English clubs have won Europe’s most prestigious cup competition four times in the past 15 years and produced nine finalists in that period.
But unless there is a dramatic turnaround, England could be reduced to just one quarterfinalist in this season’s Champions League, more evidence, perhaps, that their influence is on the wane.
Chelsea’s 1—1 draw in Turkey against Galatasaray Wednesday was the best result from the four English sides left in the competition, with Manchester United joining Arsenal and Manchester City in losing the first legs of their last-16 ties.
Admittedly, City were playing Barcelona and Arsenal were up against defending champions Bayern Munich, but United face an uphill battle after a shock 2—0 defeat away to Olympiacos of Greece.
In 2013, England did not have a single club through to the quarterfinals and it’s arguable that with German clubs doing well, Spain’s giants of Barcelona and Real Madrid still strong and now joined by Atletico Madrid, and the likes of Paris Saint Germain going well, their chances of success are getting slimmer by the year.
Though English clubs have produced flashes of brilliance — Arsenal won 2—0 in Munich last year but went out to Bayern on the away goals rule — their inconsistency has cost them dear in the past couple of seasons.
Manchester United, who won the Premier League last season, are a side in transition under new manager David Moyes while City are growing in experience at the highest level in Europe.
Arsenal and Chelsea are more seasoned competitors when it comes to the Champions League and it’s fitting that it’s the west London side who may blaze the trail again this season.
Champions in 2012 and with manager Jose Mourinho back for a second stint, they would seem best equipped for another challenge.
Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan but after failing to do so with Real Madrid, is desperate to prove his worth with another victory.
“Champions League is the competition everybody wants to win in football,” Mourinho said this week at a sponsor’s event.
“It’s the competition where normally every big club is, so obviously it’s the competition that every club wants and every player, every coach dreams to win.” Given their poor form domestically — they lie sixth in the Premier League — it would be somewhat ironic if United manage to find their way through to another final.
Trailing 2—0 from the first leg in Greece is not an insurmountable obstacle and Moyes believes his side have the talent.
“Everybody wants to win it and we’ll try to do it,” Moyes said, before the defeat in Athens.
“I never said we would or we can but we’ll be in there. Teams don’t want to play Manchester United. They know what it stands for as they have been successful.
“I hope we can play well enough to get through this round and see what happens next.” Whether they can remains to be seen but English clubs need something to happen, and fast.