Champions League Special: Is there any hope for the English clubs in Europe?

By Paul Dargan. There was contrasting fortunes for Arsenal and Manchester City in the FA Cup last weekend, yet now attention turns to Europe's premier competition where they both have a metaphorical mountain to climb.

Paul Dargan runs the rule over the English clubs chances as well as briefly glancing at the week’s other last-16 ties.

Uwe Rosler has picked up where Roberto Martinez left-off at the DW Stadium and has continued the recent tradition of the Lancashire club’s cup exploits in the FA Cup last weekend. Rosler went as far as saying that the victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s side was his “biggest achievement as a football manager.”

“We did not do it just by parking the bus and being lucky. We played very good football and over long periods,” the former City forward commented.

But from what I saw Manchester City seemed as if they were trying to keep a little in reserve for the very tough Champions League second leg at Camp Nou on Wednesday. The only thing in City’s corner for the trip to Barcelona is that Los Cules also lost unexpectedly at Valladolid at the weekend in a disappointing encounter which incredibly saw the home side win for only the fifth time in La Liga this term.

Manchester City's hopes of an unprecedented quadruple were dashed last weekend as they suffered a shock exit at the hands of Wigan

Manchester City’s hopes of an unprecedented quadruple were dashed last weekend as they suffered a shock exit at the hands of Wigan

All is not well at Camp Nou – they’ve lost three of the last eight domestic fixtures and an early goal for Pellegrini’s men could certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. The Chilean could do worse than take a leaf out of Rosler’s book to take to Spain, to try and improve his dreadful personal record against Barca. He has now lost 11 of the last 13 meetings against them with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, added to the first leg defeat on English soil a fortnight ago. That has to change if the Sky Blues are to advance to the quarter-finals of this tournament.

Following their FA Cup victory, Arsenal will take a bit of confidence into their nigh-on impossible task at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday. However, they face a side unbeaten in what seems like 376 million games – the mighty FC Bayern of Munich. Die Bayern (The Bavarians) are overwhelming favourites and toyed with Wolfsburg on Saturday afternoon at the Volkswagen Arena, even allowing them to take the lead on 17 minutes through Naldo and astonishingly letting them hold that very advantage for all of 10 minutes…before equalising just before the half-hour mark, getting their half-time team-talk sorted, coming out, coasting through the opening 18 minutes of the second half, scoring no less than five times in 17 minutes and then promptly going home.

Last season Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 but crashed out on the away goals rule

Last season Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 but crashed out on the away goals rule

Arsenal had better not expect the game to go like it did last season in Germany, where they won 2-0 yet went out on away goals. Once again they travel to Bavaria after surrendering a two-goal first leg deficit, but find their opponents in far better shape than they were almost exactly a year ago. Coincidentally, Arsenal’s next game is at White Hart Lane, which was their last game immediately before last season’s trip to Munich. They lost that league match at Spurs, but it was the catalyst for their unbeaten run to the end of the season, which saw them clinch the fourth Champions’ League place.

My predictions are that Manchester City will avoid defeat at the Nou Camp, but bow out and Arsenal will be beaten by two clear goals at the Allianz.

The night’s other two games are pretty much a formality for me, with French Ligue 1 leaders and champions-elect, Paris Saint Germain, already holding a 4-0 lead from their first meeting with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, who are having a shocking time of it in the Bundesliga. They have won just two of their last nine games and none of the previous four, gaining their first point in the league since February 7, drawing 1-1 at 12th-placed Hannover 96 at the weekend.

While Atletico got back to form against Celta Vigo with a 2-0 win, despite stinking the place out for the opening 45 minutes at Balaidos – David Villa scoring his twelfth and thirteenth goals of the season.

Diego Simeone’s side host AC Milan, currently mid-table in Serie A, and are huge favorites to get through to the last eight, following Diego Costa’s late goal at the San Siro in the first game.

Is it a foregone conclusion? Are there any surprises in store this week in the Champions League? Barcelona and Bayern Munich – who is the better side?

Follow @Dejonefc

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