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Tough Times Ahead For English Teams

It was almost a perfect week for the English clubs in the Champions League with Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all winning and Manchester United coming home from Spain with a draw.

But though qualification to the knock-out stages is either guaranteed (City), almost assured (Chelsea and United) or probable (Arsenal), none of our four teams is absolutely certain yet to finish top of their groups and that might well mean big problems in the round of the last 16.

In truth, Chelsea are all but through as winners of Group E (1/50 with Coral) after their 3-0 win over Schalke on Wednesday, but both United (4/11) and Arsenal (4/7) still have work to do if they are to finish on top of Groups A and F respectively, while City (9/1) look most unlikely to catch outright tournament favourites Bayern Munich in Group D.

Finishing second in a Group means playing one of the Group winners in the first of the two-legged knock-out rounds and although Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have said in the past that this can be unimportant, we can be sure that all four current managers would rather avoid for the time being the bunch of Group winners that would await them on this occasion.

Possible opposition for Group runners-up include reigning champions Bayern Munich (Coral’s 13/5 favourites to defend their title), Barcelona (9/2) and Real Madrid (5/1), while nobody will be doing a jig if they are drawn against PSG (16/1) or Athletico Madrid (18/1) either.

Of course these huge tests have to be faced at some stage in the competition, but these are teams everyone would rather be playing further down the line.

Arsenal earned rave notices after their 1-0 away win over Borussia Dortmund, but there may be even tougher times ahead for Arsene Wenger’s men, who can still be backed at 18/1 to win the tournament with Coral, the same price as a drifting United.

There wasn’t much change in the outright market after Matchday Four. Bayern, Barca and Real Madrid produced few fireworks between them, but they didn’t need to; basically their jobs have already been done.

And it’s pretty much as you were as far as top competition goalscorer is concerned with Cristiano Ronaldo (1/2), Lionel Messi (twice) (5/2), and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9/2) all on the mark again.

But City’s deadly duo, Sergio Aguero (11/1) and Alvaro Negredo (20/1) have shortened up after netting all five goals between them against CSKA Moscow.