Richard Hercock: Europe no match for battle of the champions back home

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil battles with Bayern's Thiago Alcantara.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil battles with Bayern's Thiago Alcantara.

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THE obituaries have long been written about English football clubs in Europe.

This week saw Arsenal and Manchester City surrender the flag as they were ousted from the Champions League by Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively. Hardly European minnows, so no shame there.

Tottenham look like following suit in the Europa League after losing 3-1 to Benfica at White Hart Lane on Thursday night.

Next week does not seem to look much better either. Manchester United trail 2-0 after the first leg at Olympiacos, while Chelsea look England’s best hope.

The Blues return to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday having held Galatasaray to a 1-1 draw in Turkey.

So does this signal a changing of the guard in the footballing scene when it comes to club football in Europe?

Personally, I could not care less.

Maybe it is the fact that European club football is more about making the richest clubs richer, with the watered down league system makinga mockery of the title Champions League.

How can the fourth-placed club in England be the champions of Europe?

The Europa League, meanwhile, is a competition which has never been taken seriously since it changed its format from the UEFA Cup.

Back then it had some credibility. Now it seems to be the dumping ground, not to mention safety net, for those clubs who miss out on the Champions League riches.

That is not to say I am against European competition.

I remember travelling as a fan with Sheffield Wednesday in the early Nineties to the footballing bastion of Luxembourg.

CA Spora Luxembourg to be exact. In the days before budget flights it meant an overnight coach journey from Sheffield, and I had the misfortune to sit a few rows in front of the Owls’ infamous fan ‘Tango’.

Sleep was not an option as his Wolverhampton tones filled the coach in what seemed like a non-stop performance. At least he kept his shirt on.

The game was an anti-climax. Having romped to an 8-1 win at Hillsborough in the first leg, goals from Paul Warhurst and Gordon Watson saw the Owls to a 2-1 away victory.

Nineteen days later, Wednesday were away to Kaiserslautern, but I could not afford the trip to Germany and a controversial exit meant that was the beginning and end of my Euro experiences.

So maybe it is with a long-held touch of bitterness that I have little time for European club football. But I doubt it for the domestic scene in England is where my heart lies.

Nothing gets it pumping more than thinking of champions Manchester United v Liverpool tomorrow lunchtime.

This is old-school. Yes, Chelsea and Manchester City may be competing for the title, but there is no game like this one which I would much rather watch.

Two sides who hate each other – and not just using the excuse that they reside in the same city.

This rivalry is ingrained throughout generations.

You can keep your Champions League, Old Trafford tomorrow will be the true battle of champions.

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