The start of the season had me thinking how impossible it was for smaller clubs to make their presence felt in Europe's top competition - the UEFA Champions League - in the current scenario. Money had completely taken over the sport. The clubs with the cash would always be competitive and one of them would emerge as the last side standing while the others would just make up the numbers. Gone were the days when a team like Porto (2004) or Borussia Dortmund (1997) could spring a surprise or even challenge for the title it seemed. It made me yearn to witness those times when an underdog winner was possible.
But today here I am, having watched Manchester United crash out to FC Basel, who were the first and only Swiss club to have ever qualified directly for the Champions League group-stage; Manchester City losing out to Napoli who almost also accounted for Chelsea; Apoel Nicosia becoming the first Cypriot team to reach UCL quarters after getting the better of French heavyweights Olympique Lyon and Marseille sending out 2010 champions Inter Milan.
Ironically, the only English club to progress to the last eight - Chelsea - is the team that is battling big problems in EPL. They have lost plenty of games and also their manager Andre Villas-Boas. The dismal year in the Champions League for English football has come barely two years after experts and fans were discussing the dominance of English soccer following the presence of three England clubs in the tournament's semifinals in the 2008-09 season. And, there is no denying that English teams this year clearly have not been upto the mark they have set for themselves in the last couple of years. This edition should serve as a good lesson for them.