With obliterating 6-0 and 4-0 results from Chelsea and Manchester City, a 3-0 from Man U, as well as a thrilling display of attacking power in Tottenham’s 3-1 victory, Premier League teams in the 2017-2018 Champions League seem poised to contend beyond the group stage this year. Along with Liverpool salvaging a point in a draw against Sevilla, English teams were undefeated in the CL’s first week of action.
European heavyweights Bayern Munich (James Rodriguez) and Paris St. Germain (Mbappe, Neymar) made high-profile additions ahead of this year’s CL. With young stars like Asensio and Lucas Vasquez seeing more time in the absence of James, reigning champs Real Madrid are virtually unchanged. Along with second-tier clubs such as Roma, Atletico Madrid, and Dortmund coming off of strong finishes to their domestic league seasons, this year’s competition is quite stiff.
Three teams in Chelsea’s group were given greater than a 25 percent chance of finishing first as recently as September 10. Bayern and PSG will go head-to-head in their group, and Real Madrid have to deal with a hungry Spurs team and a historically young and pesky Dortmund side. Even by Champions League standards, this year’s tournament is unpredictable. The underperformance of Premier League clubs in recent years felt appropriate to expect, but the flashy moves of Europe’s favorites overshadowed the very serious leveling-up that happened among England’s best this past summer.
The additions each English team in the CL made have been relatively low-budget—anything is low budget when 200 million euros (Neymar) is the standard—but high in impact. Mastermind managers like Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are finding comfort in their second years with new clubs, finally seeing the full potential of their schemes manifesting. Here’s a list of the most significant acquisitions made by the five English clubs in the CL this summer:
- Davinson Sanchez and Serge Aurier (TOT): With a combined transfer fee total of 65 million pounds, the Colombian centerback and French fullback have added dependable strength and skill to the Spurs defense.
- Mohamed Salah (LIV): For 34 million pounds, the former Roma star has already given Liverpool 4 goals and an assist through 5 matches in all competitions.
- Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, and Bernardo Silva (MNC): 148 million pounds isn’t so steep after seeing the quality these three have added to Guardiola’s ruthless-looking City side. Two of the world’s best fullbacks and a young, world-class attacking midfielder to soon replace the aging David Silva have allowed City to play devastating free-flowing football en route to the most goals scored in the Premier League so far this season.
- David Zappacosta, Tiemeu Bakayoko, and Álvaro Morata (CHE): 121 million pounds bought Chelsea crazy depth in their already talented backline and midfield, as well as 3 goals and 2 assists in just 5 Premier League matches from the man who scored 20 goals in all competitions for Real Madrid last season as Ronaldo’s backup.
- Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic (MNU): 110 million pounds seems fair for last year’s top goalscorer in the Premier League, as well as an experienced, playmaking defensive midfielder who’s won the league twice, including once with Mourinho while at Chelsea. Lukaku’s goal-scoring pace hasn’t slowed down, and Matic has been an incisive distributor of the ball alongside an in-form Paul Pogba for this charged-up Red Devils lineup that currently shares the league’s top spot with their blue Manchester rivals.
European football is always in flux, but England’s 2017-18 Champions League clubs seem to be taking more solid, long-term forms. It still might be a year or two before any of these teams can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Real Madrid, Barça, or Bayern, but crazier things have happened.
Champions League action returns next Tuesday, September 26.