The sight of 4 English clubs in the last 16 of the Champions League has led to suggestions of a new era of English dominance in Europe’s elite competition. However, 5 English clubs reached the same stage last year with 1 of them even making it to the final before losing to habitual winners Real Madrid.
Will there be an English club name on the famous cup for the first time since 2012? Read on to find out the chances of each contender.
The last time an English club other than Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United won the European Cup, was Aston Villa in 1982. That victory over Bayern Munich by the Villains signalled the end of a period of extreme English dominance in Europe, but City could be the team to kick-start a new era of hegemony, finding themselves top of the Champions League odds.
Pep Guardiola’s side finished top of Group F, losing just once against Lyon in the opening game, earning themselves a Round of 16 clash against German side Schalke. Safe passage to the quarter-finals should be a foregone conclusion for City as their opponents are currently battling relegation from the Bundesliga.
Manchester City are not only the best placed English side to win the Champions League, but they are the best placed side left in the competition. The rest of the other major contenders (Juventus, Real Madrid, and Barcelona) do not seem to match the strength or quality of Pep Guardiola’s team.
Although last season, when similarly placed, they fell short against Liverpool in the quarter-finals so nothing can be certain.
The Reds were one fantastic Allison save away from exiting the tournament in the group stages, squeaking through on goal difference at the expense of Napoli. Thus far Liverpool’s performances this season have confounded pundits at experts.
At time of writing Klopp’s side sit atop of the Premier League, but they do not seem to have hit the same heights of last season when they finished 25 points behind the champions. There is a feeling in the footballing world that Klopp is reserving his high-pressing, rock & roll football until the second-half of the season.
If this is the case, their chances of going deep in the Champions League are high. There was a collective sigh on Merseyside when Liverpool were drawn against Bayern Munich in the Round of 16, but that tie might be more navigable than first thought.
Niko Kovac is coming under increasing pressure as Bayern manager with his side struggling in 3rd place in the Bundesliga. That criticism seems justified, but it could be argued that Bayern are a team in decline and Liverpool will be hopeful that they can further emphasise this in the Champions League.
Another English side that squeaked through the group stages, and largely due to the lack of bravery from Inter Milan. Pochettino’s side drew 1-1 away to a significantly changed Barcelona in the final group game, qualifying due to Inter’s failure to beat PSV at home.
If Tottenham are to win Europe’s premier cup competition then they will need to improve vastly on their group stage showing. Losing to a mediocre Inter side in Milan and being dismantled by a full-strength Barcelona side at home highlighted the gap in quality between Tottenham and Europe’s elite.
Spurs have also drawn Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16, who are currently one of the most exciting sides in Europe. Lucien Favre is the first manager at the Westfallstadion since Klopp that has managed to energise Dortmund.
Paco Alcacer, Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic will all pose major threats to Spurs progress in the Champions League. If Pochettino’s side manage to navigate that hurdle, they will undoubtedly face even tougher ties in the latter stages.
Had Jose Mourinho remained as Manchester United manager, a Round of 16 exit at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain would have been an inevitability. However, Mourinho was eventually ousted from his position, replaced by former United legend Ole Gunnar Solksjaer as interim manager. Therefore it’s almost impossible to ascertain how successful the Red Devils will be in the Premier League this season, never mind the Champions League. Rumours abound that Sir Alex Ferguson was pivotal in Solksjaer’s appointment and if that is the case, the Scot could have significant sway on his former player’s decisions.
That could mean good news for Manchester United supporters, and if Solksjaer manages to energise the undoubtedly talented players in his squad, United could be an outside chance to do well in this season’s Champions League.