With the media in overdrive as the Jose Mourinho love-in shows no signs of slowing down as the fervour of tomorrow’s night’s match reaches a crescendo, a little known fact seems to have slipped the attention of most, should Inter Milan lose to Chelsea, a highly probable outcome, then Italy will lose its fourth champions league slot going into the 2011/12 season with the likely recipients of this being Germany.
This brings up a bizarre case of German sides perhaps supporting an English side in the latter stages of the Champions League, and indeed even the Europa League. The awarding of places to country’s is done directly by UEFA’s confounded coefficients, in lamens terms, like a country ranking system based on their performances in Europe over the past four years . At present Germany look set to prise away Italy’s fourth choice space, a significant step worth noting.
It has not been a good couple of weeks for Italian football in Europe, yes Juve seemed relatively at ease at home to Fulham but their squad is unbalanced to say the least and wholesale changes will need to be made in the summer if they are to challenge again in the future. This decision could affect them directly with the club currently languishing in a disappointing 5th place in Serie A so far this term.
Fiorentina’s exit at the hands of Bayern Munich and Milan’s woefully limp performance against Man Utd has seen Italian football take a further knock, with Jose’s Inter and the aforementioned Juventus the only Italian teams left in any European competition.
Germany in contrast have five left, Bayern Munich, the country’s largest and best supported club who knocked out the Viola on aggregate, and Stuttgart with incumbent and former Spurs manager Christian Gross who facing the uphill task of knocking holders Barcelona out in the Camp Nou.
In the Europa League, further proof that the Bundesliga is thriving exists with Hamburg currently 3-1 up on aggregate to Belgian side Anderlecht, and an inconsistent Wolfsburg team still reeling from the loss of manager Felix Magath in the summer who still have every chance of knocking out Russian Champions Rubin Kazan after a battling 1-1 draw away from home. This is closely followed by perennial challengers for the Bundesliga Werder Bremen who have a home tie against Valencia to contend with after drawing 1-1 away from home.
It has to be said that every German side left in the Europa League faces a tricky test but should Juve even knock out Fulham but Inter go out to Chelsea the likelihood is that Germany will be rewarded with a fourth Champions League place.
If proof was ever needed about the declining state of Serie A then this is it. Italian teams, barring Milan’s Champions League victory in 2007 have consistently underperformed in Europe the past few years. Most of you will remember the ease with which Man Utd ran riot over a supposedly distinguished Roma side at Old Trafford two seasons ago in a stunning 7-0 win or the complete lack of fight that Inter Milan showed under Mancini’s stewardship after going out with a whimper in successive seasons to Liverpool and Man Utd at the knockout stage.
Those of you that watch the Bundesliga will be excited to see their league rewarded for its undoubted merits and quality. It’s an extremely competitive league these days and there always seems to be a genuine title race year on year and although top at the moment, the days of Bayern’s hegemony are most certainly over. The surprising nature of this season’s Premiership is a common occurrence across in Germany and the Bundesliga now represents a pulsating and exciting league to watch.
Is Italian football on its deathbed, rocked by scandals and a lack of funds, or is there demise at German football’s hands merely a phase, what are your thoughts?
Written by James McManus