Five English Clubs, Five Chances For Heartbreak In Champions League

England is throwing numbers at its Champions League challenge.

With Liverpool’s 6-3 aggregate pasting of Hoffenheim on Wednesday, the English Premier League put five clubs in the Champions League for the first time. That’s five chances for English fans to cry over their clubs failing to come through in the continental competition.

Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 but since then English clubs have barely sniffed the final. In 2015, no EPL team even made it past the Round of 16.  The days of 2008 — when the EPL had three of the four semifinalists, including both teams in the final — are barely visible in the rearview mirror. 

Manchester City and Chelsea have both made semifinals since 2012 but in that span the other three major leagues (Spain, Germany, Italy) have all won titles or been to the final multiple times. Bayern Munich won an all-Germany final in 2013, Juventus has reached two of the last three finals and Spain is dominating everyone, winning the last four Champions League crowns. 

So England is hoping throwing numbers at the problem will solve their woes. Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City earned spots in the group stage through the final league standings while Liverpool qualified through an extra playoff. The fifth spot became available because of Manchester United’s victory in the Europa League. 

With an unprecedented number of clubs in the tournament (nearly 16 percent of the 32 teams), it’s essentially a Zerg rush for England to attempt to regain dominance in the world’s premier club competition. 

According to FiveThirtyEight’s ranking of 426 clubs, the clubs have their work cut out for them. No English team is ranked in the top six by the website, with Manchester City the highest at No. 7, followed immediately by Manchester United and Chelsea. Tottenham is No. 14 and Liverpool 18, right behind Benfica, which has never been past the quarterfinals. 

The English quintet will find out the Champions League groups Thursday, with Chelsea likely to get the kindest draw based on earning a spot in the first pot as league champion. 

Based on the numbers from the people who know numbers as good as anyone, don’t go tattooing “Manchester United — 2018 Champions League Champions” on your neck anytime soon. 

All that said, England has a strong probability of winning the Europa League based on the same numbers. Arsenal is rated No. 15, the highest of any Europa League entrant. So on the bright side, England has a great chance to get five clubs into the Champions League next season. Who knew Zerging was an appropriate tactic for European football?

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