After the impressive performances of English clubs in the UEFA Champions League last season, there’s a lot of expectations – particularly among the English media – that this season’s competition will see Premier League teams once again dominate.
And following the group stage draw, there appeared a high likelihood of all competing English clubs reaching the knockout round, as was the case last season.
It’s early days in the competition, but there’s already been a stark reminder of how English clubs often fail to live up to the hype surrounding them when it comes to achievements on the European stage.
Only four times in 20 years has a Premier League club lifted the Champions League trophy, with English clubs winning the Europa League only twice in the last 18 years.
Man City, widely regarded as being the best team in the world, have reached the semi final only once, with two further appearances in the last eight proving the height of their achievements in the competition.
However, where City previously found it difficult to quality from the group stage, that’s not been the case under Guardiola, and in securing an away win against Shakhtar Donetsk by a margin which equals the Ukraine team’s heaviest European home defeat, City have again started well and should have one of the more comfortable passages into round two.
But it was less straightforward for the other English teams during the first round of matches.
Liverpool’s loss at Napoli made it four away defeats in a row in group stage matches, with just one win in ten away from home at this stage of the competition.
Having last season achieved the rare feat of progressing to the knockout round despite losing all three away matches, there’ll almost certainly need to be an improvement during their remaining away games, in addition to a continuation of their strong form at Anfield.
It’s fair to say that Chelsea fared even worse, with their home defeat coming at the hands of a club reeling from the shock dismissal of manager Marcelinho last week. The fixtures against Ajax and Lille are unlikely to be any easier for Chelsea, although with little between the teams, there’ll be points dropped by all four clubs in a group which could see a huge scramble to secure a top two placing.
With games against Bayern Munich still to come, a win away to Olympiakos would have represented an excellent start for Spurs. But failing to hold on for victory after being in a winning position has been a problem for Spurs in Europe during recent seasons, and highlights an area where a big improvement is needed if hoping to avoid a similar situation to that of last season when Spurs came close to being eliminated.
So while there’s no reason to think that Premier League clubs will fare badly, any assumptions that last season’s impressive showing indicates a shift that will see English clubs continue to dominate the competition is perhaps is a little premature.