Michael Owen: Jose’s style doesn’t sit right with me, but Klopp needs time
Michael Owen believes at least one of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool or Tottenham will make the Champions League final this season.
For the first time ever, the Premier League has five representatives in the last 16 of the Champions League, with all but Chelsea progressing as group winners and the quintet suffering only three defeats between them.
The Blues’ punishment for finishing second behind Roma is a two-legged meeting with Barcelona, while Spurs will be ruing their luck to have topped their group ahead of Real Madrid only to land Juventus in the first knockout stage.
Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, meanwhile, face Basel, Porto and Sevilla respectively. And speaking ahead of the draw being made, it was the two Manchester clubs Owen gave the best chance of going the distance.
“For the first time in a many years, Premier League clubs are right there and ready to win the Champions League once again,” Owen told Planet Football.
“I look at the different qualities all the Premier League clubs have and you could make an argument for all five winning the competition. PSG and Barcelona are strong, but the English teams should believe they will be in contention and I’d expect to see at least one in the final.
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“Manchester City are looking fantastic this season and they have a manager who know what it takes to go the distance and win the Champions League having done it with Barcelona.
“The same goes with Jose Mourinho, who has a style that may not be to everyone’s liking but will be perfectly suited to the Champions League.
“Winning has always been more important to Mourinho than how he gets to that destination, and United knew that when they hired him, so they are in no position to complain now. Mourinho has a proven method of success and he confirmed that again last season by winning two major trophies.
“The Premier League might already be out of reach with the way City are playing, but you wouldn’t put it past Mourinho to do something in the Champions League.
“Picking up draws away from home and grinding out wins in the second leg has been Mourinho’s tried and tested way to win big matches over the course of his career and if United reach the quarter-finals, they will be a threat.
“Chelsea have a similar approach to United, playing counter-attacking football and breaking at pace with players like Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata, and that kind of team can do well in the Champions League, so that are also a dark horse to go all the way.”
The Jose trade-off
Although Owen believes Mourinho will deliver at least one more trophy this season, the former Manchester United striker does not necessarily believe the Portuguese is suited to the job at Old Trafford.
“I understand why United fans have expressed concerns about Mourinho’s tactics and that problem will continue as he is not going to change for anyone,” Owen says.
“When he goes to the top clubs in away games, he makes sure he doesn’t get beat. You know what you are going to get with Mourinho, and he is very good at killing a game when he needs to.
“I like United playing with pace in wide areas, being creative, and it doesn’t sit well with me to see them playing like this.
“If Mourinho gets the results he wants, I guess some people will be happy, but it is not the kind of football you associate with Manchester United.
“It is far easier to play a defensive, negative style of football and get success out of it than it is to play expansive, exciting football.
“He basically needs to win trophies or United fans will not put up with defensive football. But the one thing you can say about Mourinho is that he is very good at doing that. He has already won trophies at United and I’d expect him to do the same again this season.”
Klopp needs time
While Owen is unsure about the manager of one of his former clubs, the BT Sport pundit says Jurgen Klopp should be allowed time to build a Liverpool squad completely in his own image.
And though Owen acknowledges Liverpool’s defensive weakness is likely to cost them against one of the very best teams in the Champions League this season, he would never write off the Reds’ chances altogether.
“Everyone got very excited when Klopp arrived and you could understand why,” Owen says. “And even when things have not gone quite according to plan, I get the feeling that Liverpool fans are right behind Klopp and are convinced he will do a good job if he is given time.
“You got a sense that the fans thought anything was possible when Klopp arrived and started so well, but there has been a reality check that it will need time before he gets it right.
“But Liverpool will fancy their chances of having a go at the Champions League because their forward line would give any defence in the competition hard time.
“You look at the way Liverpool’s defence caves in when pressure is applied and you would expect teams like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City to have too much for them in an attacking sense if they were to play Klopp’s team over two legs.
“But the thing Liverpool have in their favour is the Anfield factor. I have been there playing for the club, and watching in recent years, and there are nights in that stadium that are simply too much for the opposition to handle.
“The Borussia Dortmund game a couple of seasons back was an example of a night when the Liverpool fans pushed their side over the finishing line and you don’t get that at too many venues in Europe.
“As we saw back in 2005, Liverpool were not the best team in Europe, but they ended up winning the Champions League, which proves that anything is possible.”
By Kevin Palmer