How far will the Premier League five go?

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

The Champions League gets back underway this week and with five English teams in the last 16, the Premier League would seem to have its best chance of winning the trophy for the first time in six years.

The action gets underway on Tuesday night when two of England’s representatives play their Round of 16 first-leg ties.

Tottenham travel to Italy to face last year’s defeated finalists Juventus while runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City face Basel in Switzerland.

FOX Sports Asia’s Richard Hazeldine consults the crystal ball to give his verdict on the prospects of England’s finest.

Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s side have been scoring goals for fun all season in the Premier League and while Champions League defences present a different kind of challenge, with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling ably supported by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and David Silva the Citizens definitely have enough firepower to trouble Europe’s best and should see off Basel to make the last eight.

The one area where question marks remain is City’s defence. Largely untroubled domestically thanks to City’s dominance in possession, it could be a different story should they come up against the quality of a Real Madrid, PSG or Bayern Munich in later rounds. Despite spending big on defensive reinforcements, the Citizens’ backline still does not look strong enough to take them all the way.
Verdict: Last eight exit

Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino takes his side into the knockout stages for the first time (second time for Spurs overall) after an impressive group stage campaign that saw them top Group H following a 3-1 win over Real Madrid at Wembley.

Last year’s finalists will present a stern test for Spurs, who have been in good form recently with victories over Arsenal and Manchester United in the Premier League.

While Spurs undoubtedly have quality in attack, Harry Kane will endure his toughest test so far against the experienced Giorgio Chiellini. It will be interesting to see how he fares.

Pochettino has done a great job turning Spurs into title challengers at home, but an experienced Juventus side with their recent European pedigree may prove too much this time around for the Argentine’s young squad.
Verdict: Another early exit for the Londoners

Liverpool
Another side with dazzling riches in attack despite the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, Jurgen Klopp’s men have the firepower to outscore almost any team in Europe.

Like Man City, the area that could prove to be their downfall is defence. Liverpool’s backline has been a problem ever since Klopp took over and he has faced much criticism for his failure to deal with it. The recent signing of Virgil Van Dyck is an obvious move to remedy Liverpool’s leaking defence and his presence could give the Reds a much needed boost in Europe.

With a last-16 tie against an unspectacular Porto side, Klopp must be quietly confident of progression and a win could give the team confidence to go further.
Verdict: A run to the semi-finals, maybe further.

Chelsea
Antonio Conte’s side enter the last-16 in the midst of a troubling spell. Chelsea’s domestic form has been very patchy, and although Monday’s win over West Brom will help their confidence, Conte’s position still appears to be under threat.

Chelsea have one of the toughest draws in that they face a Barcelona side that is unbeaten in La Liga. One thing that Chelsea do have going for them, however, is recent history. Chelsea have the upper hand over the Spaniards with four wins, compared to three for Barca, in the last 12 meetings between the two sides. While Lionel Messi is yet to register against the Blues in eight games (the most he has faced any club without scoring.)

The psychological aspect of the game is not to be underestimated, and if Conte can manage to push the right buttons then a galvanised Chelsea could pull off a surprise or two.
Verdict: A surprise run to the semis, possible finalists.

Manchester United
Last year’s Europa League winners enter the group stage with expectations among fans low compared to other years. The Premier League seems to be out of reach, so that could see United repeat their strategy of last season to concentrate on the Champions League.

Jose Mourinho knows what it takes to win Europe’s ultimate prize, and although on paper the squad is certainly talented enough to go deep, questions remain over whether this United side has the resilience to match their coach’s lofty expectations.

The Red Devils should be able to see off Sevilla, but do they have enough to handle some of Europe’s bigger clubs in the next round? The answer is probably no.
Verdict: Quarter-final exit for Jose’s boys.

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