The four Premier League clubs in this season’s UEFA Champions League will all be confident, and expecting, to progress past the group phase.
Chelsea are the leading English contenders in Uefa competitions betting to be successful at the end of the season, but started the competition in the worst form.
The form of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is going to be crucial to Chelsea’s hopes of progress and he isn’t the only Premier League keeper with something to prove in the Champions League this season.
Here, we take a look at Begovic and two of the other keepers from Premier League clubs aiming to make an impact.
When Begovic joined Chelsea from Stoke in the summer, he was determined to press Thibaut Courtois for the No.1 role, rather than just accept being the back-up. Now, following an injury to Courtois, which is likely to keep the Belgian out for most, if not all, of the group phase of the Champions League, Begovic has his chance to impress. Begovic has yet to play in the Champions League, but he did make five appearances in the Europa League for Stoke during the 2011/12 season. He kept two clean sheets in the preliminary rounds against Hajduk Split before conceding five goals in games against Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Valencia. Kiev will be one of Begovic’s opponents in the Champions League and, with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Porto also in the group, it won’t be the toughest introduction to the competition for the Bosnian.
Cech’s departure from Chelsea paved the way for Begovic’s move to Stamford Bridge and the Czech now brings a wealth of experience to Arsenal’s quest to win the Champions League for the first time. Cech made over 100 appearances in the competition for Chelsea and won it in 2012 against Bayern Munich, saving a penalty in extra-time before keeping out two more in the shoot-out. He will come up against Bayern again in the group phase. Cech also won the Europa League with Chelsea and it’s this type of experience which will be vital to an Arsenal squad which wasn’t strengthened with a senior outfield player in the summer.
DAVID DE GEA
A topsy-turvy transfer window saw Manchester United keeper De Gea miss out on a deadline-day move to Real Madrid before he eventually signed a new contract at Old Trafford. Restored to the team for the 3-1 win over Liverpool, De Gea didn’t show any signs that he had been affected by the collapse of a move to Real, having previously been left out due to concerns over his mindset. De Gea made his first-team debut in the Champions League as a substitute for Atletico Madrid when he was still only 18 and he won the Europa League as a 19-year-old. He kept four clean sheets in the group phase when United last played in the Champions League two years ago. A group containing PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg gives United every chance of progressing to the last 16, but they will need De Gea to be on top form and show there are no lingering after-effects from a summer of uncertainty.