This season’s Champions League kicks off in earnest on Tuesday evening as the group stages of the competition get underway.
All four of this season’s English participants will begin their campaigns believing that they have a fighting chance of being involved in the final, which takes place at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia on May 28, 2022.
Current holders Chelsea will be joined by Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United as representatives of the Premier League this time around – and former England international Joe Cole has high hopes for the quartet as they take on Europe’s best.
While Cole never lifted European club football’s top prize in his own career, he did make the last four of the competition on three consecutive occasions with Chelsea between 2007 and 2009. Although he suffered elimination at the semi-final stage twice in that period, he did participate in the 2008 final, where the Blues were cruelly denied on penalties by Manchester United.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, 39-year-old Cole insisted that he is confident of further English success in the competition this season. Not only does he feel there is a strong chance of an all-English final for the third time in four years, but even suggested that all four of the Premier League contingent could make the semi-finals of the tournament.
“I would be stunned if we don’t get at least two teams in the semi-finals, possibly three and maybe even four. I just think we are so much stronger than the other leagues,” declared Cole.
“The best thing for English football now is that we had a 10-year lull when none of our top players were competing at Champions League level, from 2000 to 2010, now you look at Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, their teams are full of English players. That’s why we’re so unbelievable.”
The English top-flight undeniably has a strong line-up of entrants. However, you write off 2020 winners Bayern Munich at your peril. The Bundesliga giants – and their talisman Robert Lewandowski – will have their eyes fixed on becoming champions of Europe for a seventh time.
One side that has never achieved that accolade, though, are Paris Saint-Germain. With a star-studded squad including the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos, Gigi Donnarumma and Lionel Messi (among countless others), the Ligue 1 outfit will be hungry to bring the trophy back to French shores.
Cole is siding with Thomas Tuchel’s men to retain the Champions League, but conceded that PSG pose the largest threat to English domination of the tournament.
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“If you want me to make a prediction, then Chelsea (to win it). But that’s more out of loyalty. Any of the four teams can beat anyone else and we’ve got the four best teams in Europe.
“But I have to see what PSG looks like with those players. That could go one way or the other still because it’s still unbalanced as a squad. Had the Messi deal been done earlier, I think certain other types of players would have come in, more runners. We’ll wait and see but that’s an exciting project to watch.”
For Cole’s optimistic prediction of an all-English final four to land, luck will be required both on the pitch and in terms of the draw (clubs from the same country can meet one another as early as the quarter-finals). However, the fact that this sort of outcome is being discussed as a possibility is a testament to the quality possessed by the Premier League sides.
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