Why an English team will win the Champions League in 2019
By the time the 2018-19 Champions League final comes around it will have been seven years since an English team lifted a trophy, but that is destined to change this season.
Seven seasons have not gone by without an English team winning the Champions League dating back to before Manchester United claimed Europe’s biggest prize in 1999. It has been a barren spell for the Premier League clubs in recent years, with Liverpool the only team to reach the final in the last seven editions of the tournament.
However, that run to the final for the Reds came last season, and that could well prove to be the appetiser before the main course is served this time around. Whether that main course comes in the red of Liverpool or the sky blue of Manchester City is yet to be seen. But one of those two sides has every chance of lifting the giant trophy in Madrid on 1 June 2019.
Liverpool and Manchester City are destined to duke it out for the Premier League title this season. The start of the campaign has suggested little else, with the only spanner in the works being the threat of Chelsea, but they are expected to fall away at some stage. Certainly the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal do not look likely to mount much of a title challenge as we head towards 2019.
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have put together squads that are clearly superior to any others in the division and it will be a huge shock if these two are not sharing the top two positions in the table come May. But why would this help in the Champions League? Will an ultra-competitive domestic season that goes right down to the wire not hinder their progress in Europe? No, it won’t. In fact it will do quite the opposite.
The battle to win the Premier League title is set to keep the two challengers sharp, right the way through the campaign. There will be no thought of easing off at any stage, something that has possibly cost other sides in the past. We have seen the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus run away with their domestic leagues and once they have taken their respective feet off the pedals, it is hard to put them back down again. Perhaps this was part of why Liverpool were able to dispatch Manchester City in the Champions League last season.
Constantly battling for victories, and getting them, maintains match sharpness and it maintains the winning spirit within a team. Confidence will constantly be high, not just in the first XI, but throughout the squad, which will need to be called on as the competition progresses.
The ultimate example of how this theory holds water is La Liga. Nowhere else in Europe is such a duopoly on show as the constant battle at the top between Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are almost exclusively the top two teams in the league and it is rare one runs away with it from the other. They are always scrapping for every point all season to get the better of each other.
Seven of the last 10 Champions Leagues have been won by either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
The two teams have dominated European football over the last decade with Barcelona lifting the trophy three times and Real four, including the last three. Clearly, having a tough two-horse race domestically has not hindered them in Europe, if anything it has helped them.
The Premier League has not been treated to a legitimate title race for some time. The 2013-14 season was the last time a genuine race took place. Steven Gerrard suffered a slip and Manchester City crossed the finish line to win the league. Things have been all too straight forward for the various champions since then. And how have English sides performed in Europe in this time? Poorly.
Would you say Liverpool and Manchester City are now on the same level as Real Madrid and Barcelona? Maybe not quite, but there is not a lot in it these days. If those four teams were to play each other a handful of times, all four would pick up victories. There would certainly not be a clear and obvious winner.
So what of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season? Neither are quite the threats they have been in the past. Barca are second favourites to win the Champion League, but in Ernesto Valverde they have a manager who lacks experience in Europe’s biggest competition. Real Madrid have won the last three Champions Leagues, but with Zinedine Zidane leaving the dugout and Cristiano Ronaldo leaving their frontline, a fourth seems highly unlikely.
Both have already shown fragility in La Liga, Barcelona losing to Leganes early in the season, whilst Real were trounced by Sevilla on the same night.
How about Bayern and Juve?
The other realistic contenders are Bayern Munich and Juventus. Munich are reliably good in Europe but they don’t seem to be a team that are getting better. They are certainly not a team that are getting younger and their manager, Niko Kovac, is still cutting his teeth at the top level.
Juventus might be the biggest threat to the English sides this season, with their new prized asset, Cristiano Ronaldo. There is an assumption that Ronaldo is past his best at 33-years-old, but he is not showing much sign of that and is as adept as anyone on the planet at winning this competition. Their team is experienced and has quality throughout, but would Liverpool or Man City be favourites to beat them over two legs – they could well be.
However fearsome Juve’s attack is, their success is still built on their defence. But could that defence really keep out the rampant forward lines of City and Liverpool? It seems very unlikely.
There are question marks over the defences of both Klopp’s and Guardiola’s men, but not massive ones. With their first choice back lines on display, they are now pretty solid and steady. There are no questions at all over either sides’ ability to score goals. Over one leg it is hard to see any side keeping them out, never mind over two. Which is why Liverpool blasted their way to the final last season, and the only team able to stop City was Liverpool.
If they can avoid each other this time around then we could be set for an all-English final, if not then one will go on and have every chance of winning the showpiece. The Premier League can now say they have two legitimate favourites to win the Champions League and that has not been the case for a while a long while. It is time to back the English teams to conquer Europe once again.
Take your pick.
September 27th, 2018 by Simon A