It’s a week of football that has seen pain inflicted on English clubs across Europe, some more than others. Manchester United suffered an embarrassing defeat in Denmark, while Chelsea’s loss in Paris was a blow, but they are still in the tie.
Chelsea were England’s only representative in the Champions League this week, and they gave a decent showing. Two defensive lapses eventually cost them, but John Obi Mikel’s very rare goal gives them hope going into the second leg. If the Blues can continue their recent upturn in form, there is no reason why they can’t still progress to the quarter-finals. This week sees Manchester City face Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine, and Arsenal take on the might of Barcelona at the Emirates.
In the Europa League, Manchester United suffered a terrible defeat against Midtjylland. The 2-1 score line wasn’t the problem, given that they have an away goal that could be crucial in the overall make up of the tie, but the performance was poor, and the Danish side were only formed in 1999. Louis van Gaal’s side did win against Shrewsbury on Monday night to make it to the FA Cup quarter finals, but the pressure is still piled on the Dutchman.
Liverpool and Tottenham were also involved in Europa League action, both picking up draws away from home. Spurs will be the happier of the two, after Nacer Chadli’s away goal earned them a 1-1 result in Fiorentina. Liverpool will be slightly less content with their 0-0 draw, meaning an Augsburg away goal on Thursday will mean the Reds must score twice, and just three days before the League Cup Final against Manchester City.
The FA Cup also returned this weekend with a place in the quarter finals at stake. The only real shock came at Reading, where the Royals came from behind to beat West Brom 3-1. The game was overshadowed however by a disgraceful incident that saw Chris Brunt hit by a coin by his own fans. A similar coin throwing incident occurred at Stamford Bridge, and I hope that if the culprits are found, they get life bans from football stadiums in England.
There was another impressive display from Hull City at the Emirates, led by goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who made a series of excellent saves to earn the Tigers a replay back at the KC Stadium. West Ham and Chelsea also put in good performances against Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City respectively, with Dimitri Payet and Eden Hazard shining for their sides in 5-1 wins.
It is worth saying that I completely disagree with the idea of giving the FA Cup winner a Champions League place, as given that we are already very close to losing our fourth spot place to Italy, this would only last a maximum of four years before that fourth spot is gone.
Along with the Champions League ties I mentioned earlier, the Premier League also returns this weekend, though it will be slightly interrupted by the League Cup Final. So for the two managers in Manchester, Louis van Gaal faces a make or break game against Arsenal, while Manuel Pellegrini could win his final trophy in English football in the shape of the Capital One Cup.