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Could This Be The Year That Premier League Clubs Rejoin Europe’s Elite?

CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 03: The Real Madrid team pose 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. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

In the 24 years since being rebranded as the Champions League, only three Premier League clubs have claimed Europe’s highest honour.

And in recent years, English representation in the latter stages of the competition has been infrequent with only Chelsea and Manchester City progressing beyond the quarter final stage in the last half decade.

English football has been straggling a long way behind Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona in the recent past and, for the longest time, there was nothing to suggest that this might change.

When Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barca side ruled the world it was impossible to see the Premier League’s finest ever coming close to their lofty standards.

As Cristiano Ronaldo and co thrust Real Madrid to yet another European title, there weren’t too many who believed that a Manchester City or an Arsenal could be the ones to displace them.

But in 2017, things could be about to change.

The Catalan magicians have lost some of the lustre of yesteryear. As Neymar departed for Paris in a blaze of cash and acrimony, Barcelona were left to dwell on their place in a new footballing world order.

For Barcelona had always represented the apex of a superstar’s career. Once a player had donned the famous striped shirt as Cruyff, Stoichkov and Romario had before them, there was no other direction in which their careers could go except for down.

And yet here was their most prized asset, lured away to a burgeoning superpower with Barcelona powerless to prevent it.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid made an inauspicious start to their La Liga title defence and suddenly appear fallible. Although they are blessed with some of the world’s greatest players, their draws against Levante and Valencia, along with their defeat to Real Betis, show that the side are not as consistently brilliant as they were a matter of months ago.

And for their part, the Premier League clubs are growing stronger. Both Manchester clubs have recruited well over the summer and look stronger now than they have in years. Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool would be outside contenders for the Champions League but over the course of a knockout tie could easily unsettle a European heavyweight.

A total of five Premier League clubs are competing at the group stages at present and it would not be at all surprising if all five progressed to the round of sixteen.

And just consider the quality of footballer that will represent the Premier League in Europe this season.

Harry Kane is becoming as prolific a goal-scorer as you are likely to find anywhere in the world right now. Barcelona and Real Madrid would struggle to stymie a striker as direct and powerful as Kane.

Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have the intelligence and class to pick apart the most tenacious Italian defence.

On top of that, Romelu Lukaku, Sadio Mane and Alexandre Lacazette are among the most explosive creative players on the scene right now.

The gulf between the two Spanish giants and the rest is beginning to lessen. Paris Saint Germain may appear the most likely beneficiaries of any Spanish decline. But for the first time in years, the Premier League clubs are beginning to emerge as realistic contenders.

The most successful managers now operate in the Premier League as do many of the most promising footballers. It is time to stand and be counted in Europe and reclaim their former glory.

Kevin Boyle, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

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