There was a time not so long ago when Premier League sides dominated the Champions Leagues. Between 2004 and 2012 there was an English team in every final bar one year, and in 2008 there were two, when Manchester United beat Chelsea in Moscow.
However, since 2012 the performances of England’s major clubs in Europe’s premier competition have been in steady decline, with Spanish clubs; Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid dominating the latter stages along with the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus.
This year though, things may about to change and Premier League clubs may be about to start making a major impact on the competition again. This is helped in part, by the fact several of the sides that have been so dominate recently all seem to be showing signs of weakness at the moment.
Barcelona are nowhere near as formidable an outfit as they were in the past, they have lost the attacking brilliance of Neymar and players like Iniesta, Busquests and Mascerhano are all past their prime. The Spanish side, of course will be no walkover, but Chelsea who they have drawn in the second round will definitely feel they have a better chance against this Barca side, then they would have done a couple of seasons ago.
German giants Bayern Munich are also a team with a lot of players past their prime and they struggled domestically earlier this season, and were forced to sack three-time Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti as a result.
Reigning Champions Real Madrid have been in poor form in La Liga and were humbled by a rampant Spurs side at Wembley in the group stage. Although you would expect the quality of player they have, and their big-game experience to still make them a major force, the fact they face money-bags PSG in the second round means the competition will be without one of its pre-tournament favourites when the quarter-final draw comes around.
Pep Guardiola’s rampant Man City should make easy work of a very average Basle side in the next round, and in their current form they will fancy their chances against anybody, in fact their is a major case to be made for The Citizens being the best team in Europe at the moment.
Man United drew Sevilla, and although the La Liga side have proven to be tricky opponent in Europe over the years, you would have to fancy Jose Mourinho, who has a sensational record of getting to the latter stages of European competition to be able to get over the line in that tie – even if the purists complain about how he does it.
Liverpool face Porto, and the only thing that will stop Jurgen Klopp’s lethal attacking machine progressing is of course Jurgen Klopp’s naive defence. All in all however, you would have to fancy the five-time European Champions name to be in the hat for the quarter-final draw.
Spurs face Italian giants Juventus, but Massimiliano Allegri’s men find themselves being challenged domestically for the first time in a long time this season, and much like Bayern and Barca, father time seems to be catching up with a lot of their star men. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have the ability to beat anybody in a one off game, as their 3-1 demolition of Real Madrid showed and although Juve will go into the tie as favourites, Spurs have a real chance and playing the second leg at Wembley will be crucial.
All of the Premier League clubs bar last season’s Champions Chelsea won their group, and Conte’s men only finished second due to the head-to-head rule. The reason for English clubs improvement this season is pretty obvious, it’s all down to money. Not only has the ever increasing inflow TV money meant that EPL clubs can sign some of the world’s best players and pay them obscene salaries, they are also now able to attract the world’s best coaches.
Quite simply, with vast amount of money being pumped into Premier League playing squads and the congregation of some of the worlds top coaching talent; Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp, English sides form in Europe was bound to start improving sooner or later.
All things considered everything points to the Premier League having at least two clubs in the semi-final this year, and I’ll put my neck on the line here, and say this years Champions League winner will come from England.