All four teams from the EPL have qualified for the knockout stage of this season’s Champions League. Could it signal a new era of English dominance in the competition?
Manchester City were the only English club to emerge as winners of their group. However, some would say that their group (F) was one of the weakest, with Lyon (who finished in second position) being the only other fancied contender. Shakhtar Donetsk, the Ukranian club, and the German Bundesliga side, Hoffenheim were always outsiders.
Unlike Lyon, City did not manage to stay unbeaten. They lost at the Etihad to French side by two goals to one. That aside, they were clear winners of their group with a total of 13 points. Second-placed Lyon only amassed eight point because although being unbeaten, they drew five times.
As group winners, City are seeded and will thus avoid other group winners in the next phase of the draw.
The other three English clubs in the competition, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all finished in second place in their respective groups. They are therefore unseeded, but as in the next round teams from same countries cannot be drawn against each other, it means we have four chances of EPL sides grabbing a win and progressing further.
It was the same four English teams who made it through to the knockout stage of the Champions League last year. However, Spurs went out over two legs to Juventus, while Manchester United lost to Seville.
Of the other two EPL teams, Manchester City best beat Basle and Liverpool knocked out Porto. Unfortunately, both English teams then had to face each other in the quarterfinals, and as we now know, Liverpool got the better of City, and although they then went on to reach the final, they were defeated by Real Madrid, who won the trophy for the fourth time in five years.
Real Madrid’s recent domination of the Champions League is probably over. The shock departure of their manager Zinedine Zidane, and the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo, together with the reported unrest and the possibility of Luca Modric moving on, has substantially dented the team’s confidence. So, the way could be open for one of the four EPL sides to lift the cup.
The last time an English team won the Champions League was back in the 2011/12 season when Chelsea beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on aggregate. Before that, you have to go back to the 2007/8 season when Manchester United and Chelsea contested the final with United coming out on top 6-5 over the two legs. You can click here to see a list of all finalists and the results since the competition started.
As to the question of whether we are seeing the beginning of a new era of English dominance in Europe, the answer is probably, no. In last year’s Champions League five English teams qualified for the last 16.
It is strange in a way, given the fact that the English Premier is thought by some pundits to be the best football league in the world. But whether the EPL is as strong as the German Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1, and Italy’s Serie A, is yet to be proven.
You have to go back to 2007/8 and 2008/9 when three English sides featured in the semi-final stages in successive years. Last season, although five EPL teams got to the last 16, it produced only one semi-finalist.
Let’s see how many teams we get to the semis this time. Maybe then we will know if English club football can dominate again.