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There can be no excuses for English clubs in this season’s Champions League

28 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
There can be no excuses for English clubs in this season’s Champions League

We're constantly told the Premier League is the best in the world - it is now time for this year's representatives to prove their quality in Europe

The cushy top-four concept the Premier League has become so accustomed to is likely to cease should English clubs continue to fail in the Champions League.

Last season, no top-flight representative reached the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition for the second time in three years.

Should that happen again, then England are likely to be leapfrogged in the UEFA coefficients rankings, thus reducing the amount of teams that qualify for the lucrative tournament from four to three.

While some will argue that the end of celebrating finishing fourth as if it were a trophy is most welcome, the elite clubs that rely so heavily on the additional revenue would not concur.

Of course, it is up to them to do something about it – and there is really no excuse.

The American business magazine Forbes ranks the four English representatives in this year’s Champions League – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – third, fifth, sixth and seventh respectively in its list of the world’s top-20 wealthiest football clubs.

Football is not mathematics, but the point is that they are not enduring any kind of disadvantage.

In recent seasons, there have been precious few outstanding and complete performances from English clubs in continental matches of genuine significance.

But that, however, is looking too far ahead.

For now, the group stages require negotiating, something the four sides should have little problem accomplishing.

Manchester United

Securing their place in main draw the night before it took place – despite spending £230m on new players in just over 12 months – was typical of Manchester United under Louis van Gaal.

The Dutchman is reaching his targets, but it still feels a little too much like hard work.

But being joined by Eredivisie champions PSV – for whom new signing Memphis Depay scored 28 times for last season – as well as German and Russian runners-up Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow gives United a great chance of reaching the knock-out stages as Group B winners.

Van Gaal, a winner and finalist of this competition in 1995 and 2010, is comfortable in this environment, while the controlled possession that struggles to break down Premier League sides is actually better suited to Europe.

8/11 – Manchester United to win Group B

Manchester City

The relationship between Manchester City and the Champions League is peculiar.

While being drawn alongside last year’s beaten finalists Juventus and Europa League winners Sevilla in Group D is tough – the third-place Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach not so much – they are hardly sufferers.

This is City’s fifth successive year in the competition, while they have spent astronomical sums of money on Raheem Sterling, Nicolás Otamendi and soon-to-be Kevin De Bruyne to supplement an already world-class squad.

If their Premier League form is any indicator, Manuel Pellegrini’s side should qualify with relative ease. This could even be the year where they genuinely challenge for the trophy.

Evens – Manchester City to win Group D

Arsenal

Being joined in Group F by Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb – the Greek and Croatian champions respectively – was a welcome relief for Arsenal, having been first paired with Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich.

Arsene Wenger’s side will qualify, but it is likely to be in second behind the German giants, who they will face in the competition for the third time in four seasons.

A group winner will await them in the last 16 and, considering it has been five years since the Gunners progressed from that stage, it will be no shock if they get knocked out.

More surprising, however, is how Wenger’s average record in Europe – he has reached only one final and one semi-final in the last decade – is rarely queried.

11/4 – Arsenal to win Group F

Chelsea

Jose Mourinho’s return to Porto – the club that made him (in)famous – is the highlight of an otherwise dreary-looking Group G, which also features Ukrainian and Israeli champions Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Despite winning league titles in three countries since, Mourinho’s 2004 Champions League triumph with the Portuguese club – who finished as domestic runners-up last season – remains his greatest moment in management.

And like an iconic band’s seminal debut album, the success he enjoys for the remainder of his career is unlikely to ever eclipse that achievement.

The Blues should have no problems topping their group and will be expected by owner Roman Ambramovich to improve upon last year’s regressive last-16 exit to 10-man Paris St Germain.

1/3 – Chelsea to win Group G

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