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5 reasons why Premier League sides struggle in the Champions League knockout stages

Since 2012, English sides have failed to make any impact in the Champions Leauge knockout stages

Premier League EPL clubs struggle Champions League
Arsenal have fallen at the Round of 16 hurdle in the last seven seasons

Once upon a time, the Premier League’s traditional ‘Big Four’ marched into the quarter-finals of the Champions League on a regular basis and it usually threw up at least one all-England draw in the last eight. Between 2006 and 2011, clubs from the self-proclaimed ‘Best League in the World’ reached the quarter-finals 16 times.

However, that trend has now stopped and English sides no longer pose a threat in the continental competition. Between 2012 and 2017, you can literally count on your fingers the number of times Premier League teams have reached quarter-finals – five times.

The era of English dominance in the knockout stages is now gone. Since Chelsea’s win in 2012, no English club has reached the final. We look at five reasons why; most of which revolve around one major factor (*cough money cough*).


1) The Premier League is just more lucrative

Tottenham EPL UCL
Tottenham Hotspur perform better in the Premier League than in the Champions League

Ever since television companies made those astounding billion-pound bids to claim rights to broadcast the Premier League, everyone’s pockets have bulged (except the poor fans who are forced to shell out insane amounts of money for tickets and subscriptions). 

When the revenue from the Champions League and Premier League are compared, the scales are tipped heavily in favour of the English sides. 

Picture this: when Real Madrid won the Champions League last year, they received approximately £81m in prize money and TV revenue distribution. In contrast, every club in the Premier League received £51m just from domestic and overseas TV rights alone.

Even relegated clubs such as Aston Villa and Norwich City earned a total of £66-67m. The top five clubs earned a minimum of £93m.

When finishing higher in the league is a lot more lucrative than going further in the Champions League, it creates a system where clubs prioritise the cut-throat competition that is the Premier League, focusing on domestic opponents when they know they can’t go all the way in Europe. 

It’s not quite the same in La Liga where top teams almost always win and tend to relax when they have a safe lead. Even a 4-0 lead is not safe in the Premier League (just ask Arsene Wenger).

“In Spain, you can be up at half-time against the bottom club and take your foot off the gas. You can rest players and take people off. If you try for 45 minutes you won't win a match in the Premier League.” – Gareth Bale

Tottenham Hotspur is a prime example; a club that finds itself in the football version of the Mobius Strip where they perform well in the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League – only to perform poorly in the group stages and then play for a top four spot to qualify again. You get the picture. 

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