Spellbinding | Ajax’s two mesmerising performances against Manchester City have put Dutch football back on the map after a long spell on the sidelines. (Image | Getty)

This week in Europe may have turned into the week of the comeback for the English quartet, but there can be little doubt, if any lingered, that the Premier League’s finest are no longer Europe’s dominant force.

Remember that spell when there were three English clubs in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League every year between 2008 and 2010?

At this time, footballing knowledge suggested that the continent had been conquered by Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. Well, can you really see that happening this year?

Right now, Liverpool look nowhere near qualifying for Europe next season, never mind the Champions League, and frankly Everton, Spurs and even West Bromwich Albion look more likely to finish fourth than inconsistent Arsenal.

Manchester United remain, of course, but their habit of giving their less well-staffed opponents a goal’s head-start (sometimes two) will catch them out in the end. Chelsea have also been unconvincing, and relative newcomers Manchester City are yet to look like they belong in the competition at all.

Take the results from the last match day a fortnight ago, for example. The best performance by a team from these shores was put on by Celtic, who pushed Barcelona until the final minute in the Nou Camp having taken the lead. The Bhoys aside, however, who else impressed?

How not to defend | Manchester United seemed in very confident mood against Braga as they gave the Portuguese side a two-goal head start. (Image | The People’s Person)

Sir Alex Ferguson‘s United slept through the first half as Braga, the Portuguese Everton, took a two-goal advantage before the patented hair dryer and some Mexican magic from Javier Hernandez earned the Red Devils an unlikely win.

That was as good as it got for the English contingent: City were blown away by an absolute tour de force from Ajax, a lacklustre Arsenal were efficiently dispatched – at home – by Schalke, while Chelsea came away empty-handed from a respectable showing against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.

Four defeats out of five for the British representation seemed to awaken some concerns over their qualification, and this week saw better results, if not markedly better performances.

Celtic were once again heroic, this time earning a thoroughly deserved and historic victory over Los Cules at a cacophonous Parkhead, where even Rod Stewart was inspired to tears of joy. United only had to go one goal behind this time before a power cut afforded Sir Alex Ferguson a second hair dryer session, inspiring a late comeback.

Roberto Di Matteo‘s side were again evenly matched by the Ukrainian giants, who on their day are a match for most teams in Europe on the basis of these performances, but a Victor Moses header deep into stoppage time secured a precious 3-2 win for the Blues.

Dreamland | Teenager Tony Watt is featuring heavily in his first season for Celtic and on Wednesday night, he scored Celtic’s second goal against Barcelona in what may be the highlight of his career. (Image | Daily Record)

As for the other two sides, City scraped a late draw having trailed Ajax throughout, and are now all but out of the Champions League.

Yet to host Real Madrid and facing a daunting trip to face Borussia Dortmund in the final round of group stage games, Roberto Mancini’s men lie five points behind the Spanish giants.

Only two wins for the Citizens, coupled with Ajax losing to Dortmund before beating Madrid, will see them qualify for the round of 16.

And then there is Arsenal. While they appeared competent enough in victories against French champions Montpellier HSC and Greek champions Olympiakos, one point from four in two matches against Schalke will not be what Arsene Wenger had hoped for.

Coming off the back of one of the most one-sided 2-1 defeats in recent memory from the weekend, Arsenal again looked short on self-belief in surrendering a two-goal lead to end the game clinging on for a draw.

It is, of course, rather too late to start bemoaning the decline of English (sorry Celtic, British) dominance in the Champions League: the trend started two or three years ago in all reality.

However, results this season – the consistent struggles of English sides in particular to beat teams not normally perceived as European power houses in the 21st century – have hammered home the point to an uncomfortable degree.

Look beyond Ajax and Shakhtar to BATE Borisov‘s historic win over Bayern Munich a few weeks ago, or Malaga’s triumphs over AC Milan in the last fortnight. What about Norwegian “minnows” FC Nordsjaelland holding Juventus to a draw last time out?

Europe confirmed this week that it has caught up with England, as well as Spain and Italy, after a decade of lagging behind. Now the onus is firmly on the Premier League’s finest to respond in style.

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