Published On: Thu, Sep 28th, 2017

Faith restored: Premier League clubs poised to challenge in Europe again

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Not since Chelsea won the Champions League in 2011-12 has a Premier League club reached the competition’s final. In the five years since that unlikely triumph, England’s biggest outfits have all capitulated in the face of Europe’s best.

But something is different this year. Through two matchdays, none of the Premier League’s five representatives in the tournament have lost. They’ve collected 26 out of a possible 30 points, some of them coming in tough atmospheres away from home.

Liverpool‘s the only exception. Jurgen Klopp’s men failed to make the most of their opportunities and had to share points with Sevilla and Spartak Moscow.

For the rest of the pack, there’s sky-high optimism moving forward. Here’s what each side has done to re-establish their continental credentials:

United displaying scoring prowess

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho need not worry about complacency in the final third. Weeks after he criticised his players for indulging in “Playstation football,” the Red Devils carved up CSKA Moscow within the first 30 minutes.

With Ashley Young and Daley Blind occupying the flanks in a 3-4-3 formation, both Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan enjoyed more time and space in central areas, along with support from their wider teammates.

Romelu Lukaku continued to prove himself as a capable poacher as well. It may not be fancy, but his exploits in the box are efficient. He’s now scored 10 goals in his first 10 competitive appearances for United.

Yet more encouragement came in the form of Martial, whose reclamation project is coming together well. By whipping inviting crosses with his right foot, the Frenchman set up both of Lukaku’s goals. He seemed freer than he’s been all season in the Russian capital.

Chelsea playing like a unit

Unintimidated by Atletico Madrid‘s new ground, Chelsea staged a complete 90-minute performance at the Wanda Metropolitano. The visitor asserted its dominance in midfield, with Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante, and Tiemoue Bakayoko eating up space. Chelsea’s intensity level rivalled Atletico’s on its best day – and Wednesday clearly wasn’t.

Kante played further up than usual, while Fabregas dropped back to facilitate the passing game as Chelsea’s deep-lying midfielder. Eden Hazard, back from ankle surgery, chased and harried his opponents while providing vital support to standalone striker Alvaro Morata.

Even though the Blues conceded first, they were the better team. Second-half goals from Morata and substitute Michy Batshuayi ensured the result ended in Chelsea’s favour.

Guardiola’s philosophy working at City

In one of Manchester City‘s most fashionable outings since the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008, Pep Guardiola’s scintillating side ripped apart Feyenoord – the reigning Dutch champion – on the first matchday. The Spaniard’s thirst for flowing football was quenched, as City threaded passes and attacked the goal with wicked ruthlessness. It was a night that affirmed Guardiola’s philosophy had come alive.

“It says a lot about how Guardiola wants to play and the number of players he commits to attack that centre-half John Stones should open and finish the scoring with two headers,” The Telegraph’s James Ducker wrote after the match.

Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk was much more workmanlike than the 4-0 evisceration of Feyenoord, but it kept City on the path to Group F supremacy.

Kane’s Tottenham alive in Group of Death

Perhaps Harry Kane will remember it as the siege in Cyprus. His perfect hat-trick against APOEL Nicosia – scored with both feet and his head – provided yet more supporting evidence that he’s now world-class.

Kane fueled wins over the Cypriot side, and more impressively, Borussia Dortmund, putting Tottenham in great position to escape from the Champions League’s Group of Death. With a pair of matches against Real Madrid up next – and domestic meetings with Liverpool and United sandwiched in between – Spurs needed a full six points heading into an unpredictable month of fixtures.

The fact that Tottenham dispatched APOEL with seven players unavailable should give manager Mauricio Pochettino plenty of encouragement. Even the likes of Moussa Sissoko, derided since his switch from Newcastle, began to show some mettle in midfield in the absence of Mousa Dembele.

But the night – just as the season has – belonged to Kane. With the English international scoring at a searing rate, there’s no telling how far Tottenham can go.

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