With the fate of its all-important fourth Champions League spot hanging delicately in the balance, the quality of the Premier League has come under more scrutiny than ever before in recent weeks. “The non-Champions League sides have smaller squads and they can’t deal with European matches on top of what they already have”.
“You see Porto last night”.
“At this moment in time, no Premier League team wants to be in the Europa League”. In 2012/13 and 2014/15, none surpassed the round of 16.
“So it all adds up for it being hard for the Premier League teams”. When Premier League clubs go out in Europe, we’re not that strong or play correct football.
The true benefactors, however, weren’t those involved in the Champions League. City spent Kevin de Bruyne for £55 million from Wolfsburg and £49 million for Raheem Sterling from Liverpool and these two were the highest transfers this season. Three impressive talents, but none truly within the confines of “world-class” just yet despite costing a combined £132million.
Losses for Arsenal, at home to Olympiacos, and Chelsea, at Porto, mean there have been five defeats in six Champions League group matches for Premier League teams this season.
Shearer, talking at the Sir Bobby Robson Celebrity Golf Day at Rockliffe Hall Hotel, reckons the amount of money now flowing through the Premier League has a part to play in the current debacle but feels the answer lies much deeper. Tottenham and Liverpool are among the teams who have treated the Europa League as something of an annoyance in recent years. Even last year’s champions Chelsea now appear miles behind their counterparts from La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1, following the disastrous start to their title defence. We have two cup competitions in this country, the others have one. Porto played on Friday, they had dispensation to move their game, so that keeps them fresh. Other leagues, but not the Premier League.
“They’ve got one domestic competition fewer”, he said.
Dinamo Zagreb’s win against Arsenal and Man United humbling at the hands of PSV Eindhoven were fresh examples of English clubs fluffing their lines on the European stage and the punishment for their incompetence is about to be confirmed. José Mourinho’s players, by contrast, travelled to Newcastle last Saturday and host Southampton this Saturday. The likes of Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG, however, can and often do.
Rodgers thinks the week-to-week competitiveness of the Premier League, plus a packed fixture calendar, works against sides when it comes to taking on continental opponents.
The ex-Wigan Athletic and Hull City midfielder told The Express: “I think we put the Premier League on a pedestal and we under-estimate other teams”.
So should we continue to fear for the fortunes of English clubs in the Champions League?