Two of the Premier League's top three were left with a gigantic mountain to climb as both Manchester City and Arsenal suffered 2-0 home defeats at the hands of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 first legs.
GMS analyses exactly why it proves so difficult for English clubs to compete with the world's best.
It's fair to say that coming into their clashes with the two European giants, both Arsenal and Manchester City were not in their best form of the season. The Gunners form has dipped in the last few weeks, epitomised by a humiliating 5-1 defeat to fourth place Liverpool at Anfield just about two weeks ago while City suffered their first home defeat in the league this season courtesy of a Branislav Ivanovic goal which gave Chelsea all three points in a crucial encounter.
However both sides did get a measure of revenge last weekend in the F.A. Cup. Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners at The Emirates against Liverpool while Manuel Pellegrini's men ended Chelsea's cup run with a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
That brings us to the return of the Champions League which was now in its knockout phase. The two English clubs competing on Tuesday and Wednesday night were both left with the daunting task of trying to eliminate one of Europe's elite teams from the competition. For City it was the 2009 and 2011 winners, Barcelona while Arsenal took on the holders and who many describe as the best club side in the world at present, Bayern Munich.
City were competing at this stage of the tournament and level for the first time in the club's history having failed to qualify for the last 16 in their two previous attempts. Going into the match, the Manchester side were without their talisman Sergio Aguero who suffered an injury against Tottenham ruling him out of this big fixture. His goal threat has been vital to the club all season and if City were to have a real chance of beating the Catalan giants, they needed the Argentine striker fit.
However, it was Barcelona who looked the stronger from the kick-off with their passing style in full swing, City were struggling to just get a hold of the ball never mind retain it. Nonetheless, the English side held their own in the first half, even if not convincingly, creating a couple of half chances which fell mostly to striker Alvaro Negredo who failed to capitalise on a well documented average Barcelona defence.
Less than ten minutes into the second half and City were reduced to ten men when defender Martin Demichelis brought down countryman Lionel Messi with a foul that certainly at first sighting looked to be made outside the penalty box. Demichelis was sent off for the challenge and Barcelona were awarded a spot kick which Messi typically put away for the 67th European goal of his career.
With Demichelis given his marching orders, City were chasing shadows for much of the latter period of the game. Creating a couple of decent chances, in particular a David Silva strike which produced a fine save from Barcelona keeper, Victor Valdes.
As the Manchester side desperately tried to find a way to equalise, the Catalan side brought on Brazilian forward Neymar who's ball through for international teammate Daniel Alves gave Barcelona a 2-0 lead in the closing stages. A well deserved goal for the full back seen as he had gone very close with an effort earlier in the match and looked a danger with his crossing all night. City were left with a deflated at the final whistle, especially captain Vincent Kompany who had done a masterful job of keeping Messi quiet for much of the game.
City now face an uphill task of overturning a 2-0 deficit against one of Europe's greats on their own patch, one would be justified in thinking it is a bridge to far for Pelligrini's side.
Looking ahead to Wednesday night's match and Arsenal were looking for a much more positive performance and result than their Premier League rivals when they faced Bayern Munich at the Emirates. The Premier League title challengers were underdogs coming into this clash, with Bayern having lost just once in the Champions League since Arsenal had been them in Munich twelve months ago. It was Arsene Wenger's men who started the brightest however and were awarded a penalty inside eight minutes after a clumsy tackle by Jerome Boateng on Arsenal forward, Mesut Ozil.
It would be Ozil who would take the responsibility of dispatching the spot kick, however his effort was poorly struck and was palmed away to safety by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer. Following the penalty miss both sides exchanged close efforts, Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny produced a fantastic save to deny Toni Kroos while Neuer showed his class as well diving low to save from Gunners striker, Yaya Sanogo.
Just about ten minutes before half time, Kroos fed winger Arjen Robben with a clever through ball that drew a foul from Arsenal's Szczesny. Another penalty, this time to Bayern and a red card for the keeper. With the Premier League side down to ten, Lukasz Fabianski replaced Santi Cazorla. His first task was to attempt to deny David Alaba giving Bayern the lead from the spot. Alaba struck the post with his penalty and another spot kick miss in the match, relief for The Gunners.
Even the most loyal of Arsenal fans knew the English side were in for a very tough forty five minutes with the European champions. Just about ten minutes into the second half, Bayern broke the deadlock courtesy of a fantastic goal from the magnificent Kroos from outside the box. The German side dictated the flow of the game and now with captain Philipp Lahm playing in a midfield role, the reigning champions of the competition continued to press forward.
Bayern were fittingly rewarded their second goal when substitute Thomas Muller headed home from Lahm's pinpoint cross. This came from a counter attacking move following a poor free kick taken from Arsenal.
The result aside, the most disappointing aspect of the match for the side currently second in the Premier League was the performance of Ozil. The Gunners spent over £40 million in the summer to lure the German international away from Real Madrid. Now many fans are debating whether or not the price tag was far too hefty given his performances over the last number of games.
It now seems inconceivable that both Manchester City and Arsenal will reach the quarter final of the Champions League this season.
Do you think Manchester City and Arsenal can overturn the 2-0 deficit they face or is their Champions League dream over for another season? Have your say below.
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