The UEFA Champions League resumed with the round of 16 early last week after a two month break. No league in Europe is more represented in the tournament than the English Premier League, who sent Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. But after the first leg of the knockout phase, it is conceivable that all four will be eliminated this round.
Barcelona of Spain opened the English drubbing with a 2-nil defeat over Manchester City at Etihad stadium. City, who are known for their relentless attacking game, were held at bay for nearly the entire 90 minutes, looking nothing like the team that leads the EPL in goals scored. Barcelona dominated and will have a huge upper hand playing the second leg at home. City would have to score at least two goals in the second match to pull even on aggregate, and would need a 3-nil victory to move on to the next phase. It doesn’t look good for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
The following day, after City’s defeat, Arsenal took on Bayern Munich at Emirate’s Stadium. They, too, lost 2-nil and weren’t able to keep up with their opponent. Arsenal came out strong, however, and could have gone up early on a Mesut Özil penalty kick, but that was easily tended to by Munich keeper Manuel Neuer. After that, Arsenal lost their keeper to a red card, when Wojciech Szczesny was sent off for taking down Arjen Robben in the penalty area, and then lost left back Kieran Gibbs to a hamstring injury in the 31st minute. Down a man, and with only one second-half sub, the Gunners fought admirably in an uphill battle the rest of the way. Their second leg in Germany in mid-March won’t be an easy one, and they’ll have to put together the same margin of defeat as City has to against Barcelona. Arsenal, it seems, look to be nearing their departure from the Champions League.
On Tuesday, group stage winners Manchester United visited Olympiacos FC in Greece, in what was expected to be a Red Devils victory. But David Moyes and his troops were treated to a shocking 2-nil defeat at Karaiskakis Stadium instead. Olympiacos still has their work cut out for them, as visiting Old Trafford is never an easy trip for any club, but they have a strong defense and can advance even with a loss. United will put up a fight, but they’ve been troubled all season long and an early exit in the Champions League seems fitting.
Yesterday, Chelsea, who also won their group, visited Turkey to face Galatasaray. Jose Mourinho has led his club to a handful of impressive victories lately, and was expected to run away with this match despite it being on the road. While Chelsea didn’t lose, the 1-1 draw was a big victory for the Turkish club. Chelsea will be on their heels on the return leg at Stamford Bridge, but they have the upper hand here playing at home. Chelsea disappointed in the first leg, however, so it’s not beyond the stretch of the imagination to conceive they’d disappoint again.
Group winners Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint Germain all won their respective road matches and should have an easy go of advancing on the return leg next month. The four English clubs, on the other hand, may quickly turn their attention solely on winning a tight premier league battle.
VISUAL CONTEXT: ENGLISH CLUBS WEREN’T REPRESENTED IN THE TEAM OF THE WEEK