Can an English Team Win the Champions League This Season?

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The last English team to win the Champions League was London club Chelsea back in the 2011/12 season although it was an unconvincing run, somehow beating favourites Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in the semi finals to reach the final against Bayern Munich which ended 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 90 mins and extra time, the goals scored by Tomas Muller and Didier Drogba, it was also the Ivorian’s last match for The Blues, as he left Stamford Bridge for Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. Bayern were very unlucky not to win as they were the better team and the loss was even more of a disappointment as Bayern lost the final at home in the Allianz Stadium in front of the Bayern fans who were wanting to race on to the pitch after the final whistle, to celebrate their team winning the Champions League on home soil but it just wasn’t meant to be. Last season’s performance by the English clubs was anything but pleasing. With both Manchester City  and then defending champions Chelsea crashing out in group stages, Chelsea becoming the first team in CL history to be the title holders and go out in the group stages though they did achieve their 2nd European success in a row after being drafted to the Europa League and winning it by beating Benfica 1-0 in the final. The other two English clubs made it through the group stages, and were Arsenal drawn with Bayern Munich and Manchester United drawn with Real Madrid. 2 very tough fixtures and both Arsenal and United went out in the round of 16.The Gunners lost the first leg 3-1 with Lukas Podolski scoring against his former club. Arsenal did beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the 2nd leg however, ended their flawless run without a for over 30 games. An emotional 2 matches for Cristiano Ronaldo, playing against former club Manchester United. In the 1st leg United took the lead by an impressive Danny Welbeck header but Real’s equalizer blew the earlier goal completely out of the water. Ronaldo jumped over 4m in the air to connect with the cross and steer it into the United net. The 2nd leg at Old Trafford started well for Fergie’s men, leading 1-0 from a Sergio Ramos own goal and leading 2-1 on aggregate but then everything started going downhill for United as in the 56th minute Luis Nani was given a controversial red card for a aerial challenge on defender Arbeloa and was met with Sir Alex with a flourish of anger and injustice. Real Madrid took advantage of the weakened United side as ex-spurs player Luka Modric scored to make it 1-1. Then for the final nail in the coffin, former United golden boy Ronaldo put away a 3rd to ensure his club progressed to the quarter-finals.

Ronaldo left full-back Evra for dead to score the header

Ronaldo left full-back Evra for dead to score the header.

This season is completely different. Each 4 of the English clubs have made promising starts in the Champions League, With Manchester United,Chelsea and Arsenal all topping their groups, whilst Manchester City are 2nd in their group, behind current champions Bayern Munich. Man United 2008 CL Manchester United are back in Europe, only this time without Sir Alex Ferguson and now with another Scotsman, David Moyes. After the  Nani incident that cost United further progression last season. They are placed in a relatively easy group with  Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Spanish club Real Sociedad. United started their Champions League run in the right direction, with a very convincing 4-2 victory against Bayern Leverkusen with Rooney making an appearance on the score sheet with 2 goals, which made him United’s 4th highest goalscorer with 200 goals. Valencia and Robin Van Persie also scored. United then played Shakhtar Donetsk which didn’t go exactly according to plan, ending 1-1 but Moyes’ boys were pleased with a point. Welbeck put United in front in the 19th minute and they looked very good on and off the ball, getting forward in numbers but also dropping back quickly  when Shakhtar got onto the counter attack. United held off the Ukrainian club until the 76th minute after a lapse of concentration by United and Taison levelled it for Skakhtar. After this match it seemed, United dropping points in the league as they drew with Southampton after conceding a goal in the 89th min. David Moyes maybe struggling in the league, but his European campaign has started well and maybe the new boss can lead United to their 3rd Champions League trophy? Seems an impossible task but it would definitely mark the Moyes era. Manchester City have a much easier group this year after being placed in the ‘group of death’ last year which contained Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and City. City crashed out in the group stages with 3 points, which came from 3 draws translating into 3 draws and 3 losses in the 6 matches they played in Europe. This season though, the footballing gods gave mercy upon Manchester City, putting them in a more forgiving group but do have the German powerhouse that is Bayern Munich standing in their way, Now with Pep Guardiola leading Bayern and young talent like Mario Götze and Spanish attacking midfielder Thiago, they look on their way to getting their 2nd Champions League trophy in a row. Manchester City started their Champions League run off with a 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzeň, With Eden Dźeko, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero scoring against the Club from Czech Republic. City then had a minor setback after losing 3-1 to the current champions. Ribery showed why Bayern are champions after scoring in the 7th minute due to some shoddy defending by City. Bayern scored two goals in quick succession in the 56th and 59th minute from Müller and Robben before new signing Negredo pulled one back and scored his first European goal for the Manchester club. They quickly bounced back from this defeat though, beating CSKA Moscow 3-1 after coming back from behind and clinching a win by an Agüero double. This win was overshadowed by the fact there were racist chants and abuse directed to Man City midfielder Yaya Touré but credit to Yaya, he carried on with the match taking little to no notice to the idiotic chants that were being said to him. For City to have a chance of succeeding in the Champions League, they must make sure that their captain Vincent Kompany stays fit as he is undoubtedly the backbone of the whole Manchester City team. When he’s not in the team, the whole team loses enthusiasm and energy is seems, which was most recently visible when City lost to newly promoted team Cardiff City 2-1. Kompany was not playing in the match as a result of an injury and the whole team looked very lost and looked without a purpose on the pitch. A commanding captain is needed in a successful team and that is exactly what Kompany is.

Chelsea celebrating their first Champions League trophy.

Chelsea celebrating their first Champions League trophy.

Chelsea, now back with Jose Mourinho look a real threat to other European clubs. Last season they entered the competition as the champions but didn’t put in the performance of champions as they crashed out in the group stages with 10 points they finished 3rd, so they got drafted into the Europa League and got European glory in the lower tier continental tournament. This season Chelsea look very strong and have one of the best squads in the world in terms of squad depth, especially in the middle of the park. They have improved the squad, still missing a prolific forward though the Blues did buy Demba Ba from Newcastle back in January along with Samuel Eto’o and Andre Schürrle.  Their group this year is much easier than last years with German club Schalke 04, Basel and Steaua București. Chelsea started off on the wrong foot as they lost 2-1 to Basel and it looked like history was going to repeat itself from last season. They got back from the somewhat shock defeat to Basel and comfortably beat Romanian side Steaua București 4-0 by a Ramires brace and an own goal by full-back Georgievski, Lampard also scored in the 90th min to completely kill the game off. The Blues then faced Schalke who they beat away from home with Torres looking on form scoring 2 goals and Eden Hazard also made an appearance on the score sheet. Chelsea’s defence is also very solid with Mourinho restoring John Terry into the team, Gary Cahill and David Luiz last season showing that they can play together as a centre-back partnership and both Cahill and Luiz were crucial for their countries last season, especially Luiz denying Spain a goal in the Confed Cup final by an excellent goal line clearance, which was similar to Subotić’s clearance for Dorussia Dortmund in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich when Müller when around then Bortmund keeper to slot it home but the Serbian deflected it out. Chelsea’s full-backs are also good at defending, aswell as pushing forward for a wide option. Ashley Cole often made runs beyond Eden Hazard last season to offer more width in their attack and their partnership has been often compared to the hugely successful left side partnership of David Alaba and Franck Ribery due to the similarity of their play, the full back providing pace and crossing ability and the winger providing skill and flair. For Chelsea to achieve success in Europe’s biggest tournament, they will have to get everything out of their centre-forwards. Fernando Torres is finally picking up form in the Chelsea shirt, Ba is slowly finding his way back into the team and Samuel Eto’o, a 2 time Champions League winner knows what is required to win the most wanted trophy in club football.

Arsenal are the only team in the top 4 to have the same manager from last season and Arsène Wenger has shown why he is one of the Premier League’s most respected and accomplished managers this season by impressive starts in the league and in the Champions League. Last season Arsenal struggled as star man Robin Van Persie left the North London club for Manchester United, making him the 3rd essential player that Wenger let go in a row, Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas from the seasons previous. Whilst The Gunners did well to get through the group stages and into the round of 16, they were unlucky to get Bayern Munich in the draw and were completely shown up in the first leg by the German club being beat 3-1. The 2nd leg gave the Frenchmen’s team a glimmer of hope as they beat Bayern 2-0 and it ended 3-3 on the aggregate score, but the Germans went through on away goals. This season Arsenal improved the squad with 2 very good signings, Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Özil, aswell as young star Yaya Sanogo. Özil has already hit the ground running at the Emirates, bagging 3 goals and 6 assists in all competitions. The German playmaker has got Arsenal fans daring to dream about silverware finally coming into the club and why not?  He was a major part of why Real Madrid won La Liga in the 2011/12 season and although is not renown for his goals, Mesut does carry a screamer in that left foot of his. Flamini returning to Arsenal was a major risk done by Wenger as the French midfielder did leave the club back in 2008 due to contract issues but it is a risk that paid off. Aswell as having the deadly partnership of Santi Carzola and Mesut Özil, 2 world-class play makers, they also could potentially have one of the greatest defensive midfield partnership in Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. Both players aren’t afraid to get stuck in and doing the dirty work for their team. Though Arsenal haven’t really preformed noticeably well since losing the final to Barcelona in 2006, now they have a real chance of letting the world know that the force that is Arsenal is back and isn’t going down without a fight.

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