The search for European glory

This week, from the October 18-20, we were all treated to some top class European football

Krikor Yeretzian
Krikor Yeretzian - Special to Al Arabiya English
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This week, from the October 18-20, we were all treated to some top class European football, and it wasn’t a disappointment. The third week of games in the Champions League, and the Europa League, means that all the teams in each group have played a game against each other.

This European stage is an opportunity for new players to shine, and experienced ones to keep their cool and lead the team. Several players in many teams have performed excellently in the past set of games, from Messi and Ozil hat-tricks in the Champions League, to Pogba and Shaarawy braces in the Europa League.

There are teams that have won the Champions League several times and there are teams, like Leicester who start their first attempt for the UEFA Champions League (the last time they participated in European football, it was called the UEFA Cup). This is what adds to the excitement of the games, since the draws can match really experienced teams with not-so-experienced teams.

The Spanish kings of European football both enjoyed massive wins, with Real Madrid putting 5 past Legia Warsaw and FCBarcelona beating a shaky Manchester City 4-0. As for Pep Guardiola, he lost more than a game. His Barcelona successor put four past his team, his goalkeeper, Bravo, who just came from Barcelona, got sent off, and his team were very sloppy at the back and ineffective up front.

A pleasant surprise for Premier League enthusiasts, and a thrilling game for all, was Arsenal’s thrashing of Ludogorets. Scoring six goals, half by Ozil, Arsenal ripped their opponents wide open and took advantage of every advantage to add to the scoresheet. Wenger ought to be pleased and feeling good about this year’s campaign as they have never won a Champions League title, but this season they’re off to a reassuring start.

Dropping down to the Europa League last year after not qualifying for the knockout stages in the Champions League, Sevilla now find themselves tied with Juventus for top of group H, ahead of Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb. After three Europa League wins in a row, it should be time for Sevilla to get moving in the Champions League. Or is there such a discrepancy between the quality of both?

In my mind, the Europa League should be where smaller, less successful teams have a chance to shine. In reality, it seems to have become a place where champions league losers are dumped, no matter the size or experience. I know these are the rules and it cannot be changed, but what is a team like Manchester United, who has actually won the Champions League three times, doing playing against FC Zorya Luhansk, who has never made it out of the qualifying stages of the Europa League?

This kind of discrepancy, although Zorya did do a good job losing only 1-0, leads to the clouding out of smaller clubs who could actually have a chance to win and improve against another teams of the same caliber. Where would the bigger teams go? That’s a question that needs a lot of planning before anyone can answer, but it should be looked into. Several teams, and in turn players, could be given more chances to shine if they didn’t stumble into football giants like Manchester United, AS Roma, and Inter Milan in a league that’s supposed to give them opportunity.

Regardless, we were treated to a great game by United against Fenerbahce, with excellent goals from Pogba and Lingard to secure a 4-1 win. An even more exciting game was Roma taking on Austria Wein, with most of the action packed into the last 10 minutes of the game. We saw Wein come back from 3-1 to tie the game and secure a point and surprisingly tie with Roma at the top of the table too.

The 20-year-old (21 in two weeks), is increasingly standing out for his club, having great influence in the domestic league as well as internationally. This season, Silva has scored nine goals in 14 appearances and looks to carry on this great form. Thanks to him, Porto sit top of the domestic league table and are tied on goal difference for second in Group G of the Champions League.

Silva has loads of talent and a keen eye for setting his teammates up as well as taking chances for himself. He has great attacking positioning and is always at the right place at the right time. Even for his national team, Portugal, he has been a star, stealing the spotlight from big names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Renato Sanches to score four goals in two games during the World Cup qualifiers.

If he can keep up his form and keep scoring goals, I say many big teams will be interested in acquiring this striker during the summer transfer window, as he will have proven that he can take on competition and score goals. I can see him going to Real Madrid possibly, as they have a transfer ban until 2018, giving him a lot of time to prove that he is consistent and giving them little room to find someone to take Benzema’s place. The two already have history as Danilo and Pepe came from Porto to Real Madrid and Iker Casillas moved to continue his career in Porto.

Without European football, all we could do is wonder about the results teams from different countries would have against each other, watch it happen in a friendly, or just play it out of FIFA. Also, it is one of the only ways to measure how a player would do in a different league, that is, by putting him up against competition from that league. Thankfully, it exists, and every season we are treated to the top teams in Europe stepping up for the two most prestigious awards - the Europa League and the Champions League.

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