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The <i>Other</i> Football: Why have English teams struggled in Champions League?

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, centre right, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, centre, shake hands before kick-off of their English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London Saturday Sept. 19, 2015. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, centre right, and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, centre, shake hands before kick-off of their English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London Saturday Sept. 19, 2015. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE

In last week's four group-stage Champions League games involving English Premier League teams only Chelsea managed to win. Manchester United lost in Holland to PSV Eindhoven, Arsenal lost in Croatia to Dinamo Zagreb and Manchester City lost at home to last year's runner-up, Juventus.

The subpar performance of the country’s top teams has led to some soul-searching among supporters of the English game.

The last time an English team won the Champions League was when Chelsea overcame Bayern Munich on penalties in the 2012 final in Germany. Since then only Chelsea has made the semifinal round while all the other English teams have failed to get further than the last eight.

Sky Sports anchor and soccer analyst Rob Wotton told Fox News Latino that the league might be a victim of its style of play.

"The Premier League is far tougher," he said. Outside of the El Clásico matchups between Barcelona and Real Madrid, Spanish La Liga games aren’t nearly as competitive.

Wotton calculated that in the last four meetings between Barça and Levante at Camp Nou, Barça scored 21 goals against Levante's 2. And, in fact, the blaugrana beat Levante 4-1 last weekend.

"It's about the easiest gimme you can get in domestic football,” Wotton  said.

On Arsenal’s loss to Dinamo Zagreb, Wotton wondered if coach Arsene Wenger had looked past the midweek Champions League match-up and instead concentrated on last weekend’s game against Chelsea.  

Wenger made six changes to his first team line-up against Zagreb and lost, 2-1.

“Was his mind on Stamford Bridge and in getting one over on his ultimate nemesis, José Mourinho?,"‎ he asked.

If so, it didn’t make much of a difference: On Saturday, Chelsea beat Arsenal, 2-0.

Last year in Spain, Wotton recalled, there was an outcry when a Clásico match was sandwiched between Champions League games.

Wotton said that such tough stretches happen practically every week in the EPL.

“You know as player you are going to get a battering every weekend, and you have to be on top of your game every weekend,” he said.

Using the Sept. 12 Everton 3-1 victory over Chelsea as an illustration, Wotton commented, “There is no taking your foot off the gas in the Premier League.”‎

After Man City's Tuesday 2-1 home loss to Juventus, the team lost again at home by an identical score four days later to West Ham.

A couple of years ago, Cesc Fabregas, who has played for clubs in both Spain and England, told reporters, "The English league is more difficult to win, but on an individual level, it is much, much easier to shine in England.”

Fabregas added, “I always thought English football was the best to watch because there are more goals, more chances, more excitement. But now I understand why there are more goals and more chances: It’s much more crazy, out of control, everyone attacking, pouring forward.”  

Following Chelsea’s 4-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, Mourinho said that EPL teams losing in Champions League play has a negative impact on the English game.
“Its bad news for English football,” he said.

Video of the week

Here’s another reason why New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles should get a call up to the national team. Watch his sublime double save while sprawled on the pitch from the Red Bulls’ visit to the Portland Timbers this weekend.

From the wires

Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista has had a three-match ban for violent conduct withdrawn by the English Football Association following a successful appeal by the club after his red card against Chelsea.

But the FA said Tuesday that the 24-year-old Brazilian still faces a separate charge of improper conduct as he did not leave the pitch immediately after being shown the red card by referee Mike Dean on Saturday.

He has until 5:00 p.m. London time on Thursday to appeal that charge.

Gabriel was dismissed on the stroke of halftime after clashing with Chelsea striker Diego Costa, as Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Costa has since been charged by the FA for violent conduct toward Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny, which was missed by referee Dean during the game.

Both clubs have also been charged for failing to control their players following the ill-tempered match, where Arsenal also had midfielder Santi Cazorla sent off in the second half.

But the removal of Gabriel's three-match suspension makes him available for Arsenal's third round League Cup tie against fierce north London rival Tottenham on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.