The Failure of Premier League Teams in the Champions League

May 7, 2015 7:37 pm

In 2005, Liverpool came back from 3 goals down to beat A.C Milan on penalties in arguably the greatest UEFA Champions League Final till date. The subsequent 4 finals included each an English team’s participation.

2006 saw Barcelona come from behind to prevent Arsenal from winning their first European Cup by beating Arsenal 2-1. 2007 saw A.C Milan exact revenge on Liverpool as they ran out 2-1 winners on the night. 2008 saw the only all-English final played where Manchester United were victorious on penalties against Chelsea in Moscow. 2009 saw Barcelona beat United 2-0, preventing them from winning back to back titles.

It is also important to note that three out of the four semi-finalists in each of the years from 2007 to 2009 consisted of Premier League clubs.

Ten years have passed since that memorable final in Istanbul, and now no English team is left in the quarter-finals of the competition. We take a look at why the Premier League teams have been doing so poorly in recent seasons.

Chelsea was the last representatives of England to win it when they beat Bayern Munich in the 2012 final on penalties. They were completely outplayed in both the legs of the semi-final against Barcelona, yet their defensive resilience and their effective counter attacks sent them into the final. The final too had Chelsea “park the bus”. Bayern took the lead early in the second half, but a late Drogba header sent the tie into extra time. Chelsea held on till penalties which they eventually won.

The English clubs themselves are to blame for their poor showing. They lack world-class players such as those in Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Both Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez picked up the P.F.A player of the year awards in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Both the players, however, were captured by the Spanish Giants at the end of their award-winning seasons.

The Premier League teams have simply lost their ability to attract the biggest players in world football anymore. Two of the biggest players possibly in the league are Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria. Yet they were deemed surplus to requirements at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Manchester United is probably the only English Team that can compete with the likes of the Spanish Giants in terms of their ability to spend after the new Financial Fair Play regulations have come into force. Yet their failure to qualify for the Champions League has dented their reputation badly, and it looks like it will take at least a few more years until they can be considered amongst the favorites again.

Liverpool being the third most successful team in Europe certainly has the prestige that so many big players do seek. Unfortunately for them, they do not have the financial strength to buy such big names anymore, as City and Chelsea do. This is a big reason for their exclusion in the Champions League from 2010 to 2013.

Manchester City certainly has a great squad which one feels can propel them to the semifinals of the competition at least. Yet their inexperience in the Champions League, and inability to cope with the increased number of matches in a season has seen them being knocked out in the round of 16 stage for three consecutive seasons.

Chelsea in contrast has been the best English team in the competition in recent seasons. Their defensive approach to big games seems to be the biggest problem for them. This was clearly highlighted in their game against the 10 men of P.S.G two weeks ago where they lost on the Away Goal Rule. They lack the ambition to defeat their opponents.

The Financial Fair play rules have limited the spending of Chelsea and Manchester City in the past two seasons. Their inability to bag top sponsorship deals or increase their revenues forces them to sell players to strengthen their squad now. This puts them at a great disadvantage as compared to Manchester United who recently bagged a £750 million kit deal with Adidas.

Real Madrid was defeated 5-0 on aggregate against Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16 in 2009. The following summer they broke the world transfer record fee twice where they bought the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Kaka and Xabi Alonso. In the next few years, they went on to buy the likes of Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale. These big names lead Madrid to 3 consecutive semi-finals from 2011 to 2013, and they were finally rewarded with the La Decima in 2014.

Barcelona is one of the favorites every season in the Champions League. Having redefined Tiki Taka football, they have dominated the Champions League in the last 10 years and have won the competition in 2006, 2009 and 2011, each of the final victories being against English opposition.

Bayern Munich may not splurge the cash like Real Madrid and Barcelona. Yet their extremely strong and experienced squad year-in year-out has seen them reach 3 finals in the last 5 seasons, including victory against Borrusia Dortmund in 2013. Their ability to attract the best players in the Bundesliga further helps their cause.

It certainly looks like it will take a few more years until the English teams are considered Champions League contenders. The Premier League’s £5 billion deal with B.T Sports and Sky Sports looks promising for the clubs as they have been promised higher earnings in the form of prize money in the seasons to come. This will certainly help them strengthen their squad and ultimately make them serious challengers in the Champions League again.

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