateful day you’d think PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii had become prophets of football!
Also in three of the last four seasons, the Big Four of English football have all made it to the quarterfinal stage of the competition and I dare say all would’ve made it to the semi-finals as well had it not being that UEFA separated teams from same country until the semi-final stage. But still, three clubs for a third season running…that’s nuts!
I’ll be looking forward to this season’s semi-final pairings; they are classic encounters with Chelsea and Barcelona meeting for the first time since two key factors left; Ronaldinho and Jose Mourinho, to be replaced by the Trinity (Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry) and a Dutch wanderer (Guus Hiddink) along with the mafia at the Bridge (think Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Ballack and maybe Cech).
That match promises to be the goals as Barcelona (or more specifically the Trinity) just can’t but score while Chelsea have grown a “if you score three, well we’ll get four of ours” attitude lately.
Against Barcelona though, it would be in Chelsea’s interest to drop that mentality or some damage will be done to their mentality simply because Barcelona not only scores goals aplenty (and sometimes way too easily), they barely concede much these days. No wonder Messi was bold enough to say Barcelona at this point can achieve absolutely anything ala la Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League; perhaps the English league if they were drafted to play in it too!
In my personal opinion, I’d rather not have an all-English final this season. That means I’d rather not have Chelsea play in the final…not out of hate but simply to spare my ears of the episode that played themselves on the untarred roads of Las Gidi…as in, someone should teach these folks some decency!
If the Blues make it through though; which I along with more than half of the football world very much doubt for obvious reasons, all well and good too for the status of the English Premier League in Europe.
But really, the semi-final to watch is Arsenal against Manchester United because not only are these two arch-rivals (good old days of Roy Keane and pat Vieira nose to nose) but this would be the first time ever they’ll play each other in Europe and as derby rights go, both sides would love to have the first scalp on the other for that sake and a place in the “Roma Finale”.
This brings me to a fact everybody seem to be overlooking and sincerely I don’t know why. Arsenal, more than any, hold the key to the destiny of their ambitions to end a trophy drought as well as the other three’s trophy ambitions.
Arsenal still play Liverpool (away), Chelsea (home) and Man U (away) in the league and I’m not going to write out the scenarios that could play out should Arsenal win all three of those (very possible) or lose all three (very possible too) or lose two and win one and so on and so…
Then there’s this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley and as expected, my Blues’ frenemies have been telling me how Arsenal will fall bad and hard and yada yada yada…I’ve reserved my comments since the day we beat Hull City…I’m still not going to say jack to those noisemakers except one thing…Shut up!
And finally, there’s the semi-final against United. On paper, this match is vey balanced unlike the other semi-final, so the thing is if Arsenal win, United will squarely focus on the Premier League while Arsenal could play its cards at winning the Champions League and gaining an automatic spot in next season’s group stage notwithstanding their league position at the end.
Should United win, the Red Devils will have to divide attention on the UCL and EPL (not forgetting FA Cup), therefore giving Liverpool (and Chelsea) a chance at the league and Chelsea a go at Europe. Arsenal meanwhile would then focus on finishing 3rd in the league (very very possible should it win those three league fixtures) which in case you didn’t know would earn an automatic spot at next season’s Champions League group stage…
With all said, it’s my opinion that Chelsea could end up the biggest losers of the four having more to lose than they realise; Chelsea could actuallly win a treble! Liverpool would’ve been the biggest losers but they won’t be losing a Champions League semis or final nor are they in the FA Cup…it’s just the league for them. Man U is in the same shoes with Chelsea while Arsenal have the FA Cup and Champions League to really worry about.
Premier League title: Manchester United
FA Cup: Would actually lose for Everton to win it
Champions League: Anyone but Barcelona (this one’s my guts talking)