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Opinion

Can an English club win a European trophy?

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Roar Rookie
31st October, 2020
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We are two matches into the group stages of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, and we can begin to envisage how clubs are performing.

The last English club to win a European trophy was Liverpool, winning the UCL in 2019. In the same season Chelsea also clinched the UEL title.

There are four English clubs competing in the UCL this season: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. Simultaneously there are three English clubs contending for the UEL: Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

Of the seven Premier League clubs fighting for European silverware this season, six of them now sit atop of their groups, whereas Tottenham sit second in theirs.

Which clubs have had a good start to their campaign, and can they go all the way?

Arsenal

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Let’s start off with the Gunners. After a lacklustre 2019-20 season it was evident that they needed to make some improvements.

They completed the transfer of Thomas Partey after triggering his €50 million (A$83 million) release clause. They also completed signings of Gabriel, Pablo Mari, Alex Runarsson, Cedric Soares and Willian, completing a total spend of €147.3 million (A$244.7 million).

However, they are still some way from European success. Arteta needs to develop and pursue more players that fit his philosophy.

Although Arsenal are at the top of their group, they’ve had a morbidly average start to the Premier League season, sitting 11th after six matches.

A 2-1 win over Rapid Wien and a 3-0 win over Dundalk sees them likely to progress to the knockout stages. However, as said before, they are still some way away from a major trophy.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, exit in the quarter-finals.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

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If we’ve learnt anything this season, it’s that Tottenham are intimidating.

Tottenham are dominating the Premier League in every statistical department: Son Heung-Min has the most goals, Harry Kane has the most assists, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has the most passes and the Spurs collectively have the most goals scored.

They are sixth in the Premier League and only two points behind the league leaders. The deadly duo of Son and Kane has continued on a new level this season, combining for nine goals.

Their UEL season has not gone completely to plan, with one win and one loss after two matches, including the surprise 1-0 loss to Belgian side Antwerp. Nonetheless, they sit second in the group and are still the favourites to finish on top.

Tottenham will ease through their remaining group fixtures and achieve what eluded them in the UCL two seasons ago: European glory. They are due for a trophy and this season looks promising.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, win the UEFA Europa League.

Jan Vertonghen

(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Leicester City

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Leicester are one of the few English teams competing in a European competition sitting near the top of the Premier League.

The Foxes have had a flawless start to their UEL campaign, with wins against Zorya and AEK Athens 3-0 and 2-1 respectively.

Rewind to the 2016-17 season when Leicester were reigning Premier League champions. The club qualified for the UCL and surprisingly made it all the way to the quarter-finals.

We may see something similar this season. Yes, in the season mentioned above they completely failed in the Premier League, finishing 12th. However, the club has evolved and the group is more mature and arguably more talented.

Along with this theory, Leicester have been able to keep a decent record in the Premier League this season, sitting fifth after six matches. That said, if they provide decent domestic results, they won’t win the UEL.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, exit in semi-finals.

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Chelsea

Over the summer Chelsea spent €247.2 million (A$410 million) on players in an attempt to catch up to other clubs after their transfer ban.

They were able to snatch 21-year-old Malang Sarr and veteran defender Thiago Silva for free.

Big money was spent on Kai Havertz, €80 million (A$132.9 million); Timo Werner, €53 million (A$88 million); Ben Chilwell, €50.2 million (A$83.3 million); Hakim Ziyech, €40 million (A$66.4 million); and finally Edouard Mendy, €24 million (A$39.8 million).

Chelsea have had an up-and-down start to the Premier League, achieving two wins, three draws and one loss, and questions have been raised about whether the squad will need time to develop as a unit.

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They’ve had a decent start to the UCL, beginning with a 0-0 draw at home against Sevilla and a 4-0 drubbing of Russian side Krasnodar.

This season won’t be known as ‘Chelsea’s season’. Frank Lampard still doesn’t know his best 11, as the team changes every week.

I think they can be successful, but only from a development perspective.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, exit in the quarter-finals.

Kai Havertz of Chelsea

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Manchester United

Compared to other Premier League clubs contending for a continental trophy, Manchester United have had the worst start in the Premier League. They currently sit 15th after playing five matches.

Nonetheless, the Red Devils’ start to the UCL season has been remarkable. In Week 1 they unpredictably defeated last season’s finalists Paris Saint-Germain 2-1. This week they demolished a resilient RB Leipzig 5-0.

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United and Barcelona have scored the equal most goals in the 2020-21 UCL with seven, and Marcus Rashford has now netted more goals in the UCL than the likes of Eden Hazard. Rashford continued to impress, scoring the fastest hat-trick after coming off the bench in UCL history.

Is this just a phase? Maybe. PSG will be seeking revenge in their next encounter, as will Leipzig. Will they qualify for the knockout stage? Most likely. After these two results they will be hard to catch.

Prediction
Finish second in their group, exit in the Round of 16.

Bruno Fernandes

(Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Manchester City

The Citizens have not had the best start to the Premier League, as they currently sit 13th after five matches, but their UCL campaign is a different story.

Recent history could suggest that clubs may sacrifice a competition to dwell in the other. As said above, after winning the Premier League in the 2015-16 season, Leicester City subsequently qualified for the 2016-17 UCL season.

Fast-forward to the 2016-17 season and Leicester finished the Premier League season in 12th. However, the Foxes made it all the way to the UCL quarter-finals. Manchester City may attempt a similar tactic, as they haven’t endured any recent European success.

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City have a relatively easy group comprising Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille, so they should effortlessly progress to the knockout rounds. The Sky Blues have won comfortably in their two UCL fixtures, defeating Porto and Marseille 3-1 and 3-0 respectively.

City have the best chance out of all of the English clubs to win the UCL. They have not had any injury issues and tend to fly through their groups each year.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, lose in the final.

Rodri

(Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Liverpool

Fresh off their Premier League title heroics, Liverpool were among the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season.

A complicated start to the season and an injury-riddled defence have shaped some interesting results. Arguably their most important player, Virgil van Dijk, is likely to miss the entirety of the season with a knee injury. Along with less significant injuries to Joel Matip and makeshift centre back Fabinho, Liverpool will have to look to their youth for the near future.

Despite this, Liverpool have produced a perfect record so far in the UCL, notching up a lucky 1-0 win against Ajax thanks to an own goal and a 2-0 win at home to Danish side Midtjylland. Perhaps their biggest challenge in the group stage still lies ahead, with back-to-back ties against Atalanta.

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Liverpool’s ability to remain somewhat consistent despite the difficulties they have faced so early in the season is nothing but impressive. Due to their current injury woes it may be difficult for them to go deep into the UCL.

Prediction
Finish top of their group, exit in the quarter-finals.

We are only in the early stages of these European competitions, but these trends are hard to pass by. All English clubs look set to move on to the knockout stage, but who, if any, will go all the way?