Despite English clubs disastrous recent history in the UEFA Champions League, the influx of high profile managers and a new £8 billion TV deal have significantly changed the picture over the summer. Can an English club win the Champions League 2017?
Not unlike their title pursuit last season, nothing is expected of Claudio Ranieri’s side and thus they should flourish in an unpressured environment. And the fans will certainly enjoy their season travelling around Europe – not least because they have been handed pleasant city breaks to Bruges, Copenhagen and Porto. Porto represents the toughest challenge for Claudio Ranieri. Porto beat Chelsea 2-1 at the Estadio do Dragao last season in the Champions League and have advanced from the group stages twice in the last five years. Copenhagen have only made it this far three times in their entire history, whilst Club Brugge are making their first appearance in ten years; neither team is more qualified than Leicester, and thus the English champions will fancy their chances. In front of a raucous crowd, Leicester should be able to collect several wins against both of these clubs.
Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted with the simple group his team have been handed and thus will expect qualification. Spurs have only played in the European Cup once since 1962, but reached the quarter-finals under Harry Redknapp in 2011. Bayern Leverkusen is certainly the most difficult fixture for Tottenham. The German outfit did not lose a single game in Europe last season, despite facing the likes of Barcelona, Roma, and Villarreal. Pochettino's team are unlikely to finish above Leverkusen, but should still squeeze into the second round. Monaco were thrashed 4-1 by Spurs in last season’s Europa League and have not notably improved since then, whilst CSKA Moscow are traditionally the whipping boys in the Champions League group stages. Spurs must collect six points from the Russians to ensure safe passage to the last 16.
ArsenalArsene Wenger's record in the Champions League has never been particularly good, but in recent years he has struggled to even get out of the group stages. Arsenal have not topped the group since 2011/12 and have only advanced to the last 16 via goal difference in two of the last three seasons. Paris St-Germain will almost certainly top the group this time such is their tremendous strength in depth and the excellent European record of new coach Unai Emery. Arsenal’s poor away form in Europe makes defeat in Paris likely.
Pep Guardiola's match-up with former club Barcelona has grabbed the headlines in Group C, but Manchester City should comfortably qualify regardless of their results against Luis Enrique’s side. Pep's only previous trip to the Nou Camp since leaving the club in 2012 was an embarrassing 3-0 defeat as Bayern Munich manager two years ago. Another calamity is certainly possible (big games involving Guardiola are notoriously difficult to predict) but they should be able to match Barcelona on home territory.
Borussia Monchengladbach lost 15 league matches last season and finished with just 55 points from 34 games in the Bundesliga. They have shown significant improvement since Andre Schubert took charge, but are still unlikely to make an impact in Europe this year. Similarly, Celtic will largely find themselves out of their depth against such elite opposition. City should win all four of these games.