With the group stages of the Champions League reaching its end, how far can the Premier League sides make it in the Europe's elite competition? Will we see a finalist from England after Chelsea four years ago, or will it be another season of false hope for the English sides?
We are into the business end of the group stages and we look at the prospects of the English teams and how they may progress in the further rounds. The usual suspects Arsenal are well on the way to their customary knockout stage qualification, Leicester city on the way to join them, a rejuvenated City following their Barca exploits seem likely to follow and the last of the quartet, Spurs have a tricky navigation route to reach the second stage of the competition. Let us look at all 4 of them and see if we can see any of them winning the holy grail of club football.
The Gunners have been good in the group stages, haven’t they? Unbeaten in the 4 games so far, Arsenal have navigated their tough assignments well. Having not played well and yet getting a point at PSG, recovering from a precarious 2 nil down at Ludogorets to win, home comforts of battering Basel and Ludogorets has assured Arsenal of a qualification to the knockout stages for the umpteenth time counting. Qualifying first is in their hands and beat PSG at home and they should have that in the bag. Does that mean they will go past the round of 16? Time shall tell for even if they finish first, there is no guarantee of a kind draw and even if they get one, Monaco should remind them that there is no easy draw at all.
The sense though is Arsenal are capable of the sublime and the ridiculous in equal measure. If they can hit Ludogorets for 6 one week, they can be carved open by the same team in equal measure. Thankfully, their recovery reserves seem to be working which has meant they have arrested any complete disaster.
Does that mean the resilience and belief
The EPL champs have taken a fancy for the Champions League. Unbeaten, scoring and not conceding, the invisible Mahrez as well looking his normal self, the Foxes are on their merry go round trip which looks to have no stopping. At least not in the group stages. With qualification looking a formality, the King Power Stadium has embraced the Champions League and how. They are tough to beat at home and that has played its part in ensuring that Leicester’s first ever UCL journey is there for all to see.
The problem though is the Premier League form has been average. This will transcend sooner or later to the Champions League and there is a sense of the inevitable with this team. Vardy and Maharez need to rediscover their league winning form,
Prediction- Round of 16 exit
The spurs are in a spot of bother. Defeats to Monaco and Leverkusen has left them perilously close to being knocked out of the group stages and that would be a bitter pill to swallow for Pochettino and his men. The lack of goals has been telling and Wembley hasn’t been kind as well. Arguably they got the toughest group among the English teams but that is no solace. With Kane back, Spurs would be hoping the goals and the mojo is back as well. The problem is they lack the cutting edge and the all hustle approach, seems to be
Prediction- Semifinals Europa League.
The Citizens turned on the substance when it mattered. Defeat at home to Barca would have meant curtains to their qualification but now they have the matter in their own hands. Would that night at the Etihad turn out to be pivotal for Pep and his men? Time shall tell but the signs are promising. Kevin De Bruyne and Sterling continue to impress but it is the midfield dynamo, Gundogan who has changed the dynamics. He and the impressive David Silva have ensured that city can be in the mix with the big boys.
Overall, the English teams will be well represented in the knockout stages but I cannot see any of them going the distance. Arsenal, City and Leicester do not have the cutting edge to go past the more efficient teams like Barca, Bayern or Real. Yes, a kind draw and some luck as well as pluck may carry them a bit further but a winner will not be amongst them. The other point of contention is both City and Arsenal will harbor ambitions for the league title whereas Leicester would want to better their league position too. If Spurs do qualify to the next round, their squad strength will be severely tested going into the next stage. Pep would know how to win the league and UCL but city isn’t Barcelona. Arsene’ s time is running out but the holy grail may just remain a distinct dream for the great man. Ranieri will accept what he gets and so will Mauricio. So, enjoy as long as it lasts for it won’t reach its final destination for the English teams.
Finally, so who will win the Champions League? Who will be there in the business end of the tournament?
Potential Quarterfinalists –
3. Atletico Madrid.
5. Real Madrid.
8. Bayern Munich.
I cannot see much of a surprise this season and wouldn’t bet against a Barcelona-Real Madrid final. Bayern and Atletico may have different plans but bench strength and that just a bit extra may ensure the El Classico again. Hoping for a surprise or two from the
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