Premier League in decline or just a minor blip?
English clubs have failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2003, after Arsenal were undone by a superior Barcelona side driven by the brilliant Lionel Messi and Manchester United suffered an astonishing breakdown against Bayern Munich.
They joined Premier League leaders Chelsea on the sidelines, as well as Liverpool after their exit in the group phase. The question is whether this is a shift in the balance of power or merely a blip.
A Chelsea side which has made few changes since Jose Mourinho’s departure is in the Premier League’s driving seat with five games left, but their recent 7-1 drubbing of Aston Villa was in stark contrast with a rather tame 3-1 aggregate defeat to Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
United’s collapse from their 4-2 aggregate lead over Bayern pointed to some obvious weaknesses.
Despite Wayne Rooney’s outstanding record this season, lack of top class cover when key players were suspended or injured exposed United’s frailties in crunch matches.
Arsenal were always going to struggle against Barcelona but it was Liverpool’s group stage exit that first signalled a difficult season for Premier League clubs in Europe.
What do you think? Will it be business as usual in the Champions League next season, with English sides once again dominating the quarters and semis? Or has something fundamentally changed?
The Premier League lost a couple of very good players to Spain before the start of this season… If others follow, could the decline continue?
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Rafael leaves the pitch after being sent off during their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, April 7, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis