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English influence fading in Europe

Chelsea are flying the flag for England in Europe – or are they?

John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were the only English players in the Chelsea side as the Blues secured their passage to the Champions League semi-finals.

Arsenal have in the past fielded an entire team of non-English players and it's a similar story at Manchester City. There are English players in the side but the likes of Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and Adam Johnson are by no means automatic picks.

We are not alone in the Premier League in forgetting our own. Benfica fielded a side with not one Portuguese player in their starting line-up at Stamford Bridge - and let's not forget that even the stars of the show for the two hot favourites for the Champions League, Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, represent Argentina and Portugal, not Spain.

If the English Premier League is the best league in the world it's certainly not down to Englishmen. And we have had a Scot ruling the roost at English football’s top flight.

Is it any wonder that England struggle in the big tournaments?

Exception

These days, Athletic Bilbao - pictured celebrating after securing their place in the Europa League semi-finals - are the exception rather than the rule.

Bilbao only include Basque players in their squad - and that has been a key factor in their success as a club. Fans have said overwhelmingly that they would rather see their club relegated than change the policy.

For the record, I'm cheering on Bayern in the Champions League. I have the grand sum of a tenner riding on them, which will rake in £80 if they can overcome Real Madrid then Barcelona or Chelsea.

In Arjen Robben, Bayern have a truly world class player who is a joy to watch as he is not only an extremely creative winger but a goalscorer too.

But Madrid are the hot favourites to beat Bayern. Gareth Southgate made a very valid point on ITV's Champions League round up the other night when he said that Cristiano Ronaldo was very unfortunate to be playing in the same era as Lionel Messi.

If the little Argie wasn't around Ronaldo would be far and away the world's best player and another point made was that Real have a better all-round squad than Barca with the likes of Kaka, Higuain and Benzema to call on.

Still, I live in hope! 

By Steve Bott


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