This year there are five English clubs in the last 16 of the Champions League, and it is the first time there has ever been five teams from one nation in the knockout stages. There is an excellent chance that at least four of these sides could qualify for the quarter-finals, and possibly five, but that will rest on whether Chelsea can spring an upset against Barcelona. Is this European resurgence for English clubs just a one-off, or is it a sign that the Premier League sides are beginning to dominate Europe?
The game on Tuesday night between Juventus and Tottenham looked like it should have been a comfortable win for the Italian side. The current Italian champions have been dominant in the Serie A for many years now, and quite incredibly, had only conceded one goal in their previous sixteen matches. Tottenham, on the other hand, are currently fifth in the Premier League and have not won a major trophy for many years now. On paper, all signs were pointing towards a comfortable Juventus win. However, this was not to be the case.
If you disregard the first ten minutes, Juventus were nowhere near Spurs’ quality and looked shell-shocked that they had thrown away their two-goal lead. But how did the current best Italian side struggle so much at the hands of a far from world-beating Tottenham side?
The reason was simply that Juventus only have these impressive defensive stats because they are playing in a league which only contains four or five sides that would challenge to get into the top half of the Premier League. The Serie A is nowhere near as competitive as its English equivalent.
Lazio are currently fifth in the Serie A– the same as Tottenham are in England. Not one of the current Lazio squad would make it into Spurs’ side. The squads of Premiership sides are becoming increasingly stronger, and it appears more and more top players from Europe and beyond are deciding to play in England.
Take for example the January transfer window; one of the Bundesliga’s top goal scorers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has come to England. As did Aymeric Laporte from La Liga and Lucas Moura, who felt he wasn’t challenged enough in Ligue 1.
With all this being considered, it seems no surprise that the Italian Champions struggled at the hands of an underachieving English club that has evaded silverware for a decade.
Furthermore, Liverpool, a side who have also struggled for silverware in the past few years, demolished Porto, the current Liga NOS leaders, away from home. Manchester City comfortably won at Basel and will be looking to go all the way in this competition.
The Bundesliga is a league in which Bayern Munich seemingly win every year, and without tough competition week in week out, they could become unstuck when they face an onslaught of challenging fixtures as the Champions League reaches its closing stages. The Ligue 1 is generally the same; PSG go unchallenged most years, although occasionally are challenged by Marseilles and Monaco. However, Monaco struggle to hold onto their big-name players.
It seems that with many star players flocking to the Premier League resulting with English clubs increasing their strength across every transfer window, the tides may be turning in Europe. Only Barcelona seem likely and capable of taking on the new order from England, but never discount a team that has the greatest and most prolific scorer in the history of the Champions League.