Barcelona Defeats Man City: Is The EPL Losing A CL Spot?
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Spanish supernova Barcelona defeated Manchester City 1-0 yesterday to advance to the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals 3-1 on aggregate. The match was a thrilling affair with end-to-end action and both sides had ample opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, but only Ivan Rakitic succeeded on the night, which was enough to send Barcelona through. Now that the draw is over, what does this result mean? Let’s examine the top five storylines that are emerging after the conclusion of this match.
1. Spanish Dominance
Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid all advanced to the quarterfinals, meaning that there will be three squads from La Liga among the eight teams left in the Champions League competition. It is an amazing accomplishment for the league and fuels the fire of those that argue that La Liga is the best league in the world. Friday’s draw sets up the possibility of a juicy inter-league matchup in the quarterfinals between the squads, such as last year’s Barcelona-Atlético quarterfinal or Real-Atlético final. If they are kept separate, we could have three La Liga squads in the final four were they all to advance.
2. English Struggles
Conversely, Manchester City joined Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal on the scrap heap of the Champions League. I'd say it's a dark and gloomy day in England today as a result, but...that's the weather there regardless. It now marks the second time in three years that an English side has failed to reach this stage of the competition. For all the money and attention the Premier League generates, the performance of its clubs on this grand stage is incredibly disappointing for all fans of the league. Beyond disappointment, the struggles of the English clubs could have a far more wide-ranging implication. UEFA calculates the number of spots that each league gets in the competition through a coefficient based on previous years' performances. While the league still benefits from Chelsea winning the competition in 2012, this type of failure in two out of three years could mean that its 4th slot is in jeopardy. This would have tremendous implications not only for the Champions League competition, but also in the Premier League, as that coveted 4th place position would now be meaningless. Battle for 3rd just doesn’t sound right.
3. Barcelona’s Back
Throughout this season, many pundits, including one distinguished gentleman wondered whether Barcelona was in trouble. The manager was on the hot seat, Lionel Messi wanted to leave (then he didn’t...then he did), and Luis Suárez was not scoring at his previous rate. My what a difference a few weeks makes. Its clinical performance against a quality side like Manchester City over two legs re-established itself as one of the favorites to win this competition. Barcelona won 3-1 in aggregate, but if not for City keeper Joe Hart’s masterful performance in the second leg (10 saves in a performance that led Messi to call Hart a “phenomenon”), it could have easily scored 5 or 6 goals in that match alone.But its fortunes have not only improved in Europe, but also domestically. It trailed rival Real Madrid in the La Liga table for seemingly the entire season and even lost to Los Blancos in the the first El Clásico. Yet thanks to Madrid’s struggles in 2015, Barcelona currently finds itself with a one point lead in the league. With the second and final Clásico of the season (in the league anyway) on tap for Sunday evening at Camp Nou, Barca has the opportunity to go 4 points up and put one hand on the league trophy. Barcelona is also in the Copa del Rey final, so a season that came so close to coming off the rails at several points now could end with Barcelona celebrating a historic treble.Just like that distinguished gentleman said it could.
4. What’s next for Manuel Pellegrini?
It seems inconceivable. And yet it is also incredibly unsurprising. Following another early exit from the Champions League, the chorus calling for Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini to be fired grows louder. Looking at the positive, all Pellegrini has done at City is win the Premier League in his first season and has advanced out of the group stage in the Champions League the last two seasons. Yet for all the money that City has spent, its owners certainly will not be satisfied reaching the final 16. After winning the domestic league twice, its owners now want European glory. City has also struggled recently in the league, most notably losing to lowly Burnley this past weekend, seemingly setting Chelsea on a course to win the league. City now finds itself in a battle for second place as it sits a mere point ahead of Arsenal and two points ahead of cross-town rival United. We at the18 have already speculated that current Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, whose club is also not thrilled with his performance at the moment (again all he did was win the Champions League last year, no bigs), could jump back to England and take over at City. Ancelotti has won wherever he has been, including in the Premier League with Chelsea, and perhaps more importantly for City, he has won the Champions League with both Real Madrid and AC Milan. Given the resources at its disposal and the expectations it carries, there is little doubt if Pellegrini is sacked, there will be a big name replacing him. Given his success in both Spain and England, Pellegrini will be fine and should be able to secure another job in whatever league he wants to manage. He will also likely get a nice severance package, so let’s not feel too bad for him just yet.
5. UEFA & Fox Win
Perhaps the only ones more excited that Barcelona has advanced than the club itself have to be UEFA and Fox, its television partner in the United States. Barcelona is one of, if not the, most popular clubs in the world, so the longer that it stays in this competition, the better it is for both UEFA and Fox. Ultimately, sports is about entertainment and having Lionel Messi playing makes for better viewing, as his former manager Pep Guardiola can attest. The Champions League draw for the quarterfinals takes place this Friday afternoon. There are a lot of intriguing potential match ups in the next round and people around the world will be glued to their screens (computer or television) eagerly anticipating what comes next.
Follow Mike Smith on Twitter @thefootiegent