Interview: Gary Lineker
13th September 2016
BT Sport presenter Gary Lineker looks ahead to the UEFA Champions League which sees several British teams aiming to break the recent Spanish dominance of the pan-European competiton
As the UEFA Champions League group stages hove into view once more, hopes are high on these shores that the British teams involved will be able to challenge the best of the best in Europe’s elite competition.
This optimism comes despite the fact that the last four finals have not featured a single side from the Barclays Premier League while the last all-English final came back in 2008 when Manchester United went head to head with Chelsea.
The Blues did win the trophy in 2012, beating Bayern Munich in the final, but ever since it has been a case of British teams failing to make an impact on the competition.
But, according to BT Sport presenter and illustrious former England striker Gary Lineker, that situation may change in the near future as the Premier League's financial power increasingly entices many more outstanding players to the English game.
“The greatest players of the moment are still mainly at Barcelona and Real Madrid and to a lesser extent Bayern Munich but I think that will change over the coming years because our league is so unbelievably wealthy,” says Lineker. “We're already attracting the biggest coaches in the game and it's only a matter of time before the biggest players follow.
“I believe that Paul Pogba will be the first of many great players to come and play in England in their prime. Over the next two or three seasons, the big British teams will start to compete again properly in the Champions League.
“As for this season, Manchester City have the best chance of a British side winning the title as they continue to improve under Guardiola who has remarkably transformed the team's style of play into his own which shows just what a good teacher he is.”
And how does Lineker assess the chances of Britain's other UEFA Champions League contenders? After an uncertain start to their domestic campaign, reigning champions Leicester City - where Lineker began his professional career - will be making their UEFA Champion League debut and, according to Lineker, will be out to enjoy every moment of their time in Europe even if they are unlikely to challenge for the title.
“Leciester City's remarkable success last season in the Premier League has put Leicester on the map globally,” says Lineker. “Everyhere I went – including the USA where they're not renowned for their knowledge of football – people were aware of the story. The magnitude of the surprise really grabbed the public's imagination around the world.
“Leicester is now a city that is known throughout the world whereas before many had never heard of it! Now the people of Leicester can't wait for their team to take part in the UEFA Champions League both in terms of hosting and travelling.
“They've been given a lovely draw which not only gives them a reasonable chance to qualify for the knockout stages but also three cities to visit which are not that far away in Porto, Copenhagen and Bruges. You couldn't have asked for a better draw in all sorts of aspects.
“I think we all know that it's going to be a one-off and the city is going to really enjoy welcoming supporters from different clubs from around Europe. I would think the team will be looking to enjoy the Champions League experience and qualify for the knockout stages to set up a game against one of the big clubs in the Last 16. That would be wonderful and anything beyond that would be a massive bonus.”
“As for this season, Spurs should do all right as they've got a reasonable group and I like Pochettino a lot. They are a young, maturing side and I think they will get better and better. Arsenal will probably reach the Last 16.
“Celtic have been killed by their tough draw (alongside Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Mönchengladbach) but they haven't been in the competition for a couple of years so at least their supporters can look forward to games against major clubs.
“They've got some magical nights to look forward to and the atmosphere at Celtic Park is going to be something else. I can't wait to be there with BT Sport for the Man City game on September 28th. For them to get out of the group though would be extraordinarily difficult against three very strong sides.”
And where better to savour the upcoming feast of European football than in bars which have BT Sport?
“Not to be overly boastful but the BT Sport coverage of European football is not only comprehensive but has been done wonderfully well,” says Lineker. “The fans know that all the Champions League and Europa League action is going to be shown by one broadcaster. It's the biggest club competition in the world with the best players and most illustrious teams so it's going to be a massive midweek draw for pubs and clubs.
“Even the group stages this time around have thrown up some fantastic ties pretty much every night of the competition and many fans are going to be heading to pubs and clubs to enjoy the big-match atmosphere.”
UEFA Champions League Fixtures on BT Sport
Tuesday September 13
PSG V Arsenal 7.45pm
Barcelona v Celtic 7.45pm
Borussia M'nch v Manchester City 7.45pm
Wednesday September 14
Tottenham v Monaco 7.45pm
Club Brugge v Leicester City 7.45pm
Tuesday September 27
CSKA v Tottenham 7.45pm
Leicester City v Porto 7.45pm
Wednesday September 28
Arsenal v Basel 7.45pm
Celtic v Manchester City 7.45pm
- BT Sport is the only place to watch all four major football competitions in one place, with exclusively live coverage of the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup. Watch Leicester versus Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League exclusively live on BT Sport 2 from 7pm on Wednesday September 14
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