For the first time since 2009, all four English clubs who entered the Champions League group stage have progressed past the first knockout round to the quarter finals. Both Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Tottenham have all impressed on the continent, and achieved some huge results and created some magical nights for their fans.
What’s most impressive about the current sides progression is the teams they have beat, and the manner in which they did it. Tottenham dismantling dark horses Borrusia Dortmund 4-0 on aggregate, Man United coming from 2-0 down to stun PSG 3-1 away at the Parc Des Princes to sneak through on away goals, City annihilating Schalke 10-2 on aggregate and Liverpool dominating Bayern Munich at the Allianz 3-1.
In what has proven to be a transitional year in the Champions League, European giants Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and current holders Real Madrid have all crashed out and their ageing squads clearly need fresh air breathing into them. This year presents a great chance for an English side to go all the way in the competition, with no standout favourite left, its a wide open field.
But why has it taken so long for the Premier League’s elite to perform on the big stage? Ten years ago it was Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool and Arsenal who progressed, with Liverpool and Arsenal crashing out at the Quarters, Chelsea losing out in the Semis and Man United facing heartbreak in the final against Barcelona.
Too often over recent years English sides have failed to match their strong European rivals, with many disappointing displays and heavy defeats along the way. As spending has increased and the Premier League has become the richest league in world football, there hasn’t been a noticeable improvement, with many fans and pundits at a loss to explain why this is the case. Despite this four sides have managed to make the final since 2009 (Man United 2009 and 2011, Chelsea 2012 and Liverpool 2018) with only Chelsea defying the odds and bringing the trophy back to these shores.
Many have cried out for a winter break and blamed English sides poor performance in the Champions League on the shear amount of games and relentless nature of the Premier League. Even though a winter break is set to be brought in from winter 2020, this season is showing that a lack of a winter break may not impact European performance, and possibly highlights the Premier League’s top sides are as strong now as they’ve ever been.
With the draw for the quarter and semi-finals set for this Friday, there is a renewed sense of hope and expectation of the English sides, and with their current form who would bet against an English side lifting the trophy on the 1st of June.