On September 29th, Chelsea and Arsenal slipped to another defeat on a night of Champions League embarrassment for the supposed elite of English football. Things were better a day later for Manchester City and Manchester United, who both won their games by the skin of their teeth. Yet the EPL teams have lost five of the eight games played – a far cry from the era of dominance of not so long ago.
Despite winning their first Champions League match against Maccabi Tel Aviv, both Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea team went into their match against FC Porto under real pressure after making their worst league start to a season since 1986. The Blues were desperate to avoid a similar gloom on the European front, but they slumped to a 2-1 loss against the manager’s former club, despite creating pressure early on.
Chelsea are at the time of writing 1/6 with Paddy Power to qualify from Group G but they are a long shot at 20/1 to win the Champions League outright.
Louis van Gaal’s men began their Champions League campaign with an unlucky night against PSV Eindhoven. Former PSV man Memphis Depay opened the scoring, but things went downhill as left-back Luke Shaw suffered a double leg break after being hacked down by Hector Moreno. Pundits claimed Moreno should have been sent off, but he went unpunished and also scored an equaliser before the break. The match finished 2-1 to PSV.
United went on to beat Wolfsburg 2-1 in their second match, although this was very much a game of two halves; the first half display was poor, while the Red Devils’ performance in the second half was excellent. They’ll need to improve drastically if they are to shorten their odds of winning the competition, which currently stand at 22/1.
City also suffered defeat in their opening match in Group D, with a 2-1 loss to last season’s runners-up Juventus. City have never made a serious impact in the Champions League, nor have they ever won their opening home game in the group stage. Yet the Sky Blues looked on course for victory when Juventus centre-half Giorgio Chiellini headed in an own goal. But it wasn’t to be, and the game compounded a dismal week for the English elite.
Things were better for City in their second match against Borussia Monchengladbach, with Sergio Aguero netting a late penalty to ensure a much-needed victory. The game ended 2-1 to City.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men are level on points with Sevilla in Group D. Paddy Power make them 1/3 to qualify and Juventus are 1/40.
The most embarrassing displays from the EPL elite in the Champions League this season have been from Arsenal, who, despite impressive league form, suffered a 2-1 loss to Dynamo Zagreb and a 3-2 defeat to Olympiakos.
The Gunners are bottom of Group F and the Champions League odds are stacked against them, before they have even faced group favourites Bayern Munich – twice.
Olympiakos arrived at the Emirates on the back of run of 12 straight defeats in England and never having won a Champions League game on English soil. But Arsenal’s performance was summed up neatly by the wretched first-half own goal from goalkeeper David Ospina as he dropped Kostas Fortounis’ corner ball into his own net.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Arsenal are now highly unfancied to win the Champions League, with the latest odds making them 40/1 outsiders.
No More Fear Factor
From 2005 – the year Liverpool came back from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul – the power of the Premier League loomed large over the Champions League. This astounding feat was followed by a 2008 victory for Manchester United against compatriots Chelsea; United went on to become finalists in 2009 and 2011, while Chelsea would go on to be crowned European Champions in 2012. Liverpool were also finalists again in 2007.
Judging by the overall performance this season, it is clear that some real improvements are needed to bring back the fear of English clubs on the European stage.