The Champions League group stages kicked-off last night with both Manchester City and Manchester United suffering 2-1 defeats.
City suffered a defeat against Italian champions Juventus at the Etihad Stadium, while United were beaten by Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadion.
Defeats for English clubs in Europe has become quite commonplace in recent years. At one stage the Premier League team dominated the Champions League, but for the last few seasons they have struggled to make an impact on the competition.
Last season Liverpool failed to make it out of the group stage, while Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea all fell at the first knockout stage. It was clear to see that the Premier League was lagging behind its continental rivals.
Premier League teams have been showered with money in recent season, through sponsorship and television revenue. The likes of Manchester City and Manchester United spent big in the transfer market, yet both somehow managed to lose their opening games of the Champions League.
The two defeats were of a very different nature though. Manchester City may have been playing a slightly new-look Juventus, but a number of the players featured during the Bianconeri’s journey to last year’s final played about against the Citizens.
The Italian team simply have more European nous, which City has been lacking at times in their Champions League campaigns. Juventus displayed at the Etihad Stadium just why they made it to the final last season.
City for all their spending, still lack that European know-how to be successful in the Champions League, even with a seasoned boss in Manuel Pellegrini at the helm.
The City players seem to freeze in the Champions League. A team that has looked so impressive so far this season in the Premier League struggles on the big stage, against a Juve team that has made a poor start to the defence of their Serie A crown.
United were favourites to go to Eindhoven and claim victory over PSV, but came a cropper despite taking the lead through former-PSV star Memphis Depay.
PSV were outstanding last season and won the Dutch Eredivisie. Their two key players from last season Depay and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum moved on to the Premier League, which should have made their team weaker.
However, Philip Cocu’s team defied the odds and claimed victory over Louis van Gaal’s team, who are still attempting to hit top form.
Even in the recent victory over Liverpool, United were unconvincing and again the Red Devils produced an under-par performance in Holland. The Red Devils should still be aiming to win the group, but they must improve immensely if they are to top Group D.
The two other English teams in the Champions League feature in tonight’s matches, as Chelsea host Maccabi Tel Aviv and Arsenal visit Dinamo Zagreb. Both London sides will be expected to win their games.
Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea have struggled this season, making their worse start to a top-flight campaign in over 20 years. On paper the game should not even be a contest and the Blues should claim a comfortable victory.
If reports are to be believed then Blues boss Jose Mourinho could be ready to make big changes to his starting line-up for tonight’s clash.
Arsenal are a team who annually qualify from the Champions League group stages, usually by finishing second in their group just like last season and then fail at the last 16 stage.
The trip to Croatia’s capital should hold no fear for Arsene Wenger’s side, as the Gunners seem to be rediscovering their form and have claimed consecutive victories in the Premier League. They have also kept clean sheets in their last three matches.
Many critics of the Premier League say that it is overrated and over-hyped. English teams performances in the Champions League over the past few years have done little to dispel that theory.
English teams need to start putting in better performances in Europe’s elite competition, or the Premier League may soon lose one of valuable Champions League spots, which could prove very costly to some clubs.
Will English teams fare better in the Champions League this season than last?