Will we still be in Europe come May?

Will we still be in Europe come May? That is the question uppermost in the minds of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United fans.

By 29 March 2019, the nation’s fate in Europe may still be up in the air, but we will know for sure if the four English clubs that are competing in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League have all progressed in to the last eight ties that will be played in April.

If they do, it will be only the third time that four Premier League clubs have made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the same season.

In 2007-08, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea made the last eight.

Arsenal and Liverpool were drawn against each other. After a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, Liverpool enjoyed one of those great European nights at Anfield as they won the second leg by a 4-2 margin.

Ronaldo and Rooney scored in the Stadio Olimpico as Manchester United brought a two-goal advantage back from their tie against AS Roma. A Carlos Tevez goal ensured there was no way back for the Italians in the return leg at Old Trafford.

Chelsea lost their first leg (2-1) at Fenerbahçe, but, with Avram Grant at the helm, recovered to record a 3-2 aggregate success via a late winner from Frank Lampard.

Liverpool went out to Chelsea in the semi-final before, in the final and 50 years after the Munich air disaster and 40 years after winning their first European champions crown, Manchester United clinched their second Champions League title winning the penalty shoot-out on a rainy night in Moscow.

In 2008-09, the same four English clubs made it in to the quarter-finals again.

Liverpool came out second-best again as they faced Chelsea in the Champions League for the fifth season in a row.

Having eased to a 3-1 win at Anfield, Chelsea only secured a semi-final meeting with Barcelona after an epic 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal overcame Villarreal and Manchester United saw off the threat of FC Porto before Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils conquered Arsène Wenger’s Gunners by a 3-2 aggregate in the semis.

The reigning champions were unable to repeat their triumph of the previous season though as Barcelona prevailed in the final in Rome with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi.

Last season, five Premier League clubs reached the Round of 16 but only two progressed. Manchester City went out in the quarter-final against Liverpool. Although the Reds reached their third Champions League Final, they lost out to Real Madrid in Kiev.

Three of the four English clubs are up against German opposition and, if we are going to pursue Brexit parallels further, we have to say there is a far better chance of staving off German dominance of Europe on the football field than in the political sphere.

Whilst Liverpool minds could be distracted by their pursuit of a first Premier League title, they should still be favourites against Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich who are struggling domestically.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are strongly fancied to reach their third Champions League quarter-final and are indeed favourites with betbrain.com to win the Champions League as they are up against  mid-table Schalke 04.

Tottenham Hotspur’s injury worries mean that they face a much stiffer challenge in the shape of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Looking at Manchester United’s performance in recent weeks, another lesson which may have application in the political sphere is amply demonstrated:  the potentially transformative benefits of changing leader, particularly when the current leader has lost the trust of his (or her) charges.

With the whole squad invigorated, United have a good chance against Paris St Germain, one of the best clubs in Europe.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær – the scorer of their dramatic winner in the 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich –will be encouraged by the news that the mercurial Neymar could miss both legs due to a metatarsal injury.

On the domestic front, much has been made of late regarding the leading (richest) clubs shunning the FA Cup by fielding weakened teams.

A cursory glance of the economics show that it is entirely understandable, if somewhat frustrating for the traditionalists and those looking for more fairness and balance in football why the focus is on Europe.

Figures quoted at the end of last season showed that the UEFA Champions League is comfortably the most lucrative cup competition in the world with the winners reported to have received £96.5 million. In comparison, Chelsea are reported to have earned a mere £3.4 million in prize money for winning the FA Cup.

Will we still be in Europe come May?

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