Football Expert & Columnist
Two up at the break
Arsenal and Tottenham were superb this week, but both face tricky second legs, says Jamie Redknapp.
Last Updated: 17/02/11 6:23pm
It's been a great couple of days for English football and we cannot under-estimate what Tottenham and Arsenal did - but there is a long, long way to go yet.
We should all be proud of what they did against top opposition this week but certainly Barcelona and, even AC Milan on their travels, have the players to hurt them and undo all the good work from the first legs.
Like Arsene Wenger, I wouldn't make Arsenal favourites. Tottenham are slightly better off, but don't be fooled into thinking it's a case of job done and it will be a formality at White Hart Lane.
I did think they had a chance in the San Siro but I was never as confident as Graeme Souness who, I have to say, had no doubt Spurs would win - and got it spot-on. However, I'm not so sure the second leg will be as easy as people might think.
For a start, there will be a hell of a lot of pressure on them. How do they go about the second leg? Do they defend more? Do they sit back on what they've got and see what happens? Being ahead can do funny things to players in a second leg.
Milan though, know what they have to do. And they should be a different prospect. They have nothing to lose, they will probably have to go with the three up front and if Zlatan Ibrahimovic actually decides to turn up this time, then they can cause Spurs more problems than they managed in the San Siro.
You would also expect the same from Barcelona in the second leg at the Camp Nou. I have to say I didn't think Arsenal would lose on Wednesday but you still have to congratulate them on winning that game.
Especially if, like me, you thought they were playing suicide football in the first half! I sat watching that and could not believe my eyes. Everybody had been talking about stopping Barcelona by sitting back and letting them pass that ball around in front of you - like Inter did last year - as being the best way to handle them.
Well I sat and watched Arsenal play off-side with a such a high line, it was ridiculous! Let's be honest, if Lionel Messi's goal had not been ruled out when it should have stood, they would have been 2-0 down and in dire, dire straits.
But in the second half, once they got Samir Nasri more involved, Arsenal showed how you can beat them. Barcelona do press and press very well, but they do it high up the pitch. If you try and play between their midfield and back four they suffocate you, simple as that.
What Arsenal did after the break was get players breaking between those lines. We saw it with that fabulous second goal; Jack Wilshere to Cesc Fabregas and then all of a sudden Nasri was beyond the midfield and attacking the back four. And for all their brilliance, I do think that is one area where Barcelona do have a weakness.
If they don't win that first ball and you are brave, they can be got at - and Gerard Pique will be missing in the second leg which makes them even more susceptible. And I do think they are a better side than 12 months ago.
But I also think Barcelona are still the favourites to go through. At least Arsenal have something to hold onto, unlike last year when they went to the Nou Camp with the tie at 2-2.
There is though, thanks to those two wins, a possibility, an outside chance, that all four English sides could be in the quarter-finals.
Marseille will be no pushover for Manchester United, especially in the home leg, but you would have to fancy them to go through and while FC Copenhagen is a slippery one for Chelsea, I have a funny feeling about them and the Champions League this year.
This is probably their worst season they've had for a good few years and they are not playing that well in the Premier League, but I would not put it past them to go all the way and win the Champions League, which, let's face it, is the one Roman Abramovich wants - and the one they bought Fernando Torres to try and win.
You still can't say that all four teams will be in the quarter-finals but what we have seen this week has confirmed my view that if I could watch football week in, week out, in any country in Europe - and the world - it would be England. The Premier League has the most excitement and the most energy you will find and personally I would choose our football over anyone else's.
Maybe Barcelona against Real Madrid is an exception because that is pure theatre that goes beyond football, but where else in the world can the bottom team beat the top team - who had been unbeaten all season? The purists might say that La Liga is better to watch, but there is a place for Stoke and their long throws in our game and that's what makes it so special.
What I would say right now is that I would be reluctant to call the Premier League the best, simply because we lack one thing. Or, in fact, two things. Right now all we are missing is the very best in the world - and when I say best, I do mean by an absolute country mile - in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
And one of those has got to have a better night in the Camp Nou in three weeks' time...