How will England's best five fare in Europe next season?

How will England's best five fare in Europe next season?

Now that the 2016/17 Premier League season has come to an end, it's time to look ahead as to how the top four will compete in Europe next year.

ryan-white
Ryan White

For most, the UEFA Champions League is the ultimate goal for a club team and only a select few of England's finest are able to compete in the 25-year-old competition against the continent's greatest.

We know that champions Chelsea, alongside Tottenham Hotspur and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City shall be in the group stage - whereas fourth-placed Liverpool are forced to go through qualifying. Manchester United have qualified through their victory in the Europa League final.

Chelsea

​Beginning with the top-flight winners Chelsea, the Blues racked up the second-most amount of points in a single Premier League season with 93 on the board, narrowly missing out on their own record of 95 points which was set in their 2005 triumph.

Antonio Conte has finally given Roman Abramovich's club an identity, a style of play that makes us aware of how dangerous they can be. For the majority of the year the former Italy national team coach was effectively using three at the back and it was proven to be a huge success having swept away many of their opponents throughout the campaign.

Out of the top-six finishers, the Blues made the least number of changes, and you could argue it was that consistency which led them to glory, however, it remains to be seen whether it'll stay that way with European football on the schedule as well. It is likely that Conte will bring in several recruits over the summer transfer window to strengthen his squad even more and allow for first-team switches to compete in the Champions League.

The west-London outfit will be in pot one of the group stage draw, meaning they will be favourites to top their's and should easily progress to the knockout rounds. Quarter-finals would be the minimal requirements from supporters and the owner, but the manager will seek to replicate the 2012 success and go all the way.

Tottenham Hotspur

​There is no doubting that the 2016/17 season will go down as a remarkably successful year for Tottenham Hotspur, having pressured Chelsea almost down to the wire and finish above bitter rivals Arsenal. Eventually finishing seven points behind the Blues, Spurs should be happy with the last ten or so months.

If there is one thing that boss Mauricio Pochettino has been applauded for, it is the fact the Argentine has given the club's youth so many opportunities to impress and he won't be regretting that decision anytime soon. The likes of Harry Winks have now emerged into the first-team picture as well as England duo, among others, Harry Kane and Dele Alli going from strength-to-strength to swiftly becoming perhaps the best link-up relationship in the Premier League.

Despite all this positivity from north London, they may look back at their Champions League campaign which ended in disarray and subsequently being knocked out at the group stage. Spurs struggled at their European home, Wembley, last season and it definitely is a fearful factor for fans that the club will be playing all their home matches at the national stadium next year.

Tottenham Hotspur could struggle in Europe next season if anything from the last one is to go by, but they may have learned from their mistakes and improve on the dismal performances that saw them crash out of the competition so early on. Along with Chelsea, they could actually progress quite far in the Champions League and even compete with the very best.

Manchester City

​Former Bayern Munich and Barcelona managerial genius Pep Guardiola has without a doubt stumbled in his first season in the Premier League and a third-place finish should be a satisfactory end to the campaign after a shambolic year compared to recent terms.

A few of his signings have shown promise, most notably Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sané. The latter arrived last summer from FC Schalke, meanwhile the Brazilian striker who appeared mid-season could be Sergio Agüero's successor if the forward is to depart the Etihad. The 2012 and 2014 Premier League champions have already begun a major clear out as defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy are leaving, as well as wide-man Jesus Navas. It is sure to be a major summer transfer window for Manchester City.

Guardiola would have shown anger at his side's disappointing Champions League display after being knocked out in the round of sixteen, falling victims to rising French giants AS Monaco on aggregate. They managed to get out of the group stage, which was shared with FC Barcelona, as City ended the six outings in second behind their superior Spanish opponents.

The boss does have a major task on his hands to overhaul the current crop of players and it will be the in-goings and departures that decide their destiny in Europe next season. If Man City do want to solidify themselves as a 'European giant' then semi-finals are a must and with the current manager I can't see why they won't make it there.

Liverpool

Liverpool have an extra two games to complete next season than their rivals, as a result of finishing fourth in the Premier League the Reds have to go through a qualifying round which includes home and away, but there is no reason to doubt Jürgen Klopp's ability to get them to the group stage.

The first-team have shown glimpses of promising over the campaign as the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané have almost single-handedly led them to a top-four spot. The latter's injury absence has been a blow for the Merseyside club and they will need to address that in pre-season to stand any chance of being competitive domestically next year.

Just as Chelsea did, Liverpool had no European football to play last season meaning they, theoretically, had an advantage over their rivals but scrapping a Champions League spot on the final day will have discouraged supporters ahead of the competition. In fact, the Reds have only been in the continental tournament on two occasions in the last eight years which just goes to prove their downfall from dominance in recent years.

I can see Liverpool struggling next year in Europe, especially away from home. We all know Anfield can be a fortress in a midweek fixture when the crowd get behind the team, but it is the trips on the road that may fear them and serious strengthening of the squad, specifically in defence, needs to be completed in the transfer window to stand any chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Manchester United

The Red Devils will be playing in the Champions League for the 2017/18 campaign, despite finishing sixth, after becoming victorious in the Europa League final against Dutch giants Ajax in Stockholm - meaning they will be the fifth team to make up the English teams competing in Europe next year.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have had a dismal season where they failed to live up to expectations, especially with the £89 million transfer fee the club paid for Paul Pogba's services. The team did go 25 matches unbeaten in the league, but with the majority of those results being draws it meant the side would struggle to break into the top four. The only significant positive from the campaign was that summer acquisition Eric Bailly has become a fan favourite at Old Trafford.

Having won the Champions League, or European Cup, three times during their history, United are to this day one of the most successful clubs in the competition and will be hoping to replicate past glories in next year's tournament. They haven't won it though for what will be a decade, when the team overcame rivals Chelsea in Moscow in 2008.

Mourinho will need to spend big in the summer transfer window if he wants his squad to be competitive in every match next season, and depth will be pivotal for any form of success. Manchester United will be in pot two in the draw, meaning they should be second favourites in the group stages and if they can get through that then there is no reason to suggest why they can't go all the way.

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