- They’re all back, the world’s best club cup competition, Anelka, Van der Sar, photographers and tasty green bottle.
It was a mas o menos weekend as Premier League action gave way to FA Cup fifth round ties. There are a few interesting replays to look forward to as a couple of Premier League clubs remain in the world’s oldest cup competition, but overall a bit lackluster. Before Premier League action resumes this coming weekend, two of the top three Premier League clubs get their European boots on again, with the other English club lacing up the follow week, as the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg ties are approached with anticipation.
For fans of the Champions League, there are some tasty fixtures with a bit of drama thrown in the pot as some old friendships are rekindled. All three English clubs start their respective two leg ties away in the first leg before returning home to finish out the tie. Chelsea old boy Jose Mourinho will host his former love when the Blues visit Inter Milan at the San Siro on the 24th of February. Headed to the San Siro first though will be last year’s finalists Manchester United as former Red Devil and on loan AC Milan midfielder David Beckham emotionally awaits his old club where he spent his best years. Beautiful Passing Gnomes will clash with Portuguese Champions FC Porto, a battle of quick passing, attacking teams, that’s sure to be an open, two leg affair (a’hem, key immature laughter).
But the question I want to pose to readers of EPL Talk is: can an English club win the Champions League this year? More specifically, will they?
Arsenal seem still not quite ready and are lacking an out and out central striker and midfield tough man (although Barcelona won last year’s tournament with the brilliant, fluid, and visionary passing of Xavi and Iniesta), but Chelsea and Manchester United both have squads deep enough, experienced enough and firing on all cylinders with enough quality and top European talent to reach this years final in Madrid.
The scripts have all been written. Former managers and players knocking heads against each other and their former teams (Benzema and Lyon and the opportunity for many more). The return of a once great midfielder to the club and ground that saw him reach International stardom. The chance for Real Madrid to play the final at home as the galácticos again tempt the stars. Brilliant Barcelona and their attempt to repeat as Champions, already one of the greatest club teams in the history of football. And of course, the chance for English clubs to continue their incredibly successful run in the Champions League having reached the Final every year since 2005.
What are your thoughts on the Champions League matches concerning English clubs this year? Will either one of the three consider fielding a weakened side to focus on the close Premier League title race? Can an English club reach and possibly win the Final? If so, which one? Is the Champions League Arsenal’s only realistic chance at silverware this season?
My prediction for the Final: Manchester United 3 – 2 Real Madrid.