To many, the race for the Premiership title seems all but over unless Manchester United comes undone between now and the end of the season. While the chance of that happening seems very doubtful, we have to consider what effect the Champions League will have on not only United, but Chelsea and also-rans Arsenal and Liverpool.
The Champions League returns next Tuesday and Wednesday where Chelsea plays Porto, Lille takes on Manchester United, PSV battles Arsenal and a little team named Barcelona plays Liverpool.
Personally I don’t feel that Manchester United has the strength or depth in their squad to manage the Premiership and the Champions League titles. I can see them winning either one of them (and a token FA Cup trophy), but not both. That’s quite some praise for United, who have looked nowhere near the form of lifting the Champions League trophy in years.
If the Red Devils do overcome Lille, who are currently third in Lique Une, their form in the Premiership could be threatened depending on who their play in the next round, and whether they encounter injuries along the way.
The same applies to Chelsea, who will be waiting in the wings to take advantage of any slip-ups by Man United. While the Blues face tougher opposition than Man United (against Porto), we all know that the Champions League trophy is what Mourinho and Abramovich want more than anything.
And Chelsea, like United, will be unable to handle the demands placed on them to win both the Champions League and Premiership trophies. The team should be able to overcome Porto. From there, it all depends who they get in the next round which will determine if they have a route to the final.
If what Eto’o says is true and the Barcelona dressing room is split into two camps, there’s a chance for Liverpool to get a result in the two legs of their Champions League matchup. If Liverpool can do the unthinkable and knock Barcelona out of the tournament, their chances of progressing far in the cup tournament will increase significantly. Remember Liverpool has nothing left to play for other than securing a Champions League spot in the Premiership and a chance to lift the Champions League trophy again, so they have the ability to remain focused the most in their quest.
Arsenal is unstoppable right now in the FA Cup and League Cup, but they have a tricky tie in the Champions League against PSV Eindhoven, currently in first place in the Eredivisie. While Arsenal’s Premiership race has come off the tracks recently with their draw against Middlesbrough, the North London team does have the advantage of fielding two teams this year. So even if injuries riddle the team, they’re in the unique advantage where they have much more depth than Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool combined.
So while so much attention is currently being placed by the media on the remaining Premiership fixtures for Chelsea and Manchester United (that includes you Sean Ingle and Kevin McCarra), don’t overlook the importance of the Champions League and what effect that will have on both teams. It could have a severe impact on one or more of the top four teams. And you have to say that this season, there’s a great chance of an English club lifting that European cup of champions.