All four English sides can be backed at a combined price of 7/1 to win the Champions League and those odds look generous. If results go to form each Premier League club will qualify for the round of the last 16. Manchester City are already through and United and Chelsea are strong favourites to progress so the only stumbling block to the quartet playing in the knockout stages is possibly Arsenal’s predicament but things could still pan out badly for United.
Barcelona are favourites to win the competition and thus become the only side to successfully defend the Champions League. They are playing impressive football at home and abroad. The 4-0 defeat over Real Madrid in “El Thrashico” was an example of their fine football orchestrated by Andreas Iniesta from midfield. It helps that you also have the best attacking formation in world football.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still the market leader to be the top scorer in this season’s Champions League. Although Robert Lewandowski scoring rate has slowed he still has the class and pedigree to score more goals than the Real Madrid striker. Arsenal need to get out of their group for Alexis Sanchez to top the scoring charts at his current price of 50/1. Even at 500/1 Wayne Rooney is not worth backing as he currently can’t hit a barn door.
Arsenal are more likely not to make the elimination phase of this season’s Champions League than get through. They are about 9/4 to progress which seems a big price as one convincing performance would get the job done. Arsenal have to beat Olympiakos away from home in the final group of fixtures. However, they must win by at least two goals or by one goal if they score three or more goals.
Bayern Munich have qualified from the group and the Greek side are big favourites to join them in the last 16. The German outfit beat Olympiakos 4-0 while the Gunners beat Dinamo Zagreb by one less goal on match day five this week. Chelsea need to avoid defeat against Porto at home on the final fixture night to go through to the knockout part of the tournament. That would keep alive the prospect of an all-English final that can be backed at 20/1.
The Manchester clubs are still both in the mix but whereas City have already qualified from their group United are in strife. It would be a major blow to Louis Van Gaal and his Dutch revolution at Old Trafford if United departed the lucrative tournament at the group stage. City will progress but finishing first or second in the group will determine the strength of the opposition in the next round and runners-up spot looks likely.
United must beat Wolfsburg away from home to ensure qualification for the knockout rounds of the Champions League. The Press described their effort against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday as “drab” and it was an exaggeration to say they wasted a lot of chances. George Best died ten years ago and he was honoured at the match. In his prime he could have beaten PSV on his own even after a night out on the pull!
The Reds have now had four goalless draws in their last seven matches which never happened under Fergie or even Dave Sexton. A win against his Dutch compatriots would have given Van Gaal’s and his generation a place in the last 16. The manager seemed to be watching a different game than Paul Scholes and Roy Keane who bemoaned the lack of quality in the attacking third which is rather crucial in this sport. Scoring goals does play a bit of a significant part in winning football matches but Van Gaal seems happy with draws.
Managerial developments at the club will be interesting if Jose Mourinho gets sacked at Chelsea. The Special One would walk up the motorway barefoot to try to join the two Sirs who been managers of United when they were champions of Europe. Rise up Sir Jose to emulate Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. However, Manchester United could win the Premier League with the lowest goal’s tally ever and Van Gaal would keep his job.
The most likely scenario is that three of the four English teams in the competition will progress from their section in this season’s Champions League. It could still be any one of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United to miss out. City are favourites to progress furthest and they already have an edge as they are in the draw for the last 16. Two London clubs and not their fellow Mancunians could join them in the pot.