A reasonable Champions League draw has capped a very good week for Chelsea, but Roman Abramovich’s dream of his side finally becoming Kings of Europe looks as far away as ever.
Certainly, Wednesday’s stunning comeback victory over Napoli, combined with Saturday’s crucial win against Stoke City, shows without doubt there is life left in the Blues’ old stagers yet.
But the west Londoners’ chances of actually winning the Champions League look a little better now than they did a week ago, but the journey to final still looks incredibly tough.
First up in the quarter-finals, it’s Benfica. While admittedly one of the less intimidating names left in the tournament, the Portuguese giants still have all the weapons they need to dump out Roberto Di Matteo’s men.
Manchester United can testify to their quality, having been held to a draw home and away in the group stages.
Furthermore, unbeaten in their last eight home European matches, Jorge Jesus’ men are entitled to feel confident of claiming another big scalp.
But even if Chelsea do reach the semi-finals, there still remains the small matter of overcoming either Barcelona or AC Milan over two legs.
The quality of Pep Guardiola’s Dream Team has been well-documented, while a first-leg demolition of Arsenal at the San Siro is far more indicative of AC Milan’s quality than a worrying second-leg collapse.
This is the stage where the Blues are likeliest to fall but, should they upset the odds and book their place at the Allianz Arena on 19 May, either José Mourinho’s Real Madrid or Bayern Munich could well await.
In spite of everything, maybe 2012 will prove to be Chelsea’s year in the Champions League – but the journey will be long and hard.
Following United’s disastrous humbling at the hands of Athletic Bilbao, Manchester City put in a spirited, albeit unsuccessful, performance against Sporting Lisbon.
Roberto Mancini apologised to fans after the game as City’s poor start to the second leg – going two goals down in the first half – cost them the tie.
He was right to. His tactics were completely wrong and left City vulnerable at the back.
City have undoubtedly performed better in Europe than their more experienced neighbours, but that will be of little consolation to Mancini.
As the season has progressed, City have slowly recoiled into their shell, looking nothing like the team that was so formidable at the start of the season.
Now, both Manchester teams are contemplating a trophyless season, something that previously seemed unthinkable.
While neither team will particularly miss playing on Thursday nights, the fact the two best teams in England have failed so comprehensively in Europe is hugely embarrassing – both for the teams and the Premier League.
City now face a difficult run-in compared to United with the end of the title-race nearing, with games against a rejuvenated Chelsea and Arsenal. Not to mention, the almost certain title-deciding derby against United.
If City end the season without a trophy after the money they have splashed, it would be a massive failure.
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