For all the attention they command, for all their embarrassment of riches, for all their calling cards, English football clubs have been a disappointment in recent years in the premier club competition in Europe, the UEFA Champions League. But there’s a lot coming together for English football clubs this year: they have the numbers; some of them are playing flowing and disruptive football; they are riding the confidence of performance; they have favourable draws; and they have managers who know this stage intimately.

Countries by financials

Whatever the financial metric of brute strength—revenues, TV rights, player wage bill, spectators, gate collections—the Premier League looks to be in a different field than other first-division leagues. In 2015-16, of the top 10 clubs in Europe with the highest wage bill, five were English: Chelsea (ranked third), Manchester City (No. 4), Manchester United (No. 5), Arsenal (No. 7) and Liverpool (No. 9). The only clubs to out-muscle Chelsea were Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Countries by performance in last 13 years

Yet, money hasn’t bought English clubs Champions League recognition, let alone success, in the last five years. England has not provided a single finalist and has provided just two of the 20 semi-finalists. By contrast, Spain—with its two clubs that are the rare ones which tower over the English clubs in revenues and spending—has dominated.

Countries by performance in 2017-18

This could be the year when the English performance resembles the 2006-09 period. England has more sides than any other country in the round of 16. Four of the five English sides finished atop their groups. Some qualified in style: Tottenham Hotspur trounced Real Madrid at home and held it away; both the Manchester sides won five of their six matches. And in Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino, they have managers of pedigree who are now well-entrenched in their respective clubs.

Data source: Uefa.com; UEFA Club Licensing Benchmarking Report: Financial Year 2015

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