The Rise of English Football… Again

From 1977 to 1982 English football dominated Europe with three different sides winning six consecutive European Cups – since rebranded to the Champions League.

Never in the history of the competition had that happened before nor has it happened since.  However, with Real Madrid and Barcelona winning the competition for the last four years between them, it may well happen over the next two years.

English teams also had a fairly good spell between 2005 and 2012, where they would have at least one finalist in seven of the eight finals during that timeframe.  However, only Liverpool in 2005, Manchester United in 2008 and Chelsea in 2012, did a Premier League side lift the prestigious trophy.

With the billions being pumped into the Premier League currently, either by way of rich owners or the staggering television prize money, England have five teams in the final 16 of this season’s Champions League – a competition record.

There is an expectancy of three or four of these reaching the final eight.  Manchester City and Liverpool virtually booked their places in the quarter-finals after the opening leg of their second round ties, whilst Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea all drew.

In their second leg, United are expected to overcome Sevilla at Old Trafford after drawing 0-0 in Spain.  Despite no away goals, Jose Mourinho’s side are much fancied against the side that have not travelled too well this season.

Tottenham Hotspur came from 0-2 down at Juventus to draw 2-2 in Turin, bringing two away goals back to Wembley Stadium for their second leg.  This one really is in the balance in terms of both the scoreline and fans’ predictions.

Meanwhile, Chelsea were handed the toughest draw when they matched up with Barcelona.  Although Antonio Conte’s side got a respectably 1-1 draw at home in the first leg, many feel the runaway Spanish La Liga leaders will simply thrash them at Camp Nou in the return leg.

Expecting Chelsea to be eliminated, but should Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur come through their ties English sides would make up 50% of the remaining teams in the quarter-finals.

However, it doesn’t guarantee a Premier League side will win this season’s Champions League – far from it.  Real Madrid have won this tournament for three of the past four seasons and should not be overlooked.  Their second round opponents, Paris Saint-Germain, have spent huge sums on players over the past few seasons, and likewise would be favourites should they draw any English team bar Manchester City in the quarter-finals.  City are currently the bookmakers’ favourites to win this season’s competition, according to the Paddy Power football odds.

Barcelona consistently make the final eight and win this tournament too.  Ernesto Valverde is yet to lose a La Liga game since taking charge over the summer and they thrashed Juventus in the group stage – which English team could match up to this outfit?

Regular German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are looking very strong since Jupp Heynckes returned to the Allianz Arena.  The Bavarian side are already 5-0 up from their first leg against Besiktas.

Manchester City are actually the bookmakers’ favourites at 10/3 with Paddy Power.  With an 18-point lead at the top of the Premier League Pep Guardiola can put full focus on this competition for the remainder of the season.

Their defensive record has improved domestically in recent weeks and Ederson is starting to look like a solid goalkeeper.  However, they could do with Vincent Kompany remaining fit between now and the final.  Without their leader they are left with the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones.

Laporte is new to the club but is highly-rated, whilst both Otamendi and Stones have mistakes in them.  City certainly wouldn’t be able to afford mistakes up against the likes of Barcelona or Bayern Munich if they’re to meet later in the competition.

Will an English team lift the 2018 Champions League?  Manchester City are the country’s best bet, but Jose Mourinho at Manchester United should not be overlooked, whilst Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have one of the best front three’s in world football right now.

However, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have all been made shorter odds than both the Red Devils and the Reds, and over two legs who would fancy either of England’s biggest two clubs from progressing.

Next season could be a different story though.  With the money available to English sides they are capable of getting stronger with the ability to sign the top players in the world.  With reports in the media that Robert Lewandowski wants a way out of his contract at Bayern Munich to move to the Premier League, one would think that maybe only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will be able to compete in the transfer market with the top Premier League sides over the next couple of seasons…

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