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English clubs find their new level

Newcastle United's Manager Alan Pardew (

Newcastle United’s Manager Alan Pardew (L) gestures to Newcastle United’s Senegalese player Papiss Cisse at the final whistle during the match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge in London, England on May 2, 2012. AFP PHOTO/IAN KINGTON RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

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For the first time in 17 years, no English clubs will be appearing in the latter stages of the Uefa Champions League, a fact that concerns Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger however the Frenchman should take comfort that the Europa League seems to be a more comfortable level.

All three clubs remaining in the ugly step child tournament step forward and take a bow. Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham somehow limped over the finish line in one form or another to grace the last eight.

Newcastle after getting a credible 0-0 draw against Anzhi Makhachkala in the first leg left it as late as possible before snatching a dramatic last second winner through Papiss Cisse. The red card issued to Anzhi and Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez certainly helped but the Toon Army were made to suffer every second during the final 45 minutes knowing that any goal conceded would surely have sent them tumbling out.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea made hard work for themselves by conceding in the first half versus Steaua Bucharest meaning they would have to score three to advance. Juan Mata, John Terry and wonder of wonder, Fernando Torres scored to send a nervy Blues through however Torres contrived to miss a penalty in the 86th minute meaning that the last few ticks of the clock were more than agony for the Shed faithful.

In Italy Tottenham performed the great escape and will stagger back to White Hart Lane wondering just how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory only to well, you know. 4-4 on aggregate only tells the score line and not the story as Inter Milan almost pulled off one of the most spectacular comebacks of all time.

The question now is can they avoid each other in the last 8 and help repair the damaged psyche of English football. Whether this year was a blip on the radar or a taste of things to come, we at least know that the Europa League can provide a small dose of pride.

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