Oct 18, 2017

Hazard Heroics Keep Premiership Clubs Unbeaten in Champions League

Eden Hazard's late equalizer against AS Roma last night salvaged a remarkable run by Premier League teams that now has them unbeaten in three matchdays in the UEFA Champions League. As far as can be immediately determined, this is an unprecedented run of success for English clubs in European competition. It follows several years underwhelming (or worse) performance by Premiership sides in the Champions League and may (may!) just be the start of a new era of dominance. For that to happen obviously English teams are going to need to advance deep into the knockout stages and do what Chelsea last accomplished in 2012, which is win the whole darned thing. It's early days, but the record does speak to a renaissance of English club football on Europe's grandest stage.

Eleven wins, four draws, no losses. Forty-four goals scored, 11 conceded. That is the record of Premier League teams in the Champions League so far this season. The five English teams lead their respective groups (in the case of Tottenham Hotspur the lead is shared with Real Madrid, but still). One could argue that the competition has been substandard, that Premiership teams have been spared teams like Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich of Paris Saint Germain. But this would be unfair. Chelsea won at Atletico Madrid. Tottenham dominated Borussia Dortmund on a ground, Wembley Stadium, where Spurs are supposed to be jinxed. More recently Tottenham proved themselves every bit Real Madrid's equal at the Estadio Bernabeu. Worth noting that Real is unbeaten in its last eight Champions League home games.

But Tottenham are not England's best team (sorry fellow Spurs supporters. We're good but we're not that good). Nor are Chelsea (sorry not sorry Chelski fans), who blew a two-goal lead at Stamford Bridge last night before Hazard's second goal won them the point against Roma. This year the two Manchester clubs are head and shoulders above the rest and will in all likelihood decide the title between them. Man City have been the more impressive of the two. Pep Guardiola's side are unbeaten in all competition, with a home draw to Everton on Aug. 21 the lone blemish. Since Sept. 1 they have reeled off nine wins in a row by a combined score of 34-4. On Tuesday night they made short work of Napoli, who currently top Italy's Serie A table.

All of which speaks to a resurgence of English clubs in continental competition. A sorely needed one because since Chelsea's triumph in 2012 Premiership teams have managed just two semifinal appearances in the Champions League, losing both. The last time multiple English teams made the semis? In 2009, when three did (back then Arsenal were even good enough for the task. How times have changed. Nowadays Gunners don't seem capable of making the Europa League semifinals, or much of anything else for that matter). It's been a long drought but indications are it may be nearing its end.

No comments:

Post a Comment