A few weeks ago, when we were some way off the pace in the League, many people considered Champions League to be our best shot at a title this year. Poor results for the title rivals in the Premiership have brought us back in the race and some feel the League is now our best hope.
To be frank, I’m not sure which title, if any, is easier. What I do know is that nothing has changed for worse as far as the Champions League is concerned. If we had a good shot at the European crown a few weeks ago, the elimination of Madrid and Chelsea can only have made our chances better.
As long as we keep our players fit, I don’t see why we cannot target a double this season. That is perhaps what Arsene will try with a focus on one game at a time. The draw for Champions League can still have a big effect on the way the challenge shapes up.
To understand this better, just consider the quarter-finalists to be drawn in two halves as follows,
Top Half – Inter, United, Barcelona, Bayern
Bottom Half – Arsenal, Bordeaux, Lyon, CSKA
Of course I’m dreaming! Still, cliché’s apart, this does show how big an impact the draw can have on a team’s title hopes. If the draw turns out to be this way, just see how Arsenal’s odds for reaching the final and for winning it are slashed.
On the flip side, the worst draw would be if we swap places with Bayern. In which case reaching the final would be far tougher than actually winning at the Bernabeu!
Leaving the dreams aside, I do believe we can win against any of these teams, although United and Barcelona will be real challenges. I feel our problems against United are more psychological than anything. Is this the right time to sort it out and would such a draw impact our chances in the League? These are tough questions to answer.
The game against Inter would be a tactical battle and Arsene has struggled against Mourinho in the past. Having said that, I don’t see Inter getting the better of us without significant help from the referee. They just don’t have a good enough squad. But if you really ask me, I’d love to see a United-Inter quarter final. United are a one man show right now and Inter have enough tactical and defensive nous to see him off.
Bayern, the French clubs, and CSKA are capable of an upset but I’d be really disappointed if we went out to any of them.
Barcelona are easily the toughest team in the draw. But instead of hoping that they get knocked out by someone else, I’d prefer an Arsenal – Barcelona final. Madrid’s biggest rivals facing a team with a diametrically opposite philosophy, managed by their most desired manager, for their most coveted trophy, at their home ground would make quite a story! Even from a footballing point of view this would be the most desirable final.
Irrespective of the draw, I do feel we have a good shot at European glory (as long as we don’t suffer further injuries). The draw can make our life easier or it can throw up some challenges. Tomorrow will come and it will be a telling time!