Hartlepool United supporter and SKY SPORTS anchor man Jeff Stelling stands up for the Premier League ...
Inevitably, looking back at the Champions League performances in the last two weeks of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, not to mention Bayern Munich's win against Arsenal and Barcelona's at Man City, people will be asking 'what has happened to the Premier League?'
I've heard people on phone-ins saying: 'All the world class players are playing elsewhere', and when you look at Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben you can see the point they're making.
But on the other hand I think it would be wrong to think that the Premier League isn't still a huge force in European football.
Nobody can tell me that Sergio Aguero isn't world-class, or Yaya Toure for that matter, and then there's Eden Hazard who has the potential to be a world superstar.
Next season it looks like you'll see Luis Suarez playing in the Champions League and in terms of quality Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard aren't that far behind.
We have plenty of top quality players in the Premier League and it's still a fantastic league.
One of the reasons that the English sides suffer when it comes round to this phase of the Champions League is because of the intensity of our league.
Week in, week out we see the top sides being beaten by clubs at the bottom of the table and this doesn't happen in Spain, this doesn't happen in Germany; if you look at the positions of their leading teams they're light-years clear whereas here.
Chelsea lost to Stoke who are battling against relegation, Manchester City lost at Cardiff who are second from bottom of the table, Arsenal lost at home to Aston Villa - those sort of results don't happen in the continental leagues.
When it comes to this stage of the season our sides are not at their best any longer simply because of the competitiveness of the Premier League and that intensity.
Our players have picked up a myriad of injuries along the line, while others such as Mesut Ozil are finding it difficult to cope playing week in, week out at such a high physical level. That puts us one step behind.
I'm not pretending that Bayern and Real Madrid aren't ahead of us at the moment - because they are, there's no doubt about that - but I don't think the Premier League should be written off.
Bayern broke something like 25 different Bundesliga records last season and it looks like they're going to break a lot of those again this season because they are so dominant which, from the club's point of view is a wonderful position to be in. But if you are a fan of the league, is that what you really want?
To be honest, if you put a mid-table side in Spain or a mid-table German club up against an equivalent side in the Premier League my money would be on the English club nine times out ten, I just think we are that much stronger in terms of depth.
But that of course doesn't win you Champions Leagues.
I'm happy to be watching one of the most exciting Premier League seasons ever with the bonus of seeing four of our sides in the last 16 of the Champions League - that's not a bad effort.
1 Chelsea 63
2 Liverpool 59
3 Arsenal 59
4 Man City 57
5 Tottenham 53
6 Everton 48
7 Man Utd 45
8 Newcastle 43
9 Southampton 39
10 West Ham 31
11 A Villa 31
12 Hull City 30
13 Stoke City 30
14 Swansea 29
15 Norwich 28
16 C Palace 27
17 West Brom 25
18 Sunderland 24
19 Cardiff 22
20 Fulham 21
Saturday March 8
12:45 Arsenal v Everton
Sunday March 9
12:00 Sheffield United v Charlton
14:00 Hull City v Sunderland
16:05 Manchester City v Wigan Athletic
Saturday March 8
12:45 West Brom v Man Utd
15:00 Cardiff City v Fulham
15:00 Crystal Palace v Southampton
15:00 Norwich City v Stoke City
17:30 Chelsea v Tottenham
MAN CITY 3 SUNDERLAND 1
30. Costel Pantilimon
5. Pablo Zabaleta
4. Vincent Kompany
26. Martin Demichelis
13. Aleksandar Kolarov
8. Samir Nasri
42. Yaya Toure
21. David Silva 77'
10. Edin Dzeko 88'
16. Sergio Aguero 58'
1. Joe Hart
6. Joleon Lescott
7. James Milner
9. Alvaro Negredo 88'
14. Javi Garcia 77'
15. Jesus Navas 58'
22. Gael Clichy
25. Vito Mannone
2. Phil Bardsley
5. Wes Brown
16. John O'Shea
28. Marcos Alonso
4. Ki Sung-Yueng
7. Sebastian Larsson 60'
33. Lee Cattermole 77'
14. Jack Colback
11. Adam Johnson 60'
31. Fabio Borini
8. Craig Gardner 60'
9. Steven Fletcher 60'
12. Ondrej Celustka
23. Emanuele Giaccherini 77'
27. Santiago Vergini
30. Nacho Scocco
32. Oscar Ustari
Manchester City produced a devastating second-half comeback to beat Sunderland 3-1 in the Capital One Cup final.
Stunning goals in quick succession from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri turned the game on its head after on-loan Liverpool striker Fabio Borini shot Sunderland into an early lead at Wembley.
Substitute Jesus Navas then secured what City hope will prove the first of multiple trophies this season by finishing off a Toure-led break in the last minute.
It was a powerful fightback after a lethargic first-half display from City.
At half-time, many at Wembley were sensing a repeat of last year's shock loss to rank outsiders Wigan in the FA Cup final.
But now City have the platform to push on for potential further glory in the two other domestic competitions.
They were surprisingly overpowered by Sunderland's energy and enthusiasm in the first half.
Gus Poyet's side were first to most loose balls and fully committed in the tackle.
One crunching challenge by Phil Bardsley on David Silva in the opening minutes set the tone for their whole-hearted display.
They caught City with a good counter-attack but the often-maligned Martin Demichelis forced Borini towards the corner and the Italian was caught offside as he attempted to exchange passes with Adam Johnson.
Sergio Aguero, back in the City side after a five-game absence with a hamstring injury, had the first serious opportunity of the game.
The Argentinian evaded defenders as he ran across the edge of the box and then tested Vito Mannone with a powerful low shot.
Yet while it might have seemed that Aguero's return would give City a cutting edge that could seriously trouble Sunderland, it was the Black Cats who were the more incisive before the break.
For the stunning opener, Lee Cattermole won possession from Fernandinho in his own half and found Johnson out wide.
The former City winger released Borini with a long ball which dropped beyond Demichelis.
There was still work for Borini to do as Vincent Kompany came back, but the Belgian missed an opportunity to clear and the striker raced clear on the right to bend a fine low shot beyond Costel Pantilimon.
City's response to the goal was sluggish and Borini threatened again with a shot that was deflected over.
Manuel Pellegrini's side struggled to gain momentum but Aguero did make one burst down the right to set up Nasri, however Mannone saved comfortably.
City were in trouble again when Johnson wriggled past Demichelis but Kompany intercepted his cross.
Kompany then partly redeemed himself for his earlier error with a superb recovering tackle to deny Borini, who had raced clear and not been flagged offside when replays suggested he should have been.
Borini also showed his worth at the other end when he headed a Nasri corner clear over his own bar.
Kompany and Demichelis both felt they were impeded as they went forward for a corner just before the interval but referee Martin Atkinson saw nothing untoward.
City instead went in at half-time to regroup and their response when the game restarted was emphatic.
They looked livelier almost instantly and Silva fired a low shot at Mannone.
Pantilimon, starting in place of Joe Hart in keeping with Pellegrini's usual cup policy, was also in action as he palmed over a Ki Sung-yueng drive.
But City began to apply more pressure and their fans, who had been outsung by their passionate Sunderland rivals before the break, responded vocally.
The game changed in the 55th minute as Toure, with almost nonchalant ease, looked up and swept a brilliant first-time shot over Mannone from long range.
Sunderland barely had time to gather their thoughts as, less than two minutes later, Nasri put City ahead.
Aguero found room on the left and whipped in a cross which, although deflected, bounced into Nasri's path and the Frenchman lashed a powerful swerving shot just inside the left post.
As City celebrated it was clear Sunderland were facing a huge test of resolve and Nasri went close again with a dipping shot, but the Wearsiders battled on.
Johnson and Sebastian Larsson made way for substitutes Craig Gardner and Steven Fletcher on the hour as Poyet looked to inject more energy.
Sunderland unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty for handball against Toure and Pantilimon saved from Jack Colback.
But City had become the dominant force and Kompany volleyed wide at the near post from a Nasri corner and Pablo Zabaleta narrowly missed the target from distance.
Navas instead finished the job, firing under Mannone after a strong run by Toure.