Can an English team win the Champions League this season?

NYON, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 24: The draw ball await during the UEFA Champions League Q2 qualifying round draw at the UEFA headquarters on June 24, 2013 in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
NYON, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 24: The draw ball await during the UEFA Champions League Q2 qualifying round draw at the UEFA headquarters on June 24, 2013 in Nyon, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images) /

With five English teams having qualified for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, is this the season that English teams can break the Spanish dominance?

For the first time in Champions League history, five teams from one nation have qualified for the round of sixteen. It may become surprising that it has come from English clubs, who have endured a rather rough time in European competitions in the last several years with the last time an English club won the Champions League being back in 2012 when Chelsea sensationally defeated Bayern Munich in a penalty shootout.

It’s been rare to see an English club do well in the competition since then, with Chelsea and Manchester City reaching the semifinals in 2014 and 2015 respectively while Leicester City managed to get themselves into the quarterfinals last season.

Apart from those occasions, English clubs have badly suffered while there has been a rise in the strength of Spanish teams with a Spanish club having won the competition each year since 2014 along with two times have we seen an all-Spanish final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Of course, as usual with the English media, this has caused a mass hysteria of doom and gloom with many trying to depict why English teams have seemingly not been up to par with Europe’s best like they were a decade ago. Many have suggested the lack of a winter break causing fatigue; others have suggested that despite the riches of the teams that they simply lacked the quality compared to their European rivals.

The latter seems more likely, it isn’t a coincidence that the European teams have dominated the tournament with Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have gone through their best periods of strength in the last decade while at the same time, the English teams have all been going through periods of transition with that transition finally coming to an end.

As always, these spells of dominance come in cycles. Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and Liverpool have hired some of the best and most successful managers in football.  This has resulted in these teams being able to build better teams, while also at the same time we’re seeing a steady decline of the top European clubs.

Juventus have not been the force that they have been typically under Allegri this season, Atletico Madrid failed to even qualify out of the group stages, Barcelona have not been the same team that they used to be and are one Lionel Messi injury away from disaster. While it would be silly to dismiss Real Madrid in the Champions League, the reigning back-to-back champions, Madrid have not been the force that they were last season.

More from Playing for 90

Not only is their five teams qualified for the next round, but the English teams are looking relatively strong at the moment. Tottenham finished top of what was being described as the ‘group of death’ against the defending champions Real Madrid and Dortmund, while Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City all also finished top of their groups.

It will be tough for some sides, such as Chelsea who will be going up against Barcelona and Tottenham going up against Juventus, but with Liverpool drawing Porto, United drawing Sevilla and Manchester City going up against Basel. There should be at the very least three English sides heading into the Quarter-finals and given City’s form this season and Guardiola’s history in the tournament, they could be considered favourites for the tournament. Last season was the first time that a Guardiola team did not make the semi-finals of the tournament but that was also a vastly different Manchester City team. Guardiola has improved his squad and they are now more comfortable playing the way he likes. It will be a big benefit to City if they can keep their gigantic lead on the table, as it will allow them to rotate and rest players for the competition to avoid burn out and potential injuries.

Related Story: Man United want Brazilian wonderkid

Similar to Mourinho’s Manchester United. United will not be favourites to win the tournament nor should they be, but like Guardiola, Mourinho has experience in this tournament having won it with two underdogs in Porto and Inter Milan, along with reaching the semifinals several times with Chelsea in both his runs as manager at the club.

His style of play is perfect for the Champions League with his teams being able to defend diligently and attack teams on the counter. This is what has served him well and even served his Real Madrid teams well in the tournament as well. The quality of his United side is lacking compared to those teams but there is always the possibility of it happening.