Now that the first round of CL fixtures are done and dusted, it’s time to analyse which Premier League outfit can carry the flag the furthest, or perhaps even win it!
What a difference a few weeks make, Harry Kane and co were being lauded as potential challengers to the likes of City in the league after their away day 3-0 thumping of Man United. Now, it’s a different outlook, after defeats at the hands of Watford, Liverpool and now Inter Milan. What’s going on? A lot has been said about potential tiredness after a draining World Cup for several Spurs players who had involvement deep into the knockout stages, but look for example at Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante and Olivier Giroud, who all won the competition with France. They don’t seem to look very fatigued!
They had Inter Milan right where they wanted them and were showing signs of an improved side, but you have to feel that their confidence will have been severely knocked after suffering those two late goals. With Barcelona to come in the group, you feel that they need to take points off of them in at least one of their encounters. Lots to think about for Pochettino but he has defied the odds before. . .
Prediction: Group stage exit?
Jose’s men seem to have stolen Spurs’ early optimism in recent weeks and the roles are now reversed. Wins over Burnley, Watford and now a convincing win 3-0 away at Young Boys, need to be recognised and on an artificial pitch too. No one likes an artificial! United have come unstuck in winnable games in recent years, Sevilla were their undoing last season and they need to shake their inconsistencies when it matters in Europe. Juventus and the return of the prodigal son Cristiano will surely steal the headlines, but if United can take points off of the Italian giants that will put a real marker down that they mean business this year. Just look at the effect of Liverpool seeing off PSG, it was a huge statement on match-day one. United seem to come undone against top opposition and with their defence as it is, a repeat may be on the cards.
Prediction: Last 16?
The 100 pointers, Pep’s boys, the golden generation. Plaudits have been sent Man City’s way in droves over the last two seasons and rightly so. The test now and more importantly the demand from the club owners is that City transfer their domestic dominance onto the European stage, no one will rest at the Etihad until the Champions League crown comes! It seems that each season, they are labelled as one of the favourites, alongside the Bayerns, Barces and Madrids. Well this time out, they are being dubbed as genuine, primary front-runners. So their opening night slip up against a good Lyon side was not ideal, it must have been a painful one for Pep up in the stand. Do Man City have the quality to win the Champions League? 100%. Do they have the squad depth? 100%. Do they have the manager? 1000%. City should go far and a bounce back from their sluggish loss to Lyon will surely come in a big way, let’s just hope for their sake that they don’t run into Liverpool again, down the line.
Prediction: Semi finals?
Not only can fans rest on the fact that they made the Champions League final last year, but in this new campaign they have already seen off PSG. The statements just keep on coming from Klopp’s side. To go that one step further in Europe, it was widely acknowledged that The Reds needed a new keeper and greater squad depth. So what happened over the summer? Loris Karius was moved on (shock) and replaced by Roma’s Alisson, Naby Keita finally made his eagerly awaited move to Anfield, Fabinho came in to from Monaco to tighten up the midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri was a really clever addition from Stoke, to provide cover for that explosive front three. Combine all of that with the revival of Daniel Sturridge and it’s as if they’ve bought a new striker too. Lots of possibilities all over the pitch. Now the pressure really comes, Liverpool have the boxes ticked and now they just need to perform (as they did against Neymar, Mbappe and the rest). As a team set up so well for European football, this could be it, Liverpool seem to be the deserving choice to take the Premier League flag the furthest. Oh yes, and they have Mo Salah. Watch out Ramos.
Prediction: All the way?