Amitai Winehouse: Forget the congestion ... every match counts for English fans

PSG head coach Laurent Blanc, right, gestures as Cesc Fabregas collects the ball for a throw in during the Champions League match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at the Parc des Princes last Tuesday.PSG head coach Laurent Blanc, right, gestures as Cesc Fabregas collects the ball for a throw in during the Champions League match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at the Parc des Princes last Tuesday.
PSG head coach Laurent Blanc, right, gestures as Cesc Fabregas collects the ball for a throw in during the Champions League match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at the Parc des Princes last Tuesday.
Much has been made of the absolute failure of English sides to offer up anything of note in Europe over the last few seasons.

It is a problem probably best encapsulated in the short-term by Manchester United’s humiliating defeat against FC Midtjylland on Thursday, a result that has led to another sharpening of the blades with regards to Louis van Gaal.

In the long-term, the fact no English side has been in the Champions League final since 2012, when Chelsea won it, says a lot.

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This is real turnaround for football in this country. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12 there was an English team in the final every season barring one – the match between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich in May, 2010.

The potential absence of English teams from the latter stages of European club competition will have a negative impact on the important coefficient rankings that decide how many Champions League and Europa League places a country gets.

The Premier League is already treading on thin ice. Italy have been progressively improving and look like they could move up a place, although UEFA recently suggested it was unlikely that England would manage to lose a place in either competition at the end of this season.

Beyond that, the future is up in the air. It is something that has been covered in these pages before.

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What is a recent development is the suggestion that there could be an alteration of the domestic calendar to improve displays in Europe. The FA Cup and replays are a target. Undoubtedly, some clubs also wish it were easier to win in the top flight.

Amid all of this, Chelsea travelled to Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday night. They lost 2-1.

Watching the game, one thought came to mind – it must be boring to support PSG.

The team of Laurent Blanc, pictured, are 24 points clear at the top of Ligue 1. They have 70 points, winning 22 times and drawing on four occasions in their 26 games. They have not lost a single game domestically since the start of the season. In terms of trophies, they won a treble in 2013-14, a quadruple last season and are on course to repeat that feat this campaign.

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It would take a collapse of staggering proportions for PSG to not win the league this season.

What that means is that when they hosted Reims this weekend or visit Lyon next, it does not really matter to Les Rouge-et-Bleu. Sure, an undefeated season would be a great achievement, but winning the league is essentially assured. The same can be said for the cup tie against Saint-Etienne. They would obviously like to win it. There must, however, be a feeling of been there, done that, got the souvenir t-shirt.

Any fan of the club will be waiting for March 9, when they face Chelsea again. That is a gap of just under a month without a game that really counts.

It is uniquely highlighted in France, but it is a situation somewhat replicated across Europe.

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Porto and Benfica have won every single Portuguese league title going back to 2001-02, when Sporting Lisbon won it.

Atletico Madrid’s title win in 2013-14 was unique because it was the exception that proved the rule – that Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated Spanish football for a decade. Between 1998 and 2002, there were four different champions in Spain, while since the summer of 2004 there have been only three.

Juventus have won the last four Scudetto. After overhauling Napoli by beating them last weekend, they look likely to make it five Serie A titles in a row.

The Bundesliga has crowned Bayern Munich as champions for the last three seasons. Number four is just around the corner for Pep Guardiola before he makes his much awaited move to England.

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What do we have in England? An ultra-watchable top flight in which Leicester City, the team that finished 14th last season, top the table. Chelsea, who won the league, are down in 12th. Tottenham Hotspur are putting together a first genuine tilt at the title for a generation. Arsenal are the favourites, as the most established side of the three, but have not won the crown since 2003-04, nearly 12 years ago. You have to drop down to fourth spot to find a team that has won the title in the last two seasons, Manchester City, and they look unlikely to do it again unless their form picks up significantly.

Between now and May, the permutations will change repeatedly, as they have over the last month. We, as fans of English football, are essentially guaranteed three months of consistently important league action and a huge number of games that actually matter. That is not the case in France.

What England has is a uniquely competitive league, in part driven by the fixture congestion and the fact no top team ever truly gets a break. Every single match counts. Is that worth losing in exchange for the vague hope of European success? I don’t think so.

And another thing ...

Wayne Rooney will be absent through injury over the next two months, when manager Roy Hodgson will surely be making his decisions over who is worth taking to Euro 2016.

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It would take a significant leap of faith to suggest Rooney will not find his way onto the plane to France, but there has to be a debate over where he fits into the England team.

There are undoubtedly two English strikers who are better than Rooney at this point – Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane.

Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, both recently having returned to fitness, will also stake their own claims.

That is not even considering Troy Deeney, rarely mentioned in terms of the England set-up but undoubtedly having had a better season than the Manchester United forward.

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It would surely also be a waste if Rooney was in the team ahead of Dele Alli in the No 10 role.

Rooney should go, maybe even to be used as a utility player, but it would be disheartening to see him on the pitch when England kick-off against Russia.