Not often I get a football article sent in, but here is one, so see what you think!
For football supporters in the UK, the 2014/15 season has lost a little bit of its intrigue because of Chelsea’s significant advantage in the Premier League tables. What’s ordinarily a time of year to pay close attention to a thrilling EPL title race now appears to be little more than a victory lap for the Blues, although, there is time for a surprise should Chelsea suffer a sudden and unexpected lapse in form, or a crucial injury. At any rate, the real intrigue this year resides in the Champions League, where three of England’s top clubs—Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal—remain alive heading into the round of 16. Here’s a look at where each club stands in Champions League competition.
Having cruised through Group G to reach the knockout stages, Chelsea looks to be in as good or better form than any club in Europe. However, the Blues will get a difficult test in a round of 16 tie with Ligue 1 champions PSG, whom they narrowly defeated in last year’s quarterfinals. Both clubs are capable of outstanding play, though the interesting factor in this tie could be focus. Chelsea will no doubt be chasing Champions League glory, but with such wonderful domestic opportunity ahead of them, they may be more preoccupied with matches closer to home. Meanwhile, analyst James Eastham’s preview of the tie at betting.betfair’s football news section suggests that PSG may be dealing with distractions of its own. Specifically, Eastham points out that injuries, declining form for superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and supporter criticism of manager Laurent Blanc have all contributed to a “low mood” in the PSG camp.
All in all, Chelsea looks to have a strong chance to advance, though it certainly won’t be an easy tie. A win would likely set up a quarterfinal contest against Bayern Munich, who is the favourite against Shakhtar Donetsk in its round of 16 clash.
It’s fairly safe to say that Manchester City has the most interesting round of 16 tie out of the three remaining English sides. The club will take on Barcelona, who has found exceptional form thus far in 2015. They have also been keen to make a deep run after being halted by Atlético Madrid in the quarterfinals a season ago. The Telegraph’s sport page took an advance look at the Champions League round of 16 and ranked each of the competing clubs. While this is not necessarily a forecast of things to come because it doesn’t take pairings and bracket placement into account, the article ranked Barcelona and Manchester City third and fifth, respectively, which provides some idea of the reputations of both sides at the moment. There’s no denying, however, that Barcelona is the more formidable side of late. The Spanish side has won 11 straight matches in major competitions, whereas Man City is coming off a January slide that allowed Chelsea to seize control of the EPL.
The winner of the tie will advance to face the winner between Dortmund and Juventus, which will be a tough quarterfinal contest as well. Juventus is likely to advance and has the talent to make life difficult for either City or Barcelona.
Arsenal has probably been the most difficult club in England to gain a handle on this season. Loaded with offensive talent on paper, the Gunners occasionally look every bit as capable as Manchester City or Chelsea. Lacking defensive reliability and general consistency, however, Arsenal can also look like a disaster waiting to be exposed. Regardless, it appears that Arsene Wenger’s side may be the better prepared to advance. The Gunners have been quite good in Champions League play, and while Monaco was strong in getting to this point, it may not have the firepower to exploit Arsenal. As Bleacher Report’s predictions noted, there’s also an experience gap. Arsenal’s key players are very familiar with this stage, whereas some on Monaco are walking on new ground. While far from a genuine Champions League favourite at this point, Arsenal should be able to advance another round at least. A likely quarterfinal tie against Atlético Madrid (who should dispatch Leverkusen in the round of 16) would be a tougher test. Ultimately, it’s likely that at least two of the three remaining English sides could advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, and of that group at least one should be a legitimate threat to win it all. The action kicks off on Tuesday!