Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Why Spain still has the edge over the Premier League’s best

Sergio Ramos lifts the Champions League trophy (Getty Images)
Sergio Ramos lifts the Champions League trophy (Getty Images)

ENGLISH clubs are still playing catch-up with Spain’s top teams, and Manchester City may have to wait another three seasons to win the Champions League.

Those are the conclusions drawn by Gaizka Mendieta, Sky’s Spanish football expert, as the big beasts of the Premier League attempt to end La Liga’s recent domination of Europe’s elite competition.

Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool all face Spanish opposition in the group stages and it’s likely that any English team that progresses to the knockout rounds will sooner or later have to get past Spain’s best to stay in the tournament.

La Liga clubs have won six of the last nine European Cups, including the last four.

“If you look at the numbers then, yes, the Premier League is playing catch-up,” says Mendieta.

“The Spanish teams are better prepared for European football than Premier League teams are.

“That doesn’t mean to say the Premier League isn’t a very strong league, it’s just that you often get distracted.

“Usually, whoever does well in the Champions League will not do well in the domestic League.

“The Premier League is more demanding because there is no winter break. Having a break pays off for the Spanish clubs when it comes to Europe.

“It is very intense when you have no break. You play non-stop and you also play more games in a shorter period than you normally would at any other time of the season — and in worse conditions.

“All this has an impact on your fitness and affects you mentally.

“I think to compete better in Europe, you need to stop the Premier League for two weeks — that is important.

“I also think that generally the Spanish authorities try to help teams in the Champions League more than they do in England when it comes to the fixtures, where it seems more difficult to move matches. That makes it another positive for the Spanish clubs.

“I believe the two teams in England best equipped to handle both competitions are Manchester United and Chelsea because they have good experience in the Champions League.

“Experience is very important in this competition, so I think they will be the strongest.

“Manchester City seem very focused on the Champions League, but I think if they go all out for that competition, they will struggle in the Premier League.

“Pep Guardiola was brought in to win things, but in his first season, he found that very difficult.

“As far as winning the Champions League is concerned, it’s more a case of eventually with City.

“Maybe it will take another three years. To establish yourselves in Europe, as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have done, takes years of history.

“Now, Paris Saint-Germain are also there because of the money they have spent, so it’s going to be even harder for a club like City.”

Another Spanish view comes from ex-Liverpool forward Luis Garcia, whose controversial semi-final winner at Anfield against Chelsea set up the dramatic Istanbul triumph 12 years ago.

This year, Liverpool had to take the play-off route into the Champions League group stages, but Garcia insists they can lift the trophy in Kiev next May.

He believes that Jurgen Klopp’s current squad is stronger than the one Rafa Benitez had in 2005.

“If you look at the performances, you can say yes, why not win it,” says the Spaniard.

“It happened with us. Teams didn’t know anything about us until we were in the final. People were surprised and these players can be a surprise, too.

“The group is all right (Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor) and this team is a lot better than we were in 2005, so I don’t think anyone can say Liverpool can’t do it.”

Whether or not they can, Garcia expects Klopp to break his trophy duck at Anfield.

“He’s been at the club for nearly two years and he’s been trying to build a team like he was doing in Germany,” he says.

“I think he’s doing a good job. He brought in the players he wanted, but it’s time to show the team is ready to face everything.

“This has to be the year the trophies are coming back to the club.”

If that is to happen, there’s bound to be a key role for Philippe Coutinho, who was the subject of several bids from Barcelona in the summer but who remains at Anfield following the owners’ decision not to cash in.

Having played for both clubs, Garcia understands as well as anyone the dilemma the Brazilian faced as the Spanish club tried unsuccessfully to prise him out of Merseyside.

“Liverpool are improving and are known in every corner of the world, but they haven’t been getting trophies to match their history,” he says.

“At the moment, there is probably also a difference in talent between the two clubs.

“Players will always want to do better. We saw it with Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez and this time with Coutinho, who has been doing fantastic.

“But the club said from the first minute that they didn’t want to sell him because they know how important he is.

“It’s true that it’s not easy to tell Barca to go away, but the kid has been fantastic because he hasn’t said any words.

“I don’t know if the transfer will happen next year, but I’m glad he is staying at Liverpool because he’s a fantastic player, very professional and a great kid.”