England will have five teams in the round of 16 of the Champions League when the draw for the first knockout stage is made on Monday.
It will be the first time that any nation has had as many teams in the last 16 of European football’s premier competition. Here, we look at the strengths and weaknesses of England’s representatives.
Strengths: Chelsea have the experience to go deep in the competition and possess a winning mentality after coasting to the Premier League title last season. Antonio Conte’s tactical knowledge will also stand them in good stead in two-legged ties. Plenty of cutting edge, too, with the outstanding Eden Hazard’s creative brilliance supplemented by the scoring touch of Alvaro Morata.
Weaknesses: The demands of balancing the Premier League and Champions League have put a strain on the squad. If injuries and suspensions hit, Chelsea might be light in some areas — underlining the fears that Conte had over what he perceived as a lack of transfer activity last summer. Eight goals conceded in six group games also suggests a vulnerability at the heart of the defence.
Strengths: As ever, no opponent will relish visiting Anfield and contending with one of the most fevered atmospheres on Champions League nights. On the pitch, Liverpool’s attacking armoury will also test the best. The “Fab Four” of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are capable of destroying any defence.
Weaknesses: Jurgen Klopp has simply been unable to find the formula for Liverpool to stop leaking goals — often at an alarming rate. Losing a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 in Sevilla summed up the panic which often exists in the Reds’ rearguard. Be it defending set-pieces or just making daft individual errors, it is an area which has continually undermined Liverpool’s rich form at the other end.
Strengths: Pep Guardiola was a two-time Champions League-winning coach at Barcelona and his principles based on keeping possession have created slick football at the Etihad Stadium. City have outstanding playmakers in Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, as well as pace and goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling out wide. Add the firepower of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus and it is an intoxicating mix.
Weaknesses: The defence — particularly if injury-prone captain Vincent Kompany is absent — can be exposed. Nicolas Otamendi has improved but can be guilty of making rash decisions, the back-up defensive cover is not great, and being punished at set-pieces has become a regular theme. Guardiola must also cope with the expectation sure to come on his side during the tournament’s latter stages.
Strengths: Jose Mourinho has built a trademark team, one based on solid defensive organisation and raw physical power. United conceded only three goals in winning their group and probably have the best goalkeeper in world football in David De Gea. Mourinho has tasted Champions League glory at Monaco and Inter Milan and his tactical ability to influence the biggest games endures.
Weaknesses: Despite the good form of veterans Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, the suspicion remains that United are short in the full-back areas. So much so that Mourinho will probably continue to target this department in the next transfer window. United have plenty of forward options, but do they have the striker to make the difference with Romelu Lukaku yet to prove that he can puncture the top defences?
Strengths: Any side with Harry Kane in it can be relied upon to score goals. Kane’s lethal finishing saw Spurs finish above European champions Real Madrid in their section, proving that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are no respecters of reputation. The guile of Christian Eriksen can also unlock defences, as can a fully-firing Dele Alli, and Tottenham’s team ethic is capable of taking them a long way.