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Best League in Europe, Or Luck Of The Draw?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is the Premiership the strongest league in European football, or have we just witnessed the luck of knock-out football?

Liverpool beat a weakened and frankly demure Barcelona, and then knocked out another side, far from their peak; PSV Eindhoven.
Chelsea beat Porto at home, after coming from behind, and then again had to do the same in two games against Valencia.
Manchester United played a poor side in Lille, and performed an exceptional one-off performance against Roma.

In the UEFA Cup, Spurs had to play such outstanding opposition as Dinamo Bucuresti, Braga and are now struggling to Sevilla. Before that, they received a bye and skipped passed Feynoord.

Could it be that far from being the best league in Europe, with the strongest sides, they have been nothing short of fortunate? At first appearance, this seems to be the case once the facts have been given nothing short of a casual glance.

This however, isn't the case.

Liverpool topped their group and didn't have any particularly tough games, against Barcelona in the Nou Camp they played some outstanding football. Yes, Barca were tired and clearly not at their best, having suffered in the weeks leading up to the tie. However it wasn't all rosy for Liverpool either. In the week prior to the game an internal bust up had occurred featuring the two players who later scored against Barca.
Although they lost in the home-tie, the result had already been attained, and Liverpool played the cautious game they needed to at home, where their defensive record speaks for itself.
Against PSV, they went away and scored 3, and Crouch (again) scored at home to put the tie beyond PSV.

Chelsea played extremely strong football. In much the way a small child will try to fit the square peg in the round hole and relentlessly bash at it until he is successful, Chelsea attack with no remorse. They refuse to be beaten, and have scored 25 goals in the last 10 minutes of games this season, a frightening statistic that teams ignore at their peril. They came from behind in their last 3 CL ties and outperformed Valencia at the Mestalla, being the first English team to triumph there this century.

Manchester United dominated Lille, and hardly broke a sweat. They challenged Roma by attacking and showing no fear, and in their recent 7-1 demolition of the italians (a result Totti referred to as the worst moment of his sporting career, which when you consider has seen him dismissed during the Euro 2004 for spitting at opposition, losing the Euro 2000 final and never winning the Scudetto, means it must have been pretty poor), United proved that they are no longer the lucky side of '99, and are a force to be reckoned with. 7-1 isn't lucky.

Tottenham may have had luck on their side when not having to face Feynoord, but they dispatched the resulting opposition with the sublime ease expected of challengers to the "big four". Only now do they face their greatest test, and were unlucky to have lost 2-1 away to Sevilla in the Sanchez Pijuan. They have the ability, talents and skill to beat the Spaniards at home, and having rested key players over the weekend, Martin Jol's side are in a position to do so.

An English team will be present in this year's CL final in Athens. For the third year running a Premiership side will have a shot at the big time, to get their name in the record books. This is no coincidence, and although fortune cannot help but play a part in any knock-out tournament, surely it is time for the doubters to look towards to the Premiership and place them on the same pedestal as the Spanish and Italian leagues.

On the other hand, should an English team fail at the last hurdle like Arsenal did last year, then this blog will be erased from history.

posted by teedoubleyou


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