Can an English Club go all the way in this year’s Champions League?
From the 2004/05 season to the 2011/12 campaign, an English Premier League side reached the final of the Champions League in all but one of Europe’s elite competitions, winning the grand prize three times (Inter v Bayern in 09/10 the exception).
However, Chelsea’s defeat of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in 2012 also remains the last time an English side reached the giddy heights of the final with failure after failure following the British sides recent European exploits.
So, what of their chances this year?
A new season breeds new opportunity and this campaign is no exception. The Premier League has some of the most experienced and trophy laden managers in Europe with the likes of Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte in its ranks, and as luck would have it, all four have guided their teams into the Champions League once more (subject to Liverpool maintaining their qualifying advantage over Hoffenheim).
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham are also in the group stage after finishing runners-up in the EPL last season meaning on paper at least, England have the best chance of having a European winner by sheer weight of numbers alone.
Having five teams in the competition may be one thing, but making it count is another, so what can we expect from England’s representatives?
Those looking to have a bet on the Champions League this season will find that Guardiola’s band of merry men are 12/1 in the outright betting and seen as England’s best chance of a winner.
Pep has been busy in the summer shoring up his defence after a few frailties were exposed during the last campaign with the acquisitions of Kyle Walker from Spurs, Danilo from Real Madrid and Benjamin Mendy from Monaco.
After a full season in charge, Guardiola’s bedding in process is now over, and the expectation is that with his attackers now complimented by his solid looking defence, City will prove to be a match for anyone.
Jose Mourinho wins, and that is a fact, so any tournament that involves the Red Devils boss means his side have to be taken seriously.
Now with a leading man for the future in Romelu Lukaku and the pressure of Wayne Rooney off his shoulders coupled with the addition of a defensive midfielder prepared to do the dirty work in Matic, make United a tempting prospect on Europe’s elite stage.
After a year away from Europe, Chelsea are back, however, they are looking a little light for a full blown European assault.
The addition of Alvaro Morata is more necessary than inspiring with Diego Costa making it clear Atletico will be his destination.
Goals may prove to be the Blues down fall this campaign with Conte feeling the pressure from above.
Spurs’ inability to win a game at their temporary home Wembley, makes them look unlikely to threat Europe’s elitist.
However, with the meanest defence in the Premier League and goal machine Harry Kane in their ranks, anything is possible.
Assuming Klopp’s men safely navigate Wednesday’s second leg qualifying tie over Hoffenheim (Liverpool hold a 2-1 advantage) then the group stages beckon.
However, the Coutinho saga is threatening to define Liverpool’s season, without him, it looks like they have little chance of European glory.