Four English football clubs will be present in the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time in ten years. Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City all have a chance of claiming glory among Europe’s elite clubs. For all of the money being brought in by the Premier League over the past few seasons, English clubs have been unsuccessful in carrying over success from the domestic league to international dominance. Whether this struggle has been due to the congested domestic schedule, which offers no winter break, or the physical and fast pace nature of the Premier League wearing teams down come the close of the season, Champion’s League victory has continued to elude the clubs of one of the most talented leagues. With that said, now is as good a time as ever for one of these clubs to step up and finally bring the trophy back to England.
Manchester City was considered to be among the favorites for the Champions League dating back to last year. However, the Cityzens suffered a surprising defeat to Liverpool in the Quarter Finals. This year Manchester City are attempting to complete the quadruple as they have already won the Carobao Cup and are still in contention in both the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup. It will be a true challenge for Pep Guardiola to keep his players’ energy levels high with many important matches still to come. Of all the English clubs still in the Champions League, City have the depth required to handle the road ahead, and yet their undeniable desire to win all four competitions could hold them back in the Champions League. They will face the tough task of taking on domestic competitors, Tottenham, in the round of eight, who have been struggling of late in the Premier League but easily dispatched Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16.
The likes of PSG, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich have all been knocked out of the Champions League, which presents an even further opportunity for the English clubs to make their mark. For Florentino Perez of Real Madrid, there will be a much needed overhaul during the summer to bring the team back up to the high standards that the club’s history demands. The same may be also be said for PSG and Bayern. PSG have continually failed to make an impression in the Champions League, and the idea of them being considered an elite club remains conjecture. Bayern Munich have made it publicly known of their strategic shift of focusing on purchasing promising young players rather than financially competing with the likes of their international competitors.
Manchester United is faced with the most arduous draw of the English clubs as they will have to Barcelona in the Quarter Finals. In the case of Liverpool, it is conceivable that Juergen Klopp’s side should be able to dispatch of Porto, and either Tottenham or Manchester City will be moving on to the semi finals to face either Juventus or Ajax. That is not to say that we should discount the quality of the remaining teams being favored to win the Champions League. Many journalists have predicted that Juventus and Barcelona will meet in the Final, which will see the revival of the Messi vs Ronaldo rivalry.
The English FA has made it known that its desire to be the best league in Europe. There is considerable competition throughout the twenty teams that compete each season in England’s top division. Yet, there is a growing disparity between the top six sides and the rest of the league, but that should not discount the quality of the rest of the clubs on any given week. The English FA must understand, however, that until an English club is able to regain Champions League glory, it may have the most competitive league, but it does not obtain the best individual club in Europe.
Spending will continue to rise over the coming years. An arms race has evolved amongst the top clubs in Europe to sign the best young talent that money can buy. Transfer fees have skyrocketed well over £100 million on top players. More high quality experienced players are also moving between elite clubs. Ronaldo recently joined Juventus. Neymar left Barcelona to move to PSG. The amount of money being spent only adds to the pressure that ownership puts on the manager and the players to perform and achieve the expectations set out for them. Manchester City have spent above £300 million in just the last two seasons. It is difficult to determine if this short term strategy will be detrimental in the future, but the desire to win now rises above all else.
The last English team to win the Champions League was Chelsea in 2012 against Bayern Munich. Liverpool performed admirably in the final against a strong Real Madrid side just last season in Kiev, but prior to their appearance the Champions League Final had not featured an English club since the Chelsea side in 2012. While the Premier League no doubt offers some of the most entertaining European football around, the disappointment in the Champions League must end for the league to regain the reputation it so desperately covets.
* Financial Figures taken from transfermarkt.co.uk
*Photo Credit- Unsplash: Mitch Rosen