Champions League: Liverpool, Man City must pass Madrid test to reaffirm Premier League's dominance
In a straight shootout between Europe’s big five leagues, Premier League clubs will see the Champions League last 16 as a big opportunity to assert the nation’s dominance in the competition, writes Michael Hincks.
June’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham was the first sign that English football is back on top in Europe.
Liverpool’s victory ended English football’s seven-year wait for a Champions League winner, while the Reds’ losing appearance in the 2018 final to Real Madrid was the first time a Premier League side had made the showpiece since Chelsea lifted the trophy in 2012.
Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid celebrates with The Champions League trophy after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Real Madrid at National Stadium of Wales on June 3, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales.
Image credit: Getty Images
Between 2014 and 2018 – after Bayern beat Dortmund in 203 – it was very much Spain, and Real Madrid in particular, who ruled the roost.
Real won four Champions Leagues in five years – beating Atletico in two finals – while Barcelona claimed the treble in 2015.
This reign swiftly came to an end earlier this year when Barcelona became Spain’s sole representatives in the 2018-19 quarter-finals after both Madrid sides crashed out in the last 16. English clubs, meanwhile, had four sides in the last eight.
Liverpool fans will happily tell you what happened next.
Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool lifts the Champions League Trophy
Image credit: Getty Images
Champions League glory could yet herald a new dynasty for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp, but the Premier League will only underline its continent-wide dominance if its four clubs can make the last eight once again.
And it would be a big ask. While Liverpool face Atletico Madrid, Manchester City must overcome Real Madrid. Chelsea, meanwhile, face Bayern Munich, and Tottenham come up against RB Leipzig.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LAST 16 DRAW
Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain
Real Madrid v Manchester City
Atalanta v Valencia
Atletico Madrid v Liverpool
Chelsea v Bayern Munich
Lyon v Juventus
Tottenham v RB Leipzig
Napoli v Barcelona
It would certainly be a message of intent should Liverpool and City send the two Madrid sides packing, although equally, Real and Atletico will be aware that this is Spain’s chance to hit back.
Likewise for Germany, too. Bayern will have revenge on the mind when facing Chelsea, while Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig will not fear a Tottenham side who lost 10-3 on aggregate to Bayern over two group-stage matches.
Of course, the name that falls under the winners’ column will ultimately dictate which nation had a year to celebrate in Europe. PSG and Juventus will certainly fancy their chances, particularly if big names tumble before the need to face them.
It all means that there could be anything from zero to four English clubs making it into the quarters, while Barcelona and Valencia – who face Napoli and Atalanta – will not be taking their opponents lightly either with Spain equally capable of boasting any number of clubs in the last eight.
Once again, the Champions League is unpredictable. There will be those boasting ‘I told you say’ in May, but no one is ever really sure in this competition. Istanbul is still a long way away.