With the first leg of the knockout stage in the UEFA Champions League completed the road teams for the most part dominated their counterparts as is often expected. In the round of 16 the teams who’ve won their groups are then paired up with second place teams from various groups in order to narrow the field down while also receiving an advantage of not yet having to play another group winner. All of that changes in the quarterfinals, but for right now we’ll keep our focus on the opening stages of the knockout phase. English teams did not put on a good show.
Of the sixteen teams that competed over the past week of the knockout stage, a quarter of them were from England, including: Chelsea, who currently stands in first place in the EPL with 60 pts; Arsenal, who stands in second with 59 pts; Manchester City in third with 57 pts; and Manchester United in seventh with 45 pts. Collectively, these four teams scored a single goal. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres scored for his side in the 9′ minute mark of today’s game in Turkey. Other than that solitary goal, no other EPL team scored in six hours of European Soccer combined. Worse is the fact that Manchester United came into their tie with Olympiakos as a group winner and lost 2-0 heading back to Old Trafford.
I have a hard time putting too much criticism on the likes of Arsenal and Man City based on their competition, but they were both at home and got blanked by a combined 4-0. What’s worse is that not only are these teams getting beat on their home soil, but they’re owned by billionaires and are in the league that’s seen as the tops in the world, and most certainly Europe.
A team like Olympiakos probably has a hard time paying the people to clean the stands after the game, meanwhile Man United is a publicly traded company whose stock is down on both the exchange and the pitch. A team in Chelsea seems to have all the star power in the world, but certainly didn’t put forth an effort today that deemed laudable. A tie in Turkey seems pitiful when looking at an equal super-power in Real Madrid who won 0-6 in Germany against Schalke.
The fact of the matter is that while the EPL is getting all this TV money from NBC to broadcast games here in the US, the quality of soccer in England has dropped off significantly. The teams that are supposed to be dominating on the European circuit aren’t doing it, while additionally losing out on players to the bigger clubs of Spain and Germany. A player like Neymar could’ve played in England but chose not to because he saw better competition and a better chance to win in Barcelona with Messi. Meanwhile a star the caliber of Garreth Bale decided to be a Welshman and play in Spain.
The list of international stars playing in other places goes on and on, and while Wayne Rooney inks his newly minted $500K/week, he appears to not be worth it because his team laid a huge egg in the Champions League and have been doing it all year in the EPL after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. For those who think this trend will change in the near future, think again. The clubs of the German Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga are far outpacing the EPL and it’s showing on Europe’s biggest stage, which for the most part is the only place it matters.