Champions League review – how are the English clubs faring?
Last updated: November 3, 2017 by Leon Marshal
With four games now played in the Champions League group stage, some teams have already qualified for the knock-out stage of the competition.
Big names like Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are unsurprisingly doing well and looking sure to qualify. However, it’s the English teams that are performing best so far in the competition. Of the four teams that have already guaranteed passage through to the next stage, three are English clubs. Manchester City and Manchester United have won all four of their games so far and are mathematically certain to go through to the next stage.
Tottenham have won three and drawn one of their games, but despite this, theirs is perhaps the most impressive achievement. Spurs were drawn in the group of death, alongside Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and Apoel Nicosia. Despite the difficulty of the group, Tottenham too have assured qualification to the next stage of the competition.
It’s played four, won four for José Mourinho’s men. Drawn in a rather favourable group that includes FC Basel, CSKA Moscow, and Benfica, United were certainly expected to qualify. However, they have done so with style, having won all four games, scoring ten goals and conceding just one in the process.
A key feature of Mourinho’s strategy has been rotating his central defence for the European games. While Phil Jones and Eric Bailly has been the favoured partnership domestically, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf have featured in Europe. Victor Lindelöf especially has been criticised for his few performances in the Premier League, but United have a solid defensive record in Europe. The wing-backs too have often been rotated, with Matteo Darmian and Daiey Blind featuring much more in Europe than in the Premiership.
Romelu Lukaku has featured in all games and United do seem to have an over-reliance on the Belgium. However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is said to be near a return from a knee injury. With qualification assured, Lukaku could now be given an important rest, while Ibrahimovic will certainly be available once again by the knock-out stage.
Neighbouring club Manchester City have made an equally impressive start to the competition and are another side that have already assured qualification. Placed in a slightly more difficult group than United, City have still made easy work of it, beating Napoli in both legs to secure qualification.
City have qualified in considerable more style than their neighbours. They’ve scored twelve goals and the matches against Napoli were both high-scoring, thrilling encounters. Similar to Manchester United, Guardiola has chosen to rotate his wing-backs for the competition. An early injury to Benjamin Mendy has meant that Fabian Delph has secured an unlikely role as a defender, but he has excelled in the position so far.
The Citizens already look to be running away with it in the Premier League too and with the talents at Guardiola’s disposal, they will be tough to stop in both competitions.
Drawn in without doubt the toughest group out of all the English teams, Tottenham have made it look easy as they secured passage through to the next stage after four games.
Tottenham fans must have feared another European failure after seeing their group draw. Drawn in without doubt the tournament’s group of death, Spurs were drawn in a group alongside Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.
With four games played though, Spurs are unbeaten, with a draw in Madrid followed by a 3-1 victory against Los Blancos at Wembley the highlights. Spurs also saw off Dortmund at home, with the German team surprisingly earning just two points so far. That has meant that Spurs have qualified already, but they will surely be keen to beat Dortmund again to try and finish top of their group.
They’re currently in the hot seat to win the group, with the attacking trio of Deli Allie, Christian Eriksen, and Harry Kane all in fine form.
Liverpool suffered a frustrating start to their Champions League campaign, as they were unable to beat both Sevilla and Spartak Moscow, drawing both games. They since won a record 7-0 thrashing of NK Maribor, followed by another win against the Slovenian team at Anfield.
Those draws have left Group E looking tight though and the Reds are far from assured of qualification. Liverpool are currently top of the group and face Sevilla in Spain next. Win and they will qualify for the next stage. However, should they lose, then it will all come down the final match against Spartak Moscow, where Liverpool will have to win.
Liverpool have had a rough patch of form both domestically and in Europe, but they seem to have turned things around finally. However, they are currently without both Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané through injury. Jürgen Klopp will be hoping that both will be back at least in time for the final group match. The team’s defensive frailties are widely known and that leads many to consider them to English team with the lowest chance of winning the competition.
Things were going smoothly for Chelsea up until the third game of the campaign. Another team that have a very tricky group, Chelsea were drawn with AS Roma and Athletico Madrid. The Blues earned a fantastic win against Athletico which put them in a strong position, but they were halted by Roma in game three at Stamford Bridge, where the score ended 3-3 after a cracking game of football.
The return leg in Rome is one that Chelsea fans will want to forget. Roma were too much for Chelsea to handle on the night and ended up winning the match 3-0. That meant that Chelsea are the only English team not topping their group currently.
The saving grace for Chelsea is that Athletico Madrid were unable to capitalize and drew both of their matches with the group’s supposed whipping boys, FK Qarabag. These two shock results mean that Chelsea still have a four point cushion over Madrid and a win against Qarabag will see them through.
It’s a lucky escape for Chelsea who should now make it through, but they look the most likely of the English teams to finish runner up in their group and would therefore theoretically face a more difficult fixture in the knock-out stage.