The Premier League can’t be considered the best in the world if it’s teams are crashing out of Europe…
Both Manchester City and Liverpool face a defining week in the Champions League, with both club’s needing to win to secure progress beyond the group stage of the competition. But why is this the case?
The Premier League is widely believed to be the best league in the world, and yet its two best teams – based on last season’s standings at least – are a game away from going out of Europe’s elite tournament at the first hurdle.
City, who have won England’s top flight for two of the last three seasons, have continually struggled in Europe – only once progressing beyond the first round – when they exited in the Last 16.
This season, they took just two points from their first four games, and needed late heroics from Sergio Aguero to defeat ten-man, already qualified Bayern Munich, and just put them in with a chance of qualification.
Liverpool have faired little better, returning to the competition after a five year absence. They were lucky to beat Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets in their opening game, and proceeded to lose their next three matches without scoring a goal.
A draw in their rematch against Ludogorets has kept them in with a chance of qualification, but the gulf in class between the Reds and group leaders Real Madrid is all too plain to see.
Progress to the latter rounds of the Champions League used to be a given for the English teams. Between 2005 and 2012, we as a country had eight finalists and three winners, with only one final not featuring a Premier League team.
But the last two years have offered something of a reality check – as our Spanish and German counterparts continue to improve. In the 2012-13 season, only Man United and Arsenal reached the Last 16, and both exited at that stage. Spain and Germany had five of the quarter-finalists.
Last season, all four English teams progressed beyond the group stage, but only Chelsea reached the semi-finals, while Spain and Germany again had five of the quarter-finalists.
This year, Spanish and German teams lead five of the eight groups, while Chelsea are again the only Premier League team matching expectations, although Arsenal have also secured qualification alongside Borussia Dortmund.
If the Premier League is to maintain its recent legacy as the best in the world, then multiple teams must be reaching the latter stages of the Champions League, and going toe-to-toe with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
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