The English Premier League is arguably regarded as the best football in Europe, if not the World, and a recently signed TV package worth over £5 billion for the live screening of matches may justify that assertion. However, such revenues do not guarantee success on the pitch as the performances of English teams in European football tournaments have demonstrated this week. Only Everton have qualified for the last 16 places in the Europa League while both Manchester City and Arsenal lost their home legs in the Champions League.
With Everton securing a 7-2 aggregate victory against Young Boys of Switzerland in their Europa League tie, it was to be hoped that they would be joined by Liverpool and Tottenham in the Round of 16 draw. However, Liverpool were eliminated on penalties as they lost 1-0 on the night at Besiktas but a poor first leg performance at Anfield when only claiming a 1-0 home leg victory via a late Mario Balotelli penalty did not help their qualification efforts.
Similarly for Tottenham, a 1-1 first leg draw at White Hart Lane against Fiorentina was not expected especially after Roberto Soldado had claimed an early lead for the team with a sixth minute goal. Their 2-0 defeat in Italy on Thursday evening merely confirmed that there are few easy games at this stage of European competition.
As for displays in the Champions League, Manchester City could consider themselves fortunate to be still harbouring hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals. A 2-1 Tuesday evening defeat by Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium could have been a much more painful defeat had Lionel Messi not missed a last minute penalty and then failed to score from the resulting loose ball. Luis Suarez had added an opening half brace in a dominant Barcelona display before City rallied in the second half to reduce the arrears via a Sergio Aguero goal. City need to score twice at the Nou Camp just to offer any hope of progression.
The task of Arsenal in qualifying for the quarter-finals is even more demanding after they were beaten 3-1 at the Emirates by Monaco. Yet the Ligue 1 team have quietly improved their position in the French league during the past few months and have conceded just one league goal since the beginning of December and none at the Stade Louis II.
Arsene Wenger may have been surprise by the quality of the Monaco team but he will return to the venue where has was a former successful manager needing his current team to score at least three goals against one of the meanest defences in Europe.
It is possible that Chelsea and Everton will be the only representatives of the Premier League in the quarter-finals of Europe’s two premier club tournaments and while the competitive nature of the league does attract TV viewers on a grand scale, success on the European stage is proving to be elusive at the moment.
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