England sides must prioritise Champions League or will lose fourth place

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In the space of eight seasons, between 2004-05 and 2011-12, England had an incredible eight Champions League finalists. This included one all-English final and no fewer than three winners. It was arguably one of the most dominant periods by one nation in the competition's history, with many other semi-final appearances in amongst those results too.

Prior to this, with the likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Italian teams were seen as one of the mainstays of Europe's elite competition, alongside Spain and England. Those three giants of European football have 11 winners medals between them.

But after several poor performances in Europe, failing to get out of the group stages or making it further than the Last 16, Serie A lost one of their four Champions League places to the Germans.


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Only now are we beginning to see a reemergence of Italian club football and England are the nation next in line to lose that fourth place, something unthinkable just a few years ago.

English slump

In the 2011-12 season, Chelsea won it of course, but the following season they were knocked out in the group stages, with only Arsenal and Manchester United managing to get through, but they were subsequently eliminated in the Last 16.

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Fortunately for Chelsea, they went and won the Europa League instead, boosting England's ranking that season. If it wasn't for that, England may have lost their spot last season, particularly with the Italians doing so well in both the Champions League and Europa League in the previous campaign, they are hot on England's heels to leap above them.

It was a similar story last season. Liverpool failed to make it past the group stages and the rest were eliminated in the next round. As for Italy, Juventus may have been their only team in the competition, but they reached the final.

Whilst in the Europa League, Napoli and Fiorentina both reached the semi-finals and they had five teams in total in the Last 16. England only had Everton in that stage of the Europa League.

English teams have made a very poor start to this season's Champions League group stage, with only Chelsea avoiding defeat by beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Arsenal and Man United suffered away defeats to Dynamo Zagreb and PSV respectively, whilst Man City threw away a lead at home to last season's runners-up Juventus.

Lack of Europa success

Barring the season Chelsea won the Europa League, success in Europe's second tier competition has been hard to come by for English teams.

Most clubs tend to prioritise the league and even when they do appear to try and make an impact on the competition, they are largely unsuccessful. The Spanish on the hand, whilst being relentless in reaching semi-finals and finals of the Champions League, have managed to replicate this success in the Europa League too.

An incredible seven of the last 12 editions of the Europa League have been won by Spanish teams. In that time, they've also had two all-Spanish finals and Sevilla have won in each of the last two years.

Liverpool and Spurs are the Premier League's representatives this season, comfortably the two biggest clubs in England outside of the top four, but they are unlikely to want to take it too seriously as they have hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. But this is to the detriment of the English league and also to themselves.

Realistically, they only have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in fourth place, but if only the top three qualify, their chances are even further reduced.

Southampton and West Ham failed to qualify for the group stages, further adding to England's woes.

Italy have another strong showing this season in the Europa League, with last year's semi-finalists Napoli and Fiorentina, along with Lazio, who failed to qualify for the Champions League.

As for the Champions League, they have a Juventus side who have lost various key players, but after the win over Man City, they clearly still know how to play in Europe. As for Roma, they secured an important draw with reigning champions Barcelona.

Rank | Country | UEFA Coefficient

1 | Spain | 86.142

2 | Germany | 67.606

3 | England | 65.284

4 | Italy | 61.105

German slip-up?

As you can see from the UEFA coefficient ranking table above, Italy are right on the tails of England but Germany aren't actually that far ahead and could find themselves leapfrogged by both England and Italy if they have another poor showing in Europe this season.

Bayern Munich aside, they've not quite hit the heights in the last two seasons from three years ago, when Bayern faced fellow Germans Dortmund in the final. Germany could benefit from Dortmund being in the Europa League this season though.

The German side found themselves bottom of the league at Christmas but somehow managed to qualify for the Europa by the skin of their teeth and now look strong contenders to win it as they are looking back to their very best, currently sitting top of the Bundesliga.

Germany also have Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League this season. After a fantastic season in the league last year, Wolfsburg are showing no signs of halting their progress and despite the sale of star player Kevin de Bruyne, they have built a fantastic squad.

Leverkusen and Monchengladbach find themselves in tough groups and could struggle to make it out alive, whilst Wolfsburg will be confident of winning theirs despite facing the likes of PSV and Man United.

Premier League continue to spend

With the new TV deal in place, Premier League clubs are set to earn a substantial amount of money just for being in the league. This means the league is getting tougher as clubs are able to spend £10 million plus on players like it's nothing, no matter where they are in the league. Clubs are also able to hold onto their prized assets and build on what they have, rather than sell on to the big boys.

It's no longer like taking candy from a baby and this means the top clubs either don't get their man and have to look elsewhere or they have to stump up an obscene amount of money for them. John Stones, Saido Berahino and Raheem Sterling are all prime examples of this.

The spending in the Premier League hit new heights this summer and was well above any of the other top leagues around Europe, so why are our top clubs getting worse in Europe?

One of the reasons must surely be the demands of the Premier League and the fact that any team can beat anyone. It's not even a case of it being a good day for the lower sides, they are just simply capable of pulling off a shock if they play to their full potential, given the squads they've been able to build in recent seasons.

Man City and Arsenal looked sluggish last week and Man United have improved but it wasn't enough. There's no doubt that they will more than likely all still qualify but to win this competition, you really need to finish top of the group and for all three of them, that appears over already.

Man United and Arsenal both lost to one of the weaker teams in the group whilst Man City dropped valuable points at home to their main rivals in the group.

Matchday two can't come soon enough for Chelsea, they are desperate to play more games and get more wins under their belts, whilst the others will be feeling the pressure as a win is an absolute must in the second round of matches after you have lost your first.

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