Is it time for another all-English Champions League Final? This year will be the tenth anniversary of the 2008 Manchester United versus Chelsea final (the first all-English and only the third same-country final in European Cup history) which culminated in the now infamous John Terry slip to hand United the cup following an Edwin van der Sar save of a Nicolas Anelka penalty. Both United and Chelsea take the stage in their round of 16 matches next week against Sevilla and Barcelona respectively. With that, and that historic all-English final, in the back of our minds, let’s take a look at the likelihood of such a feat being repeated 10 years on, with a review of the fixtures and results concerning English teams so far this round.
Speaking as a neutral with tickets to see the pomp and ceremony of the Champions League at the Etihad for City’s second leg with Basel at the start of March, their 4-0 drubbing of the Swiss champions on Tuesday night was a real pain in the arse. I’m hoping Pep humours us and, realising that the Premier League is as good as his and, hopefully, with one trophy already locked away in the City cabinet in the form of the heavily sought after Carabao Cup (the final being played on 25 February), sets out a strong team for us to drool over. Not just Phil Foden and his promising squad member cronies. Boooooring.
To be fair, City gave Basel a real good spanking on Tuesday. Ilkay Gundogan scored a brace and Sergio Aguero, apparently in the form of his life fresh from banging four goals in the second half against Leicester in the league three days prior, nabbed a goal and an assist. Only write Basel out of this one only if you are clinically insane or midway through a drug-infused mental breakdown.
This was a close one. Slightly out of shape corner-shop owner-cum-Argentine goal machine Gonzalo Higuain had already bagged two goals in the first ten minutes of the match, seemingly putting Spurs on the verge of all-but crashing out of the competition. Harry Kane, in true Kane fashion, rounded Buffon to pull one back for the visitors in Turin. Higuain had his opportunity to complete his hat-trick and again push the Bianconeri evermore out of sight on the stroke of half-time after Serge Aurier gave away a penalty by cluelessly crunching into Juventus’s nifty Brazilian winger, Douglas Costa. But Higuain spanked it against the bar as Lloris stayed rooted in the middle of his goal. Eriksen went on to equalise in the second half with a very tidy free-kick that he whipped into the left corner. It now looks like Spurs might be the favourites for this one. Game on.
Goal machines Liverpool were at it again last night. They faced what looked like a very tough fixture away at Porto, but after Portuguese keeper Jose Sa gave the ball away and then convincingly palmed Sadio Mane’s subsequent effort into his own net in the 25th minute, the rout was well and truly on. Salah – obviously – got his goal, a sexy little dink over the keeper and composed finish after a shot from James Milner crashed against the post. Firmino also got a goal before Mane completed his hat-trick five minutes from time to see the reds take a 5-0 lead back to Anfield for the second leg. Only write Porto out of this one if you’re acutely aware of Liverpool’s questionable defensive record. Surely even they can’t screw this one up?
United have a tough fixture incoming next week away at Sevilla, but that’s arguably nothing compared to a pressurised Conte pitting his Chelsea side against Barcelona, who already appear to be running away with La Liga this season, at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
A 3-0 victory against West Brom on Monday will have boosted confidence levels, and maybe a spanking of Hull at the Bridge on Friday will help that. Barca would, of course, be foolish to underestimate them.
Ten years on from Terry’s notorious trip, and in the first season ever to see five English teams progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League, bets are on as to which Premier League centre-back will be slipping up to concede the title in a potentially all-English final this year.