And then there was one…. Only Chelsea remain in European competition as Premier League is found wanting
As Manchester crashed out of Europe for the second time this season, just one English team remains in European football this season. It’s hardly surprising though that United and City both failed to overcome their last 16 opponents just as the race for the Premier-League reaches its climax.
For United, defeat was a little more embarrassing as an impressive Athletic Bilbao side dominated them over two legs and were worthy winners. It was clear this isn’t the same United side that reached the Champions League final last season, however despite this being a ‘weak’ United side, they still find themselves in a position where they can win the league. Yet in European competition, they found themselves playing in a competition which is about as exciting as opening a pair of socks from your auntie on your birthday.
For City, winning the league was always the main priority, but for a club that hadn’t won a trophy for 34 years before they lifted the FA Cup last season, turning their nose up at a chance of silverware could back fire. They could leave this season empty handed should they lose out to rivals United in the league, and that could cost manager Roberto Mancini his job at Eastlands.
Both Manchester teams are clearly more focused on winning the title as the Premier-League has just 10 games to go. The Europa League is a burden for most clubs and many look to avoid finishing 5th so they don’t have to enter it. Beating their rivals to become the Champions of England is a hell of a lot more appealing than becoming Champions of a competition in the second tier of European football.
The league is the main target for both clubs and for them to bow out of Europe again, is just more evidence of that. Over to you then Chelsea.*
*Chelsea have been drawn against Benfica in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The first leg will be played in Lisbon, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Were they to triumph in that game, they would then face Barcelona or AC Milan in the semi-final, with the first leg on home soil.