UEFA Champions League 2018-19: Europe's power centre returns to England
Liverpool beat Bayern Munich in Round of 16 of this year's Champions League. Liverpool qualified for the quarterfinals for the second time in a row since 2008/09 season. Liverpool's qualification meant that there are four Premier League teams in the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since the 2008/09 season.
Three other teams then were Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Manchester United lost in the final to Barcelona in that season. The loss of Manchester United to Pep Guardiola's golden squad that season opened the door for Spanish clubs to dominate Europe's elite club competition. Spanish teams have crowded the quarterfinal line up since then.
Since the start of 2012/13 season, Spanish clubs took three of the eight spots available in the quarterfinals. Spanish teams have won five of the six titles in that period. Real Madrid won four of those and Barcelona the other. Two of the finals were an all-Spanish affair. Athletico Madrid was on losing side to Real Madrid on both occasions.
Bayern Munich was the one club that kept threatening the Spanish sides all these years. It could never break the jink after the title in 2012-13, when they beat Borussia Dortmund in the final. Chelsea was the last English side to win the Champions League. Their fairytale run under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo gave false hope of a resurgence of English domination in European football.
Premier League clubs have often complained about domestic fixtures being the reason for poor performances in Europe. The English sides play two domestic cup competitions, unlike the other European clubs. They do not enjoy the winter break. Injuries during the congested Christmas season gives credibility to the clubs' complains. FA has approved winter break from next season to address this issue.
Premier League has always been the most competitive league with six teams fighting for the title. Finishing high in the table gives more revenue for the Premier League clubs than winning Champions League. Arsene Wenger once pointed out that the team finishing at the rock bottom of Premier League can earn as much as the winner of Champions League. Money at stake in League makes the clubs prefer the domestic league to Champions League.
English clubs have found a way out to manage both competitions this season. Manchester City and Liverpool are fighting for the title against each other, while Spurs and United are fighting for the Champions League spot. Despite pressure to perform in the league, the four teams have shown their will to prove their worth in the highest level.
The Champions League draw assures a minimum of two English sides in the semifinals. If impossible happens, all four sides can make to the final four, assuring the trophy's return to England, one month before the final in Madrid.
All these four clubs have few of the greatest managers of the game. If they can realize their potential, we could very well witness the golden era of English football where Benítez, Wenger, and Ferguson fought for pride and titles, both in the country and the continent.