Chelsea – Champions League Semi-Finals
Chelsea are going into this seasons Champions League as the Premier League champions. Whilst they haven’t perhaps secured all the targets they’d have wanted, the first XI is still there to achieve great things in Europe. They’re definitely good enough to win it, but a slight lack of squad depth may hinder their chances. Antonio Conte’s black mark on his CV is his failure to really hit the heights expected in Europe, but this Chelsea squad have experienced success to some degree or another in Europe with Courtois, Cahill, Luiz, Fabregas, Pedro and Morata all having won the trophy or at least gone very far in it before.
Tottenham – Last 16
If Tottenham click they could do brilliantly in this seasons competition, but the odds look against them already. Having been given a horrible group including trips to Madrid and Dortmund, Spurs already look favourites to beat Arsenal to the Europa League. If they do qualify, it would be a terrific achievement fending off the competition they’ll be facing. However, finishing 2nd will only put them up against another group winner and Spurs’ record in European competitions over the last few years is nothing to shout home about. They can do well but it doesn’t look plain sailing at all.
Manchester City – Quarter Finals
City and Guardiola need to focus on domestic success this season, despite the City owners desperately wanting the Champions League trophy. When they’re dominating in England, they’ll be ready to take on the European giants, but for me they’re not quite there yet. Defensive problems continue and if the top English clubs don’t punish you then be sure likes of Bayern, Barca and Real Madrid will. As with Spurs and Chelsea, City can go far if things go their way, but I fear there are too many big teams waiting to expose their weaknesses.
Manchester United – Semi Finals
Man Utd are the Europa League champions and it shouldn’t be undervalued how much that experience can help when entering a Champions League campaign. We’ve seen Atletico Madrid reap the rewards of taking the Europa League seriously and United may do the same. The squad is there, but so is the balance. They know how to defend and won’t be easily intimidated by other European Giants. Mourinho knows how to do well in this competition, and I think the physical presence of Lukaku, Pogba, Matic and Bailly in their spine will be the basis for a really solid set of performances in Europe this year.
Liverpool – Quarter Finals
Sevilla and Spartak Moscow will make it hard for the Reds but ultimately they should finish top of their group, play a second placed team and make it to the quarters. Klopp’s intense pressing style will be challenged as Liverpool rack up the games, but the squad depth is there now when it hadn’t been before. Liverpool’s style leaves them a bit too exposed against the big sides and they’ll be punished for it. I expect City to stand more of a chance against the bigger clubs simply because they’ve got stronger defenders and a more efficient strike force to cause their opposition problems, but Liverpool will still be a threat for whoever steps up against them.
Celtic – Europa League Place
I think Rogers’ side will step up and play their part in a competitive group with Bayern and PSG, but ultimately fall short and settle for a Europa League place. Anderlecht won’t be easy at all, but the Scots have real confidence going into this seasons Champions League and Celtic Park will be buzzing on these Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I think they’d take a Europa League place if they were offered it, because they may end up with nothing if they don’t turn up.
Arsenal – Europa League Winners
There are some really tough teams standing in Arsenal’s way for a European trophy, but they should still consider themselves at least one of the favourites. They’ve got the players. the squad depth, and the added incentive of a Champions League place to give them the motivation they need to go far in this competition. As we said about Man Utd, the Europa League is a good opportunity to get the practice and experience you need to succeed over two legs in the Champions League, something Arsenal haven’t done for a long time.
Everton – Europa League Challengers
Everton have spent a lot of money this summer and the improvements need to be reflected in one way or another. A cup run in the Carabao Cup or FA Cup would do them a lot of good, as any signs of a Premier League table climb seem unlikely with all their rivals above strengthening as well. A run in the Europa League would be a huge statement to clubs and players in Europe, as they slowly start to attract bigger players and further build their reputation world-wide. This season is just another stepping stone for Everton – I don’t expect them to get to the level they want to be at for another 2 years at least.