Sam Wallace: Is the power of the Premier League in Europe waning?

Even if there were four English teams left, it is doubtful if any would be able to beat Barca

You have to go back 12 years to the 1999-2000 season, and through a few changes in formats to the Champions League, for the last time English football only had two contenders in the second round proper of the competition. The two survivors were Manchester United and Chelsea who made it through to the second group stage, as it was then, and were both eventually knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Some will tell you that the years since then have been the golden years for English football in Europe, when there have been three or four clubs from the Premier League in the first knockout round of the competition as a matter of course. That culminated in 2009 when three English clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United – reached the semi-finals, although it was Barcelona who eventually won the competition.

Today, in Nyon at the draw for the first knockout round of the Champions League – the final 16 – there will be only two Premier League clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea. That puts England on a par with Germany, Spain and Russia and one behind Italy who, with Milan, Internazionale and Napoli still in it, has more clubs in the final 16 than any other nation. The big question is: does this depleted representation have a wider significance for the standing of the Premier League?

At Premier League headquarters they would be delighted with an all-English line-up in the semi-finals of the competition one day, if only because of the annoyance it would provoke in Michel Platini, the Uefa president. As for English football fans themselves, that kind of dominance by one league strikes them as, at best, irrelevant. They want the best for their club and, beyond self-interest, most only want the very worst for their domestic rivals.

Nevertheless, as it stands, English football seems further away than it was two years ago from an all-English final four. The two representatives left in the competition this season also look less capable of winning it than they were five years ago. Arsenal reached the final in 2006, but since then their record has been elimination in the first knockout round, quarter-final, semi-final, quarter-final, and the first knockout round.

Last year Arsenal went out to Barcelona in the first knockout round of the competition, with Robin Van Persie sent off in the first leg. The departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri make them a weaker side than that of 12 months ago even allowing for the emergence of some of their younger players this season.

As for Chelsea, who have only just steadied their form in the Premier League, their equivalent record is elimination/defeat in the semi-final, final, semi-final, first knockout round and the quarter-finals. Neither of these sides have shown signs in the past two years that they are slowly building towards winning the competition. If anything they are going in the opposite direction.

But is English football's impact in the Champions League in decline? The first obvious truth is that everyone is in Barcelona's shadow and even if there were still four English teams left in the competition it would still be doubtful whether any of them were capable of beating the defending champions. Secondly, Manchester City have only had one season in the Champions League and they are sure to come back stronger next year.

While City did not make anything like the impact of Tottenham Hotspur, who reached the quarter-finals in their first Champions League season earlier this year, City were the victims of a tough group and only earned one fewer point (10) than Spurs did the previous season. It is hard to imagine City doing worse next season. The same goes for Manchester United, despite their group stage elimination this month. If anything those two sides are best placed of the four to re-equip themselves next time round.

Curiously only two of the teams who are seeded in today's draw – the group winners – are current champions of their respective domestic championships. They are Barcelona and the unlikely group G winners Apoel from Cyprus who have never reached this stage before. Ironically it is Apoel whom every team seeded in the second pot will hope to draw today.

There are three national champions in the second pot – Milan, Basle and Zenit St Petersburg – but the old fib about this being the "Champions League" is borne out again this year.

The champions of England, France, Germany, Portugal and Holland are already out. There are three teams in the final 16 who finished third in their domestic leagues last season and it is one of them, Napoli, who along with Milan, will be the teams to avoid for Arsenal and Chelsea.

Italy also had three representatives in the competition's knockout stage last season and none made it beyond the quarter-finals. Two teams in the knockout stages this season is not terminal for English football, although none of them would want it to become a regular occurrence.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own