Premier League’s ‘fab four’ dominate UCL quarter-finals

first_img0Shares0000Virgil Van Dijk scored in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Bayern Munich on Tuesday © AFP / Christof StacheLONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 14 – Brexit, what Brexit? All four English entrants are still in Europe.For the first time in a decade the Premier League reigns supreme, providing half of the Champions League quarter-finalists for Friday’s last-eight draw. Liverpool were the last to book their ticket, with a hugely impressive 3-1 win away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, joining Tottenham and Manchester City in beating German opposition, while Manchester United’s miraculous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain will live long in the memory.“It had to be Liverpool ensuring a Fab Four from England were touring Europe,” wrote Henry Winter in The Times.Not since 2008/09 has the Premier League, or any other league, enjoyed such a privileged position in Europe’s premier club competition.Despite record broadcast deals bringing in billions from around the globe, English clubs have been out-thought and outplayed at Champions League level over the past decade.The 2009 final, that saw Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona defeat a much-fancied Manchester United in Cristiano Ronaldo’s last game for the English club, kicked off a decade of dominance for La Liga. That was thanks, in no small part, to the magic of Lionel Messi at Barcelona and Ronaldo during his nine years at Real Madrid. Between them, those clubs have won seven of the past 10 titles.Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City crushed Schalke © AFP/File / Oli SCARFF“In the last decade Spanish teams controlled everything. It is good for us. For English football it’s incredible,” said mow City boss Guardiola after his side’s 7-0 mauling of Schalke on Tuesday.Madrid may have been dethroned as kings of Europe, but Messi and Ronaldo still pose the greatest threat to a first Premier League winner since 2011/12.Messi gave a masterclass as Barca thrashed Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday. The previous evening, Ronaldo, 34, showed why Juventus paid 112 million euros ($127 million) for a veteran last summer, with a hat-trick to break Atletico Madrid hearts.– Premier League stars –King Kane: Tottenham’s Harry Kane helped Spurs see off Borussia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16 © dpa/AFP / Bernd ThissenThe Premier League may not have Messi or Ronaldo but it has a collection of stars, from Virgil van Dijk to Paul Pogba, Harry Kane to Sergio Aguero.They also have each other. The constant grind of a top six vying every season for just four Champions League places allows nobody to rest on their laurels, on the pitch or off it in the recruitment process.Chelsea and Arsenal could also reach the Europa League last eight on Thursday.The two landmark victories of this round were Liverpool and United going to two very different European powerhouses — traditional giants Bayern and nouveau-riche PSG.Marcus Rashford’s late penalty saw Manchester United stun Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the French capital to progress © AFP / Anne-Christine POUJOULATBut those clubs are hampered by a lack of domestic competition that has seen an ageing Bayern go stale and PSG fail to handle the pressure when an opponent is not easily knocked out and hits back just as hard.“England 3 Germany 0. Three matches against Bundesliga opposition for Premier League teams, three victories,” wrote Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, who went on to refer to the recent trend of promising players leaving the youth programmes of England’s richest clubs to find regular first-team football in the Bundesliga.“Maybe there is a reason young British talent finds it easier to get a game here than they do at home. This isn’t a vintage season for German football. Munich are top of the league again but unless Liverpool caught them on an off night, look very ordinary.”Crucially, the Premier League now also boasts not only money, but world-class coaching that has been given time to build.Guardiola is in his third season as City manager, Jurgen Klopp in his fourth at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino near the end of season five at Spurs.Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the outlier, just three months into a temporary reign. But the Norwegian’s impact has shown the talent at the club, despite Jose Mourinho’s struggles.Liverpool showed the way last season as the first English finalist for six years, before falling at the final hurdle to Real.Klopp took extra satisfaction because the victory in his homeland on Wednesday confirmed the progress being made to make the five-time European champions serial contenders again.“It’s massive, a big step for us — a big, big, big one for us,” he said. “We will see what we can do with it, but it is still a fantastic sign that we again set a mark for LFC, for this wonderful club, that we really are back on the landscape on international, top-class football.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

8 Comments  

first_img 8 Comments   Share   Top Stories Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Much has been made of Rosen’s confidence, but a great deal of it is because, reasonably or not, he doesn’t feel like the NFL game is all that different than what he faced in high school or college.“It’s pretty much the same from high school, to college, to the NFL,” he said of his calm pocket presence that allowed him to extend plays and complete balls with defenders bearing down on him in a 20-17 loss last Sunday.Related LinksThe Consensus Week 5: Cardinals entrenched at the bottomPFF: Josh Rosen tops Baker Mayfield’s high grade for rookie QB debutCardinals’ Steve Wilks: ‘Our offense is getting ready to flourish’Week 5 injury report: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers“Your offensive linemen get better with your defensive line and vice versa. It’s just when things go bad, it just hurts more.”Two anecdotes from head coach Steve Wilks’ Wednesday press conference stand out about Rosen’s strong play that saw him complete 15 of 27 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown:1.At one point Sunday, Wilks admitted he wasn’t as trusting in his rookie quarterback as he should have been.“Clock was running down, we were about to get a delay of game. I called timeout,” Wilks said. “After that series he was coming over the sideline and he said, ‘Coach, I got it. I’m looking at the play-clock. Trust me, I got it.’“I love it. I love the confidence. I love that he’s in control. I’m all for it.”center_img 2.A handful of drops by Arizona’s receivers marred Rosen’s stat line, and while his encouragement of his teammates was caught on the sideline cameras a few times, another uplifting conversation was had between the 21-year-old rookie and the 43-year-old Phil Dawson, who missed two field goals that could have changed the complexion of the game in Arizona’s favor.“He said Josh came up to him after the game,” Wilks said of Dawson. “Here’s an older guy, a veteran guy and he’s getting encouraged by a rookie quarterback. It just speaks volumes to what Josh can do not only on the field for this team but off.”EXTRA POINTS— Rosen’s first career touchdown pass from Sunday was also second-year receiver Chad Williams’ first career touchdown catch. That caused a minor dilemma regarding who gets to keep the football involved on the play: “See if you can cut it in half or something. Get like one side painted,” Rosen quipped. “We’ll figure it out.”— WR Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), CB Bene Benwikere (spine), DE Markus Golden (knee) and DT Corey Peters (elbow) did not practice on Wednesday, Wilks said. They are all day-to-day but expected to be healthy enough for Sunday’s game in San Francisco. TEMPE, Ariz. — The game has not looked too fast for Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen.Arizona head coach Steve Wilks felt like the rookie’s unflappable nature, along with his confidence and command, were satisfactory reasons to throw him into the fire, first in an attempt of a late comeback against the Chicago Bears two weeks back. Ditto for Wilks’ decision to move Rosen into a starting role heading into what became a loss to the Seattle Seahawks this past week. Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impactlast_img read more