The pinnacle. One's culminating point. Every year somewhere in Europe the conquest for Europe's top prize. Monaco was the setting this time, as all of Europe's learned their fate and where the challenges lie ahead to reach the last 16.
Many players regard the Champions League as the pinnacle of their footballing careers and this year will be no exception. However, in recent years the English clubs have got nowhere near since Chelsea miraculously beat Bayern Munich on penalties in 2012. Even then, Chelsea had somehow scrapped to victory in a less than convincing season both domestically and in Europe.
So the question is can the English clubs challenge once more?
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Simple answer, no.
Last year, Liverpool fell away in the group stages, and Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City fell miserably in the last 16. Spain and Germany have dominated the last couple of years with consistent performers; Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid regularly competing in the final four of Europe's leading competition.
Of years gone by, it would have been unheard of that at least one English team wasn't in the last 4 of Europe's elite. Now it is a totally different ball game.
With larger emphasis on TV money and deals, other nations have drastically caught up with England in that area. Allowing them to compete financially with England's elite. Therefore, Pot three and four have become dangerously difficult pots as the competition grows stronger year on year.
For example, Manchester United have drawn what appears a relatively easy group in terms of stature of the clubs they face. However, Wolfsburg last year's German Cup winners and runners up to Bayern were in Pot four. They should still top their group and look for a favourable last 16 draw against a group runner up.
Sevilla are another prime example, last years UEFA cup winners drawn alongside Manchester City and last year's runners up Juventus. In what appears to be the most difficult group to call. City have always been dealt tough draws throughout their European escapades. But is this their year to push towards the latter stages of the competition is yet to be seen, a couple of late additions will surely seal their fate.
Chelsea should top their group with ease, in which Mourinho will relish a return to Porto where he claimed his first European triumph. But I severely doubt they can match the top clubs to reach the final four, however Mourinho tends to find a way to compete year on year.
Lastly, Arsenal have been dealt with a tricky group and will almost certainly finish second again in their group to Bayern. Wenger seems content with his current squad and year on year doesn't appear willing to part with any severe lumps of cash to buy players to win them the big trophies. The last 16 awaits for them and typically a Barcelona showdown where they get beaten.
There will certainly be improvements from the English contingent this year in the Champions League, expect one of the teams to make it to the semi's, however a winner? Don't count on it.
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