It’s been dull times for the most watched league in the world in European competitions for just about 10 years, however, things are changing for English football. Premier League clubs have made history, as this is the first time the English top flight competition has had five representatives in the competitions knockout stages.
This could well be the first time we have an all English final for the first time since 2008, and it will be Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool contesting it. And despite Liverpool’s complete failure in the Premier League they still have one over their bitter rivals from Manchester, as United have only lifted Europe’s elite competition three times as opposed to Liverpool’s five. Chelsea just the once after their bizarre heroics in 2012, and the still relatively newcomers to the competition Manchester City are the bookies favourite after their Premier League demolition, despite never lifting any European silverware, while Spurs have never touched any either – but the North London outfit could be this years surprise package.
But who will go the furthest this time round? Can an English team win it for the first time since Manchester United in 2008? Or will the Spanish clubs remain supreme over the English still?
It went from being a perfect New Years for Liverpool, as they finally got their long term target for their lacklustre defence in Virgil Van Djik, but only to lose their best player since Luis Suarez in Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona. Same old, but Coutinho will not be able to lift the trophy this year, as he is now cup tied, however, Liverpool could get close.
With Liverpools Fab Four now a three, they still have the potential to blow teams away. Yes they’ve beaten the likes of Spartak Moscow and Maribor to assert their European ability, but even without Coutinho in the their team they still have a sensational front line and can test even the big teams over two legs with the pace of Sadio Mane and the pure brilliance of Mohammed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Liverpool can go far, and even teams as good as Barcelona and PSG might want to avoid them, especially with Juergen Klopp’s proven European knowledge and Anfield’s mesmeric European atmosphere, but Liverpool themselves will be hoping for lucky draws just incase, if they get past Porto. Liverpool’s team will score goals either home or away, and with Van Dijk added to the Champions League squad they’re more defensively sound.
The five times winners can go far, but not the furthest.
Verdict: Semi Finals
Chelsea produced one of the strangest upsets in European history in 2012 after beating massive favourites Bayern Munich in their own backyard with a team fielding Ryan Bertrand and Saloman Kalou on the wings, while under the leadership of Roberto Di Matteo. But the Premier League champions will be hoping on a miracle once again, as they face the biggest test there is against Barcelona. If Chelsea can play like they did against Atletico Madrid then they’ve got a chance to beat the five times champions, but on the other hand if they play like they did against Watford they may be at the hands of an embarrassment. There is no doubt that when the draw came through Chelsea fans we’re devastated and with justification, because even without Neymar – Lionel Messi and co will trouble anybody, and with Luis Suarez’s proven brilliance against English sides, Chelsea might get blown away here.
Barcelona will be to much for Chelsea, because they’ll need a near perfect performance to get something at the Nou Camp. On the other hand, an away goal always gives you a chance and with a 1-1 draw Chelsea may even be favourites to advance at Stamford Bridge, but it’s a tough ask.
Verdict: No further
When you consider his record; Jose Mourinho is perhaps the greatest Champions league manager of all time, surpassing Man United’s record breaking boss Sir Alex Ferguson, however, Mourinho’s current team are way off being great at the highest level this year round. With the Portuguese’s experience and tactical nouse they can get past teams away from home, in a usual Jose Mourinho fashion, and United have the ability to score goals with their front line, but this season they’re simply not clinical enough. Unlike their neighbours Manchester City, Manchester United don’t have that ability to score goal after goal and kill games off, which is a dangerous way to play in the Champions League knockout rounds. Mourinho’s men may boast an impressive record from the group stages with five victories and one loss, but they were scrappy performances, plus the 1-0 loss away to Basel was a look at what could happen if they continue to perform below par – and then when you throw teams like PSG and Barcelona into the mix, Manchester United could be in trouble.
The signing of Alexis Sanchez shows real intent from Mourinho in the Champions League. There is no doubt he was signed to help the team to reclaim the Premier League next season, as their neighbours have all but two hands on the trophy already, so Sanchez’s arrival will be all about the Champions League. The Chilean has the ability to win games for United, and its competitive nights like this why his new club are paying him so much.
If United turn up and Jose performs a Mourinho masterclass (as he often does in the competition) the three times champions can cause an upset and Manchester United can go far with what they’ve got, but a fourth title is maybe asking to much this year. There is a serious chance of another treble triumph in Manchester, but this time it comes from the blue side. How times have changed.
Verdict: Quarter Final
If the group stages were Champions League two legged knockout games then Spurs would already be in the Champions League semifinal and in sensational, unstoppable fashion – a slight contrast to their Premier League form. They schooled elitist Borussia Dortmund home and away and even 12 times winners Real Madrid were at the hands of a famous 3-1 victory for Spurs at Wembley, and Mauricio Pottchetino even got a well earned point at the Bernabau. However, a second time round and they might not be so fortunate – experience is key at this stage, and Spurs will need similar performances which they had against the champions Real Madrid if they are to get past Juventus. The Italian kings are so phenomenal at home, that a 2-0 victory over Barcelona last season was arguably the performance of the tournament last campaign. Harry Kane is well on for a golden boot if Spurs can continue their impressive European form and the North London outfit are perhaps this years surprise team. After all, Juventus legend Georgio Chiellini claims Harry Kane is on the same level as Lionel Messi.
Spurs have proven they can get past teams; and with Harry Kane, Heung Min Son and Christian Eriksen, they’ll be a handful. Plus they seem to be much better at Wembley in Europe than in the Premier League, however last years finalist Juventus are just to good at home, which may prove too much for them. But who knows, Harry Kane can score a hat trick and I don’t think anybody will be surprised.
Verdict: Close, but no further
The bookies favourites. Much of the publics favourites. Manchester City are the real deal there is simply no doubt. It’s gonna be a historic and mesmeric season for Pep Guardiola’s men no matter their Champions League performance. They’ll win the Premier League, most likely the league cup, and they’ll be there or there about in the FA Cup, and before you know it a famous, never before seen quadruple is well and truly on. There gonna take some beating, and perhaps only at the hands of the very best in Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and PSG. Anybody else and they blow away over two legs it’s a simple as that, and City have got a routine draw against Basel in the round of 16, which could end up tragic for the Swiss side.
Pep Guardiola has finally clicked at City… it only took him a year. The Spaniard has proved his tactical superiority numerous times in the Champions League at Barcelona, and right now, there is arguably no better football being played in world football than that of Guardiola’s Manchester City. But with history telling a tale; a quadruple is maybe asking to much, even for City, but there is a reason why they are favourites to lift Europe’s elite trophy. However, there is a chance they could fall to short this time round to the more experienced teams from Spain and Germany over two legs, as their side is still fairly inexperienced at European level. A massive positive for City already is the draw – they most likely stroll past Basel and at the same time one of the other favourites goes out when holders Real Madrid meet 2nd bookies favourites PSG, and with another fortunate draw, they can go all the way.