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The Northern powerhouses of English football

The North of England has been blessed with a wealth of top footballing clubs over the years, in particular in the north-west of the country. The most successful teams from this region are Manchester United and Liverpool, who have a combined 38 English top league titles. They have not only been dominant in English football, but have also been able to dominate on the European stage alongside teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

This season saw an all-English tie in the quarter-finals of the Champions League as Liverpool took on Manchester United’s city rivals, Manchester City for a place in the semi-finals. Despite City being made the favourites to qualify before the first leg, Liverpool’s 3-0 win in such a dominating fashion saw the Champions League odds turned on their head. City took an early lead in the second leg, reducing the deficit to just two goals, however, just as in the first leg, City’s defence was unable to neutralise the potent Liverpool attack and the Citizens crumbled to a 2-1 defeat, meaning Liverpool had progressed 5-1 on aggregate. Liverpool’s opponents in the semi-final are Italian Serie A club Roma, who managed to knock out Barcelona despite having lost 4-1 in the away leg. Roma’s ability to shut out Barcelona’s attack in the second leg should be a warning to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp not to underestimate the Italians.

Between the north and south of England, it has been the north that has been the more dominant since the European Cup was rebranded as the Champions League back in 1992. Of the northern teams, none has been more dominant than Manchester United, who have appeared in 22 of a possible 26 Champions League group stages. Of those 22 seasons in the competition, the Red Devils have managed to reach the final on four occasions, with a 50% success rate. The first of these triumphs occurred at the Nou Camp back in 1999, in the final between United and Bayern Munich. Rated as one of the greatest finals of all time, the game saw Bayern take the lead just after five minutes had been played. Bayern would hold onto this lead until the final few minutes, where injury time goals from United substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured a famous win against Bayern. Their second victory in the tournament was somewhat less impressive, with United defeating English rivals Chelsea in a penalty shootout. The two occasions which saw United lose in the final were both against Barcelona, who had a certain Lionel Messi in their team.

Liverpool have featured in two Champions League finals and also have a success rate of 50%, having both won and lost against Italian club AC Milan in two finals. The first meeting between the two occurring in the 2004/05 season and saw Liverpool battle back from being 3-0 down in the first half to draw 3-3 and take the game all the way to penalties, which Liverpool won 3-2. Milan would have to wait just two seasons to exact their revenge, winning 2-1 in the 2006/07 final.

Since the club were taken over in 2008, Manchester City have had the luxury of being able to buy top quality players and future stars in order to build a fantastic squad. They have now featured in the Champions League group stage seven times and their best performance in the competition was in the 2015/16 season, where the Citizens were able to reach the semi-final before being knocked out by the eventual winners, Real Madrid.

Although Manchester United have appeared in the most group stages out of all the English clubs, Arsenal are not behind, having managed to do it on 19 occasions themselves. They don’t have the same success in the competition as their northern rivals, having only ever reached the final once, in a losing effort against Barcelona in the 2005/06 season. The Gunners were down to ten men early on, after Jens Lehmann picked up a straight red card, however Arsene Wenger’s men were able to take the lead through Sol Campbell just before 40 minutes had been played. Unfortunately for Arsenal, with just 15 minutes remaining, Barcelona were able to equalise through Samuel Eto’o and five minute later, Belletti scored the winner for the Catalans.

Their London rivals Chelsea have done marginally better in the competition despite having featured on four less occasions than the Gunners. They finished as runners-up to Manchester United in the 2007/08 Champions League final, with John Terry missing a crucial penalty which took it to sudden death, only for Nicolas Anelka to then miss the decisive penalty. Five years later and Chelsea would finally go on to win that elusive Champions League title, by once again competing in a penalty shootout in the final, but this time, they were able to finish victorious by overcoming German club Bayern Munich.

Clubs from the north of England have a 50% success rate once they reach the final while those clubs from the south have not been able to produce such success in the final, having only managed a 33% win rate. By contrast, Real Madrid alone have managed to reach the final on six occasions, winning every single one of the finals they have competed in, giving them a success rate of 100%. Real Madrid’s semi-final opponents at this year’s tournament, Bayern Munich, have reached the final on five occasions, winning it just twice, meaning a 40% success rate. With statistics like that, Liverpool will no doubt be hoping to face Bayern in the final should they manage to overcome Roma.

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