If the Premier League is the best in the world, why do Liverpool, United & City underachieve in the Champions League?

One year, it’s two of the worst goalkeeping blunders you’ll ever see from Loris Karius – four years later, it’s one of the all-time great Champions League final performances by a goalkeeper from Thibaut Courtois. Every final is different, with so many in the last two decades potentially going another way if not for one-off moments of magic or bits of luck here and there.

And yet one pattern is the same – despite the Premier League getting stronger and stronger, our clubs continue to underachieve on the European stage.

Since 2004, we’ve had eleven Champions League finals involving English clubs. Of those, there were three all-English finals. From the other eight, we have just two wins, both on penalties – Liverpool against AC Milan in 2005, and Chelsea against Bayern Munich in 2012.

It seems noteworthy that both those wins, as well as Chelsea’s over Manchester City last season, came at a time when those teams were quite a long way off being at their best in the Premier League. Could it actually be that the intense competition of the English top flight means our clubs are just too exhausted in comparison to their European rivals once we get to these games at the end of the season?

Liverpool certainly started well last night, but looked tired, and struggled more as the game went on. This is hardly surprising, given that they played 63 games in all competitions in 2021/22, to Real Madrid’s 56, with both of their domestic cup final wins going to extra time and an extremely close title race going to the final day. It sounds silly to say it, but have Jurgen Klopp’s men suffered from being too good?

Rival fans will make predictable jokes about Liverpool bottling it when it mattered most, but the fact is that this team was just one point away from the title, and lost by only a one-goal margin in the Champions League final, where they were largely the better team even if not at their full-flowing best. Their points tally in the league would have seen them finish above Arsenal’s Invincibles, Manchester United’s treble winners, and many other of the country’s great teams, but it now seems the Premier League has become so competitive that it’s costing its clubs on the European stage.

Similarly, great Man United teams managed by Sir Alex Ferguson were thoroughly outplayed by Barcelona in two finals. Pep Guardiola, the manager of Barca in those two finals, has not been able to juggle league and European success in the same way at Man City, such is the insane level of intensity required to pull away from Liverpool in the Premier League.

Not being involved in a title race has proven a blessing in disguise for England’s recent European winners – Liverpool finished 5th in 2004/05, while Chelsea finished 6th and 4th respectively in the years they won the competition. It shouldn’t make much logical sense that our fifth or sixth best teams should be able to be crowned champions of Europe while our better teams struggle when facing their European counterparts, and yet there does seem to be a bit of a pattern there.

The Premier League continues to go from strength to strength, with many of the best players and managers in the world now working in England. Man City and Liverpool are some way out it in front of the rest, but have little to show for it in Europe. This is now their biggest challenge, and it will be interesting to see if it’s one they can learn how to overcome in the next few years.

The post If the Premier League is the best in the world, why do Liverpool, United & City underachieve in the Champions League? appeared first on CaughtOffside.

If the Premier League is the best in the world, why do Liverpool, United & City underachieve in the Champions League?