Soccer Saturday's Phil Thompson and Matt Le Tissier discuss the Premier League challenge and pick out their favourites for this season's Champions League.
How will each English team fare in the Champions League?
They enjoyed a wonderful time last year, getting to the final against Liverpool. It was incredible, but both teams struggled so badly in the group stages and just about qualified. Tottenham went on a fantastic journey after this, getting results against Manchester City and Ajax. Once you get a taste of it, there is an expectation on the players and staff that they want a bit more and want to taste it again. I can see them getting to the quarter final with no issues. I can see all of the English teams getting that far. A lot of the English teams are showing they are at the top of the tree again. I will not pass judgement on Tottenham or Arsenal quite yet as you have to see how things pan out over a couple of months and you can then see what their results, recruitment and management has been like. Mauricio Pochettino wants to see progression in the Champions League and if they can sustain a good fight for the Premier League title too. It is called ambition.
It becomes the expectation once more. After Kiev against Real Madrid, the fans were tentatively looking at hotels for Madrid the following year. As I know, as the expectation grips you, people are already thinking about Istanbul in nine months’ time. You get a feeling when you are playing in European competition on how you play and how you get results. The group stages have not been 100 per cent perfect, but nobody wants to play Liverpool in a two-leg knockout. The expectation is massive and I think if they were not to get to the semi-final then it would be a disappointment.
They still have good players. Whether they are going to be good enough offensively to score enough goals I am unsure. Chelsea are better than many clubs in Europe. Will they have enough firepower and creativity to go all the way? I don’t think so. There are vulnerabilities at the back for this team. It will be a difficult one, but Frank Lampard has known what he has had to work with, so he knows what to integrate into the team. Chelsea have not had the perfect start, but they performed extremely well against Liverpool in the Super Cup and the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United was not reflected in the scoreline, so it is not doom and gloom at Stamford bridge.
The expectation will weigh heavily on Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. It is what the owners want and desire. City have cracked the Premier League and the owners can see themselves in the VIP box at Istanbul. I think Guardiola would like it before he moves on to his next challenge, and the players have had a taste of it too. You have to have the heartbreak before you taste success. They have got close, but not close enough, so they could go further. They have the squad and have two teams which could play in the Champions League itself!
Who will win the Champions League?
I would like to think Manchester City and Liverpool will be there. I also think PSG and Barcelona will make up the other two spots. I wouldn’t bet against Liverpool. It is the required knack of winning it. Real Madrid had the knowledge and know-how to get results and it seems to be that way.
Verdict: Liverpool (13/2 with Sky Bet)
Matt Le Tissier
How do you think each English team will fare?
I think Manchester City will be one of the favourites for the competition, given what they have achieved in the Premier League over the last two seasons. You sometimes just need luck to progress into the final stages and they haven’t had that. They are too good of a side not to get to the final, and win it at some stage.
It is a huge ask to retain the trophy. I would still see them going deep into the tournament. They will be the team that everyone wants to beat and will be a scalp that every team will want to knock out.
It will be hard to replicate the standards they set with their defence of last season. They have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League yet and have looked shakier at times this season as they did during the whole of last year.
It will be difficult for Tottenham to hit the heights of last season. Tottenham had their fair share of luck and more last year so if Tottenham can get to the quarter final, then it would be a pass for them.
It will be a tough one for Frank Lampard. Having lost Eden Hazard and relying on the younger players, if Chelsea can get to the quarter final then that will be a good achievement too.
The youngsters might absolutely love it and not feel any pressure. Hopefully for Frank’s sake that might be the case.
Which team do you think will win the Champions League? One of English teams or European powerhouses?
I think we might be entering a phase of another country dominating, and I see this being the time for the English sides to reign supreme. It will only be a matter of time before Manchester City win it.
Verdict: A Liverpool v Manchester City final would be nice. (Sky Bet odds: 15/2 for all-England final)
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