Here in Germany, the sense of anticipation was huge ahead of the recent Premier League versus Bundesliga double-headers in the UEFA Champions League.
With Arsenal FC entertaining Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 welcoming Chelsea FC on the same night and then the reverse fixtures due on matchday four, all kinds of questions came to the media fore.
What comparisons can you draw between the two leagues? Will it be athleticism or technique that wins through? Which league is stronger?
The Bundesliga has been courting all kinds of praise for its on and off-field success and the German journalists I work with have been lapping it up, eager to find proof that the Bundesliga has overtaken its English equivalent.
"Let's do a statistical piece on how much better the German teams are," offered one colleague. Two more chimed in with enthusiasm, before it was rather deflatingly pointed out that English sides actually have the better record in European club competition.
"Ah ... okay, well let's wait until after Tuesday's results then," said the writer in question, humbled. I'm a huge Bundesliga advocate, needless to say, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have to stifle a smirk of national pride.
So we waited for last Tuesday's matches. I was reporting on Schalke versus Chelsea in Gelsenkirchen and my gut feeling was that the Premier League title hopefuls would come out on top – and so it transpired. But not in the manner I, or anyone else judging by the post-match reaction, had expected.
The final score of 3-0 was not reflective of the game at all. Schalke fell behind to an early Fernando Torres header but the German hosts dominated possession for long stretches and created some very good chances. Half-time disrupted their momentum and they were caught out by two intelligent counters in the second period, but the result was harsh and Jens Keller's men have every reason to believe they can improve upon it at Stamford Bridge next week.
Meanwhile in London, Dortmund delivered a sub-par display by their standards but still managed to come away with three points against an Arsenal team who, by all accounts, deserved more. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s opener was the highlight of an otherwise quiet performance from him, and Robert Lewandowski's late winner came against the run of play.
Overall, those two games kept the head-to-head record between the two championships even this term, with Manchester United FC having defeated Bayer 04 Leverkusen 4-2 on matchday one win before FC Bayern München's convincing 3-1 victory over Manchester City FC in the second instalment of games. As a result, Arsenal's upcoming trip to Dortmund and Schalke's mission in west London will be fascinating to behold.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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