The Champions League is back

Europe's premier club competition returns this week with all the continental swagger we have become accustomed to.

But are we living in false hope that a English club can take the title this year?

The English side that looks best-equipped for the challenge, as usual, is Manchester United.
Having made the quarter finals for the last seven seasons and been victorious in 1999 it would seem they have the necessary experience.

However, a quick look at their midfield starting line up against Panathanaikos on Tuesday night would suggest Alex Ferguson's lack of big name signings over the summer will not give them the creative flexibility needed against Italian or Spanish opposition.

Philip Neville, Quentin Fortune, Nicky Butt and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hardly send shivers down the spines of those at Real Madrid or AC Milan.
United's 5-0 win over Panathanaikos did help their cause, but the Greek side are one of the poorer clubs in this year's competition and showed too many defensive frailties on Tuesday night.

Arsenal have the players, they have the results in the Premiership, they have the ambition, but they miss that one vital ingredient in Europe to win the Champions league, consistency.

A poor performance against a well=organised Inter Milan on Wednesday night culminating in a 3-0 home defeat will leave Arsene Wenger scratching his head as has so often been the case in Europe.

Who would bet against the north London club beating Inter 3-0 in the return match at the San Siro but still narrowly missing out on qualification?

Chelsea are the unknown quality this year and the money Roman Abramovich has thrown at the club means they have the players capable of going all the way.

However, only time will tell if the players can adapt quickly to their new team-mates and become a force to be reckoned with.

An impressive 1-0 away win at Sparta Prague on Tuesday night shows that they can travel away and win tricky matches.

After impressive wins for real Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, the English teams have many obstacles to overcome.

With two Italian teams making the final last year, the equivalent with English teams seems very hard to imagine.