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Chelsea's European know-how could help them pip Manchester City to the Premier League title


 


When Chelsea best Maribor 6-0 on Tuesday evening, they did more than break their record for their highest ever win margin in a Champions League game.

They sent out a clear message that they are the biggest threat from the Premier League to the rest of their continental rivals.

Detractors will almost immediately point to the quality of the opposition, but Chelsea can only play what's in front of them, and Maribor, who beat Celtic to qualify for the Champions League, are certainly not a poor side.

The gulf in class between the sides was obvious yes, but it was nowhere near the same as the gap between England and their recent opponents San Marino, who were only beaten 5-0 with all their men behind the ball for the entire match.

Maribor tried to stand up to Chelsea, and were rightly punished, but their character for trying to do so, even after three or four goals had gone against them, is to be commended. They could have even got on the scoresheet were it not for a penalty hitting to wrong side of the post.

Chelsea's emphatic win helped contribute to a record amount of goals for a Champions League night with eight games played, and Chelsea's result was perhaps overshadowed by Bayern Munich's stunning 7-1 demolition of Roma.

But Munich, as one of the favourites to win the competition, are the calibre of sides that Chelsea must measure themselves by.

Whilst Munich were away from home against much better opposition, Chelsea will still feel that they have a significant impression on the likes of Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona etc.

For Manchester City, European success seems to be more elusive by the match. Their trip to CSKA Moscow was a stepping block they couldn't afford to stumble on, but they managed to fall to the sound of silence.

The empty stadium, a punishment from UEFA for the Russian champions' fans racist actions in previous matches, gave the match a feel of a training game, even though the few hundred 'sponsors' UEFA invited did seem to be vocally supporting the home side.

And when City raced into a 2-0 lead by half time, it seemed that they were in for a exhibition scoreline, such was their dominance of the home side.

But whatever the reason, be it the freezing temperatures, the lack of away fans, or any fans at all, City conspired to throw their two goal lead away in what could prove to be their most decisive fixture of their Champions League campaign.

Some supporters might again grind their axes about the co-efficiency system going against them, after all, this is the third time they have been in the same group as Bayern Munich, and the one time they weren't they were alongside Real Madrid and Dortmund.

But the fact remains they were playing against a side, under strange circumstances yes, who City, with their financial backing and drive, should be beating.

City have managed to cement themselves as nailed on title contenders in the Premier League, with two titles in the pat three years, but they have failed to transfer their domestic dominance over to European football.

Chelsea, and 'Special One' Jose Mourinho definitely do know how to play in Europe, and even if Liverpool and Arsenal should win their matches tonight Chelsea will still be the best placed English side in the competition.

But its easy to forget that in the last decade both those teams, as well as Manchester United, have reached a Champions League final. Arsenal lost out in 2006, the year between Liverpool's two final appearances, their famous win in 2005 and their not so famous defeat in 2007.

Manchester United have reached more finals than any English side in the last ten years, three in total, losing two to that  Barcelona side in 2009 and 2011, and beating Chelsea on penalties in 2008.

City look nowhere near reaching a final, or frankly, the knock-out stages as long as their naivety against European opposition continues. They must now beat CSKA in the return fixture, as well as Bayern, who will have already qualified by then if they beat Roma again in Munich.

Then the now vital away trip to Rome, which will most likely be a straight shoot out between the two for second place. 

Chelsea however, like Bayern, will most likely have put their group to bed, and will be able to forget about European glory until the new year, focusing all their energy and dominance on the league.

But if City's European campaign does end this side of Christmas, will they be able to recover from the disap­po­in­tment in time to catch an already rampant Chelsea in the league, or will result like a 1-0 loss to Stoke again have them cursing their own naivety? 

 
O.B

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