Nick Matthew Column: It’s now or never for English clubs to halt their Europe woes

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
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When you consider the riches of the Premier League - it is supposedly the best league in the world - our clubs have really under-achieved in Europe in the last few years.

For me, it is the most competitive division, but I wouldn’t say it’s the highest quality and that has been proven with the results in the Champions League over the last few years. English teams have not reached the quarter-finals of the tournament in two of the past three seasons. Compared to La Liga, how many truly world class players have we got?

I am a keen football fan. Although our sides don’t have a core of English players anymore as they did 10 years or so ago, I want them to do well.

I remember cheering on Leeds when they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001 and I am a Sheffield Wednesday supporter! I think that is the one and only time I will ever root for Leeds!

I don’t know what has happened but we have gone from dominating in Europe to struggling to buy a win. We are now in real danger of losing that coveted fourth Champions League spot unless our teams improve their results.

It is frightening how much Manchester City, with all their millions, have under-performed. This is their fifth season in the competition, but they seem to be making the same mistakes every year. They play an attacking style in the Premier League and take games by the scruff of the neck. In Europe, City are just way too open and naive.

Sir Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho make it a lot more tactical and get the balance right. I remember when United reached the final of the tournament and Fergie used to play Wayne Rooney on the wing, who tracked back in their 4-5-1 formation.

There could be a number of reasons behind our failures. Is it because our top-flight is so competitive every week that it saps our teams? Has the Premier League become so all consuming now and that is the priority for these teams? Is the attack on both fronts so hard these days? Chelsea finished sixth when they won the Champions League three years ago.

The schedule probably doesn’t do them any favours either. Sometimes our clubs have to play on a Sunday and then travel for a European match on the Wednesday. In other countries, they make their schedules work for them.