The Champions League round of 16 kicked off in style a couple of weeks ago and with the first round of fixtures over, the likelihood of an all English final is looking slim. Chelsea, playing Paris St. Germain in Paris, were lucky to come away with what can only be described as a ‘Mourinho’ away goal. After Branislav Ivanovic nudged the boys in blue ahead on the 36th minute, the Londoners withstood wave after wave of PSG attacks for the following 55. Only once did the Parisiens get through, Edinson Cavani with his sixth goal of the tournament, scored the equaliser ten minutes after half time.
It was a typical Mourinho performance, with Chelsea determined to hold on to their away goal before heading back to London. With PSG not looking as secure at the back as some of the other major contenders, the away goal may prove to be crucial.
It is almost a carbon-copy of last years tie in the quarter-finals, where Chelsea scored an away goal in a 3-1 loss away from home, only to win 2-0 in Stamford Bridge. It would not be a surprise to see a similar outcome in 2015.
A week later, the English champions Manchester City came up against a Barcelona team who are as close to going through a crisis as Barcelona can be. Banned from signing players for a year and currently going through a small dip in form, it seemed like City would have a chance as this is not the same Barcelona team that ripped Manchester United apart in 2009 and 2011 anymore.
However, this complacency was arguably one of the reasons for the poor showing from City.
Losing 2-1 against Barcelona is no shame, but losing 2-1 when a last minute penalty was missed and after 90 minutes of total domination is a problem.
Similar to Chelsea, an away goal would have been good for City, however, with the first leg being played at the Etihad, it really could not have gone any worse for the Mancunians. Messi and Suarez dominated play, and Barcelona were playing as if they could score at will.
Joe Hart continues to flatter to deceive at this level, with another iffy performance between the posts despite a hugely important save which halted Messi at 1-0. The possibility of City going through seems slim, and after a loss to Liverpool in the league compounding an atrocious week for the club, there is a lot of work for Pellegrini still to do.
Finally it was the turn of Arsenal. Drawn against the best defence left in the Champions League in the form of Monaco, it looked like Arsenal with all their attacking prowess would ease through to the quarter-finals.
It was not to be as the predictions of one Arsenal fan that “it is too perfect a draw” came back to haunt the North Londoners.
The team from the tiny principality, while having lost two of its stars, Falcao and James Rodriguez in the summer to Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively, were not expected to cause much of a problem. However, with old-head Dimitar Berbatov leading them forward, they were a unstoppable force.
Within an hour, Arsenal were already 2-0 down at the Emirates, with Kondogbia and Berbatov scoring for the visitors.
This was followed up in the final minutes with a crazy couple of minutes, first Oxlade-Chamberlain slotted home what seemed to be a glimmer of hope, only for Ospina to be beaten a minute later to make the result 3-1, and Arsenal’s hopes of Champions League glory disappear in a puff of smoke.
The way the current season is going, however, it would hardly be a surprise if both Arsenal and City somehow squeezed through after their damaging defeats, but with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid still the favourites and far more likely to progress, it doesn’t seem like it would make much difference anyway. The dark days for English football in Europe look set to continue, for the time being at least.