Trevor Steven: Elite managers have restored English clubs' fear factor in the Champions League

 
Trevor Steven
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Guardiola's Manchester City look England's best bet for a first European champion since 2012 (Source: Getty)

During their dominant years of the 1970s and ‘80s there was an intimidating quality about English teams; even the top clubs on the Continent wanted to avoid them.

With the Premier League’s finest flourishing in the Champions League again this season, that fear factor is starting to return.

Their renewed success is down to an accumulation of factors, but the biggest of those is the cast of elite managers now working at the top of the English game.

Read more: Champions League permutations: How Liverpool can make history for England

Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte would be wanted by any club in the world.

In Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea they are running teams who can carry the fight both domestically and in the Champions League.

The quality of the Premier League has improved. World-leading revenues have been accumulated and invested in managers and players. Recruitment has become more important.

The net result is that, instead of two or three in previous eras, there are now five or six genuine contenders for the title and their squad depth is incomparably greater than all of their rivals. These are also important factors.

England looks set to become the first country to supply five teams in the last 16 of the Champions League and all of them will genuinely believe they have a chance of winning the competition.

Depending on how their squads are affected by injuries, those are not unrealistic ambitions.

Manchester City look to have the best chance of the Premier League contingent, given their electrifying start to the season, and I would make them my outright favourites to lift the trophy in Kiev on 26 May.

Beyond them, I have a slight inkling for Bayern Munich, who have improved since Jupp Heynckes returned to take charge of the Bavarians for a fourth time, and Paris Saint-Germain.

My reservation over PSG is that they aren’t tested enough in the French top flight but they have an abundance of great players and are capable of beating anybody.

Barcelona don’t look strong enough defensively to me, while back-to-back winners Real Madrid seem a bit drunk on their recent success.

Juventus’s chance may have come and gone with their two final appearances in the past three seasons. I’m not sure how strong Italian football is at the moment, with Serie A’s long-time leaders Napoli twice rolled over by Manchester City in recent weeks.

The momentum is with Premier League teams and if City don’t do it then Chelsea, with their undoubted quality, European experience and Conte’s know-how, would be my next tip for a first English winner since 2012.

Read more: Trevor Steven: I can't see anyone stopping Man City

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