The 2015-16 Champions League gets underway this evening as some of the top clubs from around Europe kick off their new campaign.
England are represented by both Manchester United (away to PSV Eindhoven) and Manchester City (home to Juventus) this evening, whilst tomorrow sees Arsenal (away to Dinamo Zagreb) and Chelsea (home to Maccabi Tel Aviv) open their accounts on Wednesday.
It has been a disappointing three seasons for Premier League sides in Europe’s elite club cup competition since Chelsea surprisingly lifted the trophy back in 2012.
No English side made it as far as the quarter-finals last season with the Blues surprisingly eliminated by 10-man Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City thrashed by Barcelona and Arsenal shocked by Monaco, all in the second round. Liverpool didn’t even make it past the group stage.
How will our sides fair this season?
It has been a woeful start to the Premier League for José Mourinho’s side having picked up only four points from their first five games, leaving them 11 points behind Manchester City and on the brink of being out of the title race as early as mid-September.
Some claim Mourinho wasn’t too interested in the Champions League last season, wanting to focus on winning the Premier League. Perhaps this year then they can switch that around and focus on the prize that has eluded the Portuguese manager during his spells at Stamford Bridge.
Defensively, Chelsea have looked appalling. But it’s the same defence they had last season which performed so well in the Premier League – surely then they will patch themselves up at the back.
The acquisition of Pedro brings something they were missing in Europe last season – a goalscoring threat down the right wing. If or when Eden Hazard and Diego Costa get back to form, then this side certainly have the capability of going far in the Champions League.
Chelsea couldn’t have asked for a better draw in the group stage – FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv. It’s when they could face the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich that we fear for them.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side have made a blistering start to the Premier League season and right now look like England’s best hope in Europe.
Sergio Agüero, when fit, is one of the best strikers in the world. David Silva, Yaya Touré, Raheem Sterling and now Kevin De Bruyne add additional goalscoring threat from midfield.
It’s exactly what Manchester City need in Europe if they’re to progress far for a change. However, it’s been their defending that has been an issue in the past. They are yet to concede a goal in the Premier League to this point – but can the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov and co shut out the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Barcelona if they’re to meet them in the latter stages?
Manchester City have not been handed the easiest of groups, but neither Juventus or Borussia Mönchengladbach have a win between them in their domestic leagues this season, so we’re confident the English side will progress. Sevilla are the other opponents.
Arsene Wenger will have been kicking himself about how his side were eliminated on away goals to AS Monaco last season – solely down to an abject performance in the first leg.
Many thought Arsenal were going to win the Premier League this season, before they lost 2-0 at home to West Ham on the opening day. But for Manchester City’s blistering start, many would have remained confident.
The Gunners have made a decent start to the season but it was only on Saturday in beating Stoke City 2-0 have they looked very good in either of their opening games.
Although they do have Bayern Munich in the group, the North London side should progress from this one with Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb making up the numbers.
How far can they go? Wenger’s awesome side over a decade ago never went all the way, and this group simply aren’t good as the likes of Barcelona. Outside of the three favourites though, they’re as good as anybody.
Aside from a second half blip versus Swansea City, it has been a solid defensive display in the Premier League through five games for Manchester United.
However, it was only against Liverpool on Saturday have they looked good in attack domestically. Europe is a different competition though, as Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick in thrashing Club Bruges to reach the group stage.
Manchester United certainly have the players to make light work of their group that contains PSV Eindhoven, VfL Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow, it’s whether the manager can get the best out of them.
The Champions League has long progressed since Louis van Gaal won this competition with Ajax 20 years ago. We’re not sure they can compete with the very best teams this season but they should be getting as far as they can before facing Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. While none of the English sites seem set to grace the final this season, if only because the other teams have far greater problems internal problems than United do.