Champions League returns as continent’s best players hold off England’s elite

With the Champions League knockout stages kicking off this week with a blockbuster clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at the top, doubts surrounding all of the English contenders and talk of a breakaway from the Super League have resurfaced. It’s been three-and-a-half months since the conclusion of the group stage, an unprecedented halt to the Champions League season due to the suspension of the World Cup. Premier League clubs are heading into another transfer window of record spending since the Qatar Championship, spending 815 million pounds ($1 billion) on new players in January, Europe’s largest, according to analyst Deloitte. 79% of total spending across the five leagues.

It provides the backdrop for the return of the Champions League, with the financial gulf between the Premier League and the Continent wider than ever, and the promoters of the split Super League project revealing their new vision for what the game could look like.

Bernd Reichardt, chief executive of A22 Group, which promotes the Super League, told German newspaper Die Welt this week that “the foundations of European football are in danger of collapsing. It’s time for a change.”

He floated the idea of ​​an 80-team Super League, all ranked by sporting merit, with no permanent membership.

– Pressure on Man City, Chelsea –

But there has been no concrete measure yet, with clubs outside of England aiming to prevent the cash-rich Premier League from dominating the latter stages of the Champions League.

Still, doubts remain over all English teams in the round of 16, even Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

The 2021 runners-up are desperate for a first trophy but are still reeling after being accused of more than 100 financial breaches by the Premier League, putting them at risk of serious penalties, including the possibility of relegation.

The Abu Dhabi-backed club will remain favorites to beat RB Leipzig, but they have been flawed at home of late and uncertainty about their future could see them feel more pressure in this season’s European campaign.

Tottenham, runners-up in 2019, have had their ups and downs under Antonio Conte but were expected to take on a crumbling AC Milan side, seven games without a win until this weekend – It was hardly their first nine-year knockout draw in the best preparation for the Champions League.

Chelsea spent more than a third of the Premier League’s generous spending in January. That has raised expectations at Stamford Bridge, but only three of their January recruits could feature in their European squad.

The 2021 Champions League champions, who have won just one game in eight, now face Borussia Dortmund, who have bounced back to win six, with Sebastian Haller following treatment for testicular cancer Get well again.

Then there’s Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who struggled in the middle of the field at home ahead of last season’s final against defending champions Real Madrid, whose coach Carlo Ancelotti believes English clubs don’t do whatever they want.

– Naples eyes on –

“I don’t think it will end the competitiveness of European competitions,” Ancelotti said when asked about the Premier League’s spending.

Again, same as key person Karim Benzema and Luke Modric In the twilight of their careers, Real Madrid don’t look like the team they were last season, despite which European superpower is at its peak?

Not Paris Saint-Germain, who have already lost four games in 2023 without injury Kylian Mbappe The first leg against Bundesliga leaders Bayern.

Elsewhere, it would be a stretch to suggest that Inter Milan, facing Porto, look like real contenders, while Benfica should beat Club Brugge but lose their star man, Enzo Fernandezfrom the group stage to Chelsea.

Can there be a new name on the trophy?

Napoli are clinching the Serie A title and Luciano Spalletti’s side are eyeing an absolutely phenomenal double as they face Eintracht Frankfurt in the round of 16.

“You can hold on or turn around,” Spalletti said recently.

“We have no doubts about it and we have decided to take a gamble and try to win the double.”

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from syndicated feeds.)

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