Liverpool underline English dominance
It is a measure of how dominant English clubs have become in the Champions League that Liverpool were disappointed, and Atletico Madrid relieved, after Wednesday's draw in the Vicente Calderon.
While that had much to do with Liverpool leading from the 14th to 84th minute Atletico could easily have re-interpreted the game, as the Spanish media did, as a "we wuz robbed" tale. Robbie Keane's goal for Liverpool was offside and Maniche had a goal for Atletico erroneously disallowed by the Danish officials. Yet Javier Aguirre, Atletico's under-pressure coach, was more interested in discussing his team's improvement after three defeats, while goalscorer Simao said, "Getting a draw is a good result."
English clubs have now played 12 ties in this season's competition, winning eight and drawing four. All are at least joint-leaders of their groups with a minimum four-point cushion. The last round of matches, in early December, may be dead rubbers for the Premier League quartet.
It is not just on the pitch English clubs are moving ahead of the competition. Atletico are one of Spain's bigger clubs yet travelling fans will have noted their stadium is dated by English standards. Chelsea's fans will be astonished at the basic facilities at Rome's Stadio Olimpico when they go there for the next group matches – especially as it is the location of this season's final. The same applies across most of the continent, with the general exception of some venues rebuilt for major tournaments in the last decade.
Of the English quartet's homes Anfield lags behind, which is one reason why Liverpool are planning a new ground, but it is still better than most places the club will visit. The other reason Liverpool want to move is Anfield's sub-50,000 capacity which, together with the limited corporate facilities, restricts its revenue-generating potential. Nevertheless, the gap between teams who finished fourth in the Premier League and La Liga last season was underlined by the player both sets of fans sang hymns to on Wednesday, the absent Fernando Torres, late of Atletico, now on Merseyside.