Chelsea have to beat Valencia, Manchester United need to avoid defeat against Basel, and Manchester City’s Champions League fate is no longer in their own hands. Of the English sides involved, only Arsenal have sealed their place in the next round of Europe’s biggest competition.
For years now, the Premier League has been talked about as the “greatest league in the world”. That is no longer true. Spain are the reigning World and European Champions. Barcelona won the Champions League. Surely the English league reached it’s peak in 2008, when Manchester United met Chelsea in the final of the Champion’s League. Much has been written about that game, that penalty and those two sides, and I don’t want to write any more, but it is pertinent that the man of the match, Edwin Van der Sar, has now retired, and the “Fans’ Man of the Match”, Cristiano Ronaldo, has left for La Liga. When FIFA announced the shortlist for the World XI 2011 this week, it featured 19 players contracted to Real Madrid or Barcelona, one more than the entire Premier League combined. The XI in 2008 featured 5 players from the Premier League. It is difficult to imagine that this years’ will include more than 1 or 2.
The EPL has declined. Terribly so. Tottenham and Newcastle fans will tell you that it’s great to see a more competitive league, and it shows that there is more quality in the league. No. There is far less. Chelsea look like they’re being paid to lose, Man United are playing some incredibly boring football, and Arsenal, albeit now in form, started in relegation form. Of the “big” sides, only Man City can really claim to be playing well, and with the amount of money, I think I could squeeze in at right back and they’d still be okay. Although Spain have two very dominant top sides, there is still a lot of very exciting football played, and the regulations regarding home-grown players mean that there is heavy bias towards Spanish players at every level. It’s hardly surprising that Spain are world champions, and England really aren’t. (I can already hear readers waxing lyrical about England’s win over Spain at Wembley last month. I think my answer to that is obvious.)
The Premier League is advancing though. No, we’re not giving players a winter break, which they need, and yes we are going to keep letting the huge clubs buy every 12-year-old who scores a hat-trick, but there are home-grown rules coming in, as well as regulations protecting the rights of young players. Heck, England might even win a major championship…
TV Game of the Week
El Classico – Real Madrid vs. Barcelona – Saturday 10th December, 9pm, Sky Sports 3
You must watch this. No other way to say it.
St Andrews Game of Week
Men’s Volleyball – St Andrew’s vs. Abertay Dundee -Sunday 11th December, The Sports Centre, 14:30 – Until last week, the volleyballers were one of only two university sides unbeaten. Head on down to the Sports Centre on Sunday to see Callum Moir and his boys bounce back against local rivals!