The struggles of English clubs in the Champions League in recent years have been well-documented. It’s been five years since a Premier League club won the prestigious trophy, and in that span only twice has an English side reached the semi-final stage.
This year, the Premier League has a slight advantage which might increase their chances of success – thanks to Manchester United winning last season’s Europa League, the Premier League has five representatives in the Champions League proper, more than any other league. Will it make a difference?
Here’s a look at the prospects of each English club in this year’s competition.
Chelsea’s reward for finishing as champions was a competitive group which has both Atletico Madrid and Roma, as well as Azerbaijan club Qarabag FC. Antonio Conte’s men should nevertheless progress from the group stages, as despite Roma’s stature the Serie A side have failed to truly threaten Europe’s strongest sides in direct competition.
After that, however, things will be tough for a Chelsea side which looks ill-equipped to handle competing for three trophies. A poor transfer window which saw the Blues fail to add enough depth to their squad could doom them in the knockout stages, especially if they fail to claim top spot in their group over Atletico.
Spurs were handed the toughest draw of all the English sides, as they’ve been placed in Group H alongside holders Real Madrid and German powerhouses Borussia Dortmund.
Such opposition would be difficult enough to navigate under normal circumstances, but with Spurs continuing to struggle with having to play home games at Wembley, their job is even tougher. If Tottenham can’t solve the Wembley curse, starting with Wednesday night against Dortmund, all hope of getting out of the group stages will be gone.
It may be their Champions League opener but it’s more or less a must-win.
Manchester City have a relatively easy group, with Feyenoord, Napoli, and Shakhtar Donetsk. All three are capable of surprises and Napoli are a genuinely dangerous side, especially with City’s still suspect defence, but Pep Guardiola’s men should have enough to progress through the group as winners.
From there, it’s anyone’s guess. City were overwhelming favourites in their knockout tie against Monaco last year before being knocked out, albeit against a side which ended up winning Ligue 1, and if they defend the way they did against the French champions then they will be vulnerable against any top side.
And City’s defence is not particularly better this year despite the vast investment on that side of the squad.
Liverpool came through their qualifier against Hoffenheim with relative ease, and a group which has Sevilla, Maribor, and Spartak Moscow was a decent reward. Sevilla will prove to be a real test – they beat Jurgen Klopp’s side in the 2016 Europa League final and are a force to be reckoned with – but at worst, Liverpool should finish second in their group.
Like City, and for much the same reason, anything can happen after that. Liverpool’s attack will give most European sides problems, but their defence is likely to let them down against those same sides.
Manchester United probably got the best draw of the English sides, being placed alongside Benfica, Basel, and CSKA Moscow. They did struggle in a relatively easy group during their last Champions League campaign two years ago, but this year’s side looks much more confident.
Jose Mourinho is the master of the two-legged knockout tie, so if they win their group they’re a genuine threat to go far in the competition. However, a lot of that will depend on the luck of the draw, and there’s still a considerable gap between Mourinho’s side and Europe’s best – a statement that could be made about all of the English clubs.
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