Monday, May 9, 2011

European Season Set To End With The Ultimate Anticlimax

Manchester United v Chelsea: Sir Alex Ferguson will grab their 19th title and will want to win it againA season that at points looked to promise so much, has proved to produce very little in the way of excitement. After Dortmund had sealed their title a week ago, Milan did likewise on Saturday, before Manchester United and Barcelona moved within touching distance of their respective crowns yesterday.

Those title celebrations and title celebrations to come have illustrated the lack of competition towards the higher end of Europe's premier leagues. What looked set to be an absorbing, Mourinho vs Barca battle, has ended with a whimper, as Barcelona stand on the brink of clinching the league title with three matches to go. Bizarrely, Mourinho's predecessor Pelligrini managed to get Madrid closer, the Madrid of 2010 took Barca to final day .

In Italy, the season appeared bound for a tight finish between the two Milan sides. After AC Milan had been solid and consistent all year, Inter began to appear on the radar around the start of 2011, playing the type of attacking football advocated by manager Leonardo. However, the defending champions were never able to reach top spot, and a run of defeats put pay to any hopes of a sixth successive scudetto.

Barcelona's Gerard Pique (right) celebrates with teammate Xavi Hernandez after scoring in his team's 2-0 win over Espanyol.England, perhaps the county's whom's league promised the most also failed to deliver, in a race that really only briefly looked as though it might conclude with something other than glory for Manchester United. Yesterday, United defeated Chelsea in a performance of the kind of dominance expected not in a title duel, but in a David vs Goliath mismatch. Ferguson's men rolled all over Chelsea, repeatedly pounding them in attack, a point no better illustrated than by the field day Antonio Valencia had against England's best left back: Ashley Cole. Now, United need only a point from their next two games, making the title an inevitability.

Milan led the table for most of the season as they ended Inter's dominance.Even the Champions League's latter stages have been shorn of their usual excitement. Both semi final were won in the first leg with comprehensive 2-0 wins from the away side. Hardly anything to compare to the thrilling nature of semi finals gone by, Inter defending at the Nou Camp, Scholes' screamer in '08 and Iniesta's late strike two seasons ago.

The Europa League as well disappointed in its most promising hour, the marquee match of the tournament between Porto and Villareal was settled emphatcially, as Porto won 5-1 in Portugal. Though Villareal did go on to narrowly win the second leg in Spain, what looked to be a fierce, competitive tie between two Iberian rivals turned into a rout.

It is true, all is still not lost for this season, remaining in store is a Champions League final, a Europa League final and deciders in both the FA Cup and the Coppa Italia. Historically finals fail to impress, but if 10/11 is to be remembered as anything other than a stroll for Europe's elite, then fireworks must go off in coming weeks.

Has 2010/11 been a disappointment?

Who will come out on top in the Coppa Italia, FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League?

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