For a good part of the last ten years, the Premier League ruled the roost when it came to the debate of “Which is the best league in the world?” With the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea each making deep runs in the Champions League, there was just no comparison. But with the recent resurgence from Bayern Munich (Bundesliga), Inter and Milan (Serie A) and Real Madrid and Barcelona (La Liga), the balance of power has been more or less restored.
And despite Chelsea taking the European glory last season, many still feel that was more of a fluke than a sign of the Premier League being revitalized. Their Champions League triumph had more of the same feel of when the Houston Rockets won consecutive NBA titles in the mid 90’s; with a big asterisk.
“Yes, Houston you won, but that’s because Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls) was retired.”
“Yes, Chelsea you won, but that’s because you parked your entire team inside the penalty box against Barcelona. You won because you didn’t play football.”
That’s the sentiment I’m sensing from fans across the globe. Barcelona’s semifinal defeat was more a fluke than it was a sign of things to come. We have seen Lionel Messi go on his record breaking goal scoring run (92 in all competitions for 2012), helping his team build a commanding 11 point lead in La Liga. To make matters worse, we have seen champion holders Chelsea crash out of the group stage of the Champions League and Premier League champions Manchester City bow out without registering a single win in group play.
Manchester United and Arsenal are the only two EPL clubs left standing and both face stiff competition against defending La Liga champions Real Madrid and Champions League finalist Bayern Munich respectively. It would not be a shock to the football world should both English clubs be knocked out. But to start the restoration that the EPL is the best league in the world, both United and Arsenal need to make another deep run in the Champions League, especially United since they are currently in first place.
Only a deep run this year will give EPL fans a foundation for defending their league as the best. It won’t bring back it’s glory days of 07-08, 08-09 but it can stop the rumblings that the EPL is on its way down… at least for now.