Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Wary of Serie A Killers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

London Wary of Serie A Killers

Article excerpt

Byline: James Olley

[bar] ONDON'S bid to win a maiden Champions League crown will move to Italy in February with the Premier League's reputation at risk of further damage at the hands of Serie A. La Liga's lack of strength in depth is the principal argument against Spain claiming football's ultimate triumvirate of world champions, European champions and best league.

But Real Madrid and Barcelona rightly remain favourites to lift the European club game's premier prize to suggest English football is, at the highest end, left trailing in their wake.

The abrupt departure of the Manchester clubs combined with Chelsea's struggles in qualifying for the last 16 have led many to consign the period of consistent representation in the latter stages to history.

United had reached three of the four finals but must now rally themselves to feign interest in a historically rich but somewhat hollow two-legged Europa League clash against Ajax, while City face holders Porto.

The luck of the draw did not fall on Chelsea or Arsenal either. Andre Villas-Boas bullishly promoted his team's position at the top of the group but in Napoli they face one of the most intriguing propositions in European football.

Devastating on the counter attack, Napoli have a forward line brimming with pace, energy and invention. They were strong enough to see off City -- including a pivotal win in Naples -- and their attacking trio of Marek Hamsik, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi will test Villas-Boas's defensive organisation.

High lines for high stakes? Given Napoli's pace on the break, the Chelsea manager's philosophy is set for a stern examination. …

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