Analysing The English Sides’ Champions League Chances
November 26, 2018
There was once a time in football when England dominated European football. This, however, is now a thing of the past. Over the last twenty years, there have only been three English clubs that have tasted the sweet champagne of club football’s most illustrious prize – the Champions League.
It can be argued with confidence that the Premier League is the greatest footballing division in the world, but in recent times, England’s top teams have consistently fallen against the other European giants that surround them. Spain are the obvious nation that spring to mind, as the CL trophy has seemingly found a permanent home in the Santiago Bernabeu, with Real Madrid having won the competition four out of the last five times.
The last English team to get their hands on the trophy was Roberto Di Matteo’s 11/12 Chelsea side, when they upset all the odds and Bayern Munich’s fairy-tale story by beating the German side on their home turf. Six years on and the Champions League is yet to return to the home of the sport. So, who is most likely to win the tournament this year around and more importantly, who needs the victory the most out of England’s representatives?
The Final Piece in Pep’s Project
Given the current turbulence in Madrid and Munich, it is Manchester City who are currently being backed as the outright favourites for the tournament at 7/2 with Ladbrokes. To give more credit to Pep Guardiola’s side, this label does not only come from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s slow start to the season but simply because City are currently the strongest-looking side in Europe.
Carrying last season’s momentum forward, the Sky Blues have somehow found an extra gear in their play and look more rampant going forward, but more importantly, more assured defensively at the back. Despite a shock opening game defeat to Lyon, Guardiola’s team have responded well and look good for their money to finish on top of Group F. David Silva, as ever, has been the key man in the middle of the park for City this season, pulling all the strings for the clinical duo of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero. The Spaniard has found some lethal form in Europe himself, boasting three goals during the opening four games.
Despite being lauded with praises and compliments since arriving in England, Guardiola will be desperate to guide his club to their second ever European honour. In a career filled with honours and medals, the Champions League does, however, taint the managerial success of Guardiola ever so slightly. Having failed to win the competition with Bayern Munich, the Catalonian’s harshest critics are calling for Guardiola to win the trophy with a club that doesn’t possess Lionel Messi if he is to establish himself as the game’s greatest ever manager.
Having spent over £500m in just under two years, Guardiola has created a squad overflowing with world-class ability, but also one that perfectly fits the mould of his ‘tika-taka’ blueprint. He may have stormed to the top of the domestic league with his City side but his legacy in Manchester will be fully determined in Europe. A CL trophy is the final piece in the project for Guardiola – can he get his hands on the trophy for the first time in eight years?
Redemption For Klopp’s Heartache
Chelsea may have been the last English side to have had their ribbons wrapped around the illustrious trophy, but no other Premier League team have had a more recent chance than Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. After reaching the final last May, the Reds were defeated by a rampant Madrid side, who were inspired by Gareth Bale and, of course, Loris Karius.
The loss was certainly a bitter pill for Liverpool fans to swallow as despite heading into the final as underdogs, they were desperate to taste European success for the first time since 2005. A major reason behind why they progressed so far was down to Klopp’s dynamic and explosive style of play, that his squad take to on such a consistent level. Since the German’s arrival, he has certainly captivated the hearts of the Anfield faithful, who appreciate this offensive philosophy that Klopp so heavily influences on his side.
Despite some mouth-watering spectacles and clashes that this football delivers, it is still yet to lead to a piece of silverware. Pundits and fans alike are keen advocates of Klopp, but the German manager is in desperate need of a trophy, particularly after spending so heavily in the summer. Having been dealt an unforgiving group, alongside the attacking powers of Napoli and PSG, progression to the last sixteen would be deemed a success, but they still have plenty to do.
Unfortunately, it was heartbreak in Kiev last season but do this Liverpool side have the stomach to make amends? They can be easy on the eye and are certainly willing to press hard in the big fixtures, but whether they have enough reinforcements across the squad to win a trophy remains to be seen. They’re 13/1 to win the trophy with 888 Sport.
The Champions League is the perfect stage to make a name for yourself on. Perhaps no other manager in the modern game owes the competition more gratitude than Jose Mourinho. The first memory most English fans have of the Portuguese manager is his notorious sprint down the Old Trafford field, when his Porto side knocked Manchester United out of the tournament with just 30 seconds to spare.
Destiny, however, is certainly a funny thing. Mourinho now sits at the hot seat in the Red side of Manchester, where a similar sort of Champions League miracle is perhaps required, to save his job. We may only be in November but United currently sit fourteen points behind league leaders City, making potential European success the only thing to play for this season. Despite being considered outsiders at a huge 40/1 with Black Type, United’s surprise 2-1 victory at the Allianz Stadium has made progression to the knockout stages likely and Mourinho should now be putting all his eggs into one basket.
After the victory, Mourinho, who is no stranger to controversial antics, cupped his ear to the Juventus crowd and revelled in his side’s shock win. The patronising action drew flashbacks to his celebrations back in 2010, during another famous pitch invasion, when his robust Inter Milan side defeated Barcelona in the semi-finals. Many fans held the moment in Italy as ‘the return of the old Jose’, but this has not been the case since. Silverware is looking unlikely and a lack of an attacking blueprint is hurting the identity of Mourinho’s United side.
Undoubtedly, United fans would forgive a system that is not easy on the eye if it meant securing a fourth Champions League title. Mourinho may need another European masterclass to prove his doubters that he is still a top-class manager.
Any Trophy Will Do For Pochettino
Since taking charge of Tottenham Hotspur back in 2014, Mauricio Pochettino has been called many things. An advocate of the youth. A dynamic and attacking minded coach. An amazing tactician. And if he were to win the Champions League with this Spurs side, we would laud him as a miracle worker.
The Argentinian continues to make use out of a bad situation, as despite Daniel Levy’s lack of financial backing, he continues to work his magic with the players he has. Similar to Klopp at Liverpool, Pochettino is a manager whose system on the field is like a magnet to praises from pundits, despite not also boasting a trophy in his cabinet. Name for name, Tottenham’s squad does not come close to the likes of City, Chelsea or Liverpool in terms of quality, and yet Pochettino keeps his side respectively near the top.
It would appear as though the performances on the field are not being matched to ambition from the club’s board, particularly when you take into the account that they became the first team in Premier League history to not spend a single penny last summer. All things considered, the image of Harry Kane and co. lifting the CL trophy would certainly triumph any achievement of an English club over the last ten years, but according to the bookies they’re rank outsiders at 80/1 with Betfair.
Yes, Pochettino needs to add a major trophy to his cabinet. But his credentials as a manager should not be solely judged in a competition where teams from Holland, Belgium and Portugal outspend his side.
Is It Coming Home?
Real Madrid appear to be stagnating and Bayern Munich look a shade of their former selves so perhaps 2019 is the year that the Champions League trophy finally makes a return back to England. The two inform sides of Barcelona and Juventus may have something to say about this, but our Premier League sides are certainly in with a chance.
Admittedly, the most likely scenario appears to be the trophy heading over to the blue side of Manchester. Liverpool have their attacking prowess, Spurs possess a tactical move up their sleeve, United still maintain their historic belief, but none are the complete package like City are.
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.