Paul Stewart column: Manchester City and Liverpool lead England's Champions League contenders
After Tuesday's Champions League games it's hard not to write this week about monumental results giving Liverpool and Tottenham a passage into the competition's knockout stages.
With Manchester City already through along with Manchester United, we have four representatives in the draw for the next round.
When you look at which teams are best equipped to possibly win the trophy, then you would be hard pressed not to pick Manchester City and Liverpool out of the four teams.
Manchester City, as we know, are among the favourites to lift the cup, but with Liverpool gaining momentum in the league and Mo Salah hitting top form, this must surely give them confidence.
The fact their defence is the meanest in the Premier League means they have as much of a chance as anyone to go on and win it.
Their keeper, Alisson, has already repaid his huge transfer fee with an outstanding save in the dying seconds on Tuesday night – and the fact they have climbed above City in the Premier League proves they are equipped to challenge for major honours.
City, on the other hand, have had a minor hiccup in the league with their defeat at Chelsea last weekend, but they have too much strength in depth for it to be any more than just that.
My only worry for them is the lack of a striker to fill Sergio Aguero’s boots should his injury be any longer than just a couple of weeks.
I would think, though, that with the January transfer window looming, City boss Pep Guardiola may be ready to spend big money on a striker who can fill Aguero’s boots, but when you look around the leagues, it’s difficult to see who is available and, moreover, fits Pep’s remit.
Of the remaining two teams, Manchester United and Spurs, I think an easy draw in the next round is their best chance of progression.
United have issues with their big signings, of whom it’s fair to say they haven’t performed this season.
One could argue the team is better without them but you can’t ignore Jose Mourinho’s record in the competition, which makes them dangerous to any opponent.
Spurs, I feel, would have to strengthen in January to have any chance but with the escalating costs of the new stadium, I’m not sure Daniel Levy will release funds in order for Mauricio Pochettino to spend big.
When all is said and done, it’s fantastic we have four genuine contenders in the knockout stages; the most from any of the other countries and proving the Premier League is the best in the world.
We wait on the draw with anticipation and hope that all four teams avoid difficult opponents but, at this stage, any team can beat one another which makes the next set of fixtures intriguing.
Surely one of the four English teams can go all the way but, if I was pushed to make a prediction, then City and Liverpool would be my two choices as I feel they are best equipped to get the job done.
Roll on the New Year!
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