Barcelona remain firm favourites to lift the trophy, but a handful of clubs hope to put a stop to the Catalans dominance. Stopping Pep Guardiola’s men, even after the vast spending by many of the top European clubs still seems an uphill task. Sheer quality has been added to the Nou Camp with Cesc Fabregas making his long awaited move from Arsenal. They also signed the young and talented Alexis Sanchez from Udinese for 26 million euros. Signings aside, pure class still remains at the club. If the eleven that started last year’s final against Manchester United stay fit, you’d be a brave man to put your money elsewhere.
…the nine times winners might just rock the boat…
No doubt across Spain Jose Mourinho will try and get his finger under the skin of his main rivals, in the hope it will give his Real Madrid side a chance of knocking Barca off their pedestal. Recent matches between the two in the Spanish Super Cup have shown that Madrid have closed the gap, however, Messi still stands on the other side of the footballing Grand Canyon. If Ronaldo can start to show up on the big occasions, the nine times winners might just rock the boat.
English sides will hope to make an impact this year. Manchester United will no doubt be favourites out of the four Premier League sides. Sir Alex Ferguson has breathed new life into yet another quality United side, bursting with some exciting youngsters, topped off with experience and the world class Wayne Rooney. Not signing an experienced central midfielder to replace Paul Scholes could turn out to be a mistake in the latter stages of the competition, but there is always the January transfer window.
A stroke of luck and strong performances…
Chelsea begin a new campaign with a new manager, who their owner will hope holds the key to the blues conquering Europe for the first time. Andre Villas Boas won the Europa League trophy last season with Porto and has a very experienced European side now under him. A stroke of luck and strong performances from their star men may see them do very well in this season’s tournament. Fernando Torres has to start doing what he did for Liverpool in Europe before they can start to really hurt the top teams.
A miserable start to Arsenal’s domestic campaign has made Champions League qualification in itself seem a huge achievement. Arsene Wenger has the vision to guide his young side through the group stage, but it will take some serious spending in January to take his side any further than the last sixteen.
…their vastly expensive and experienced side.
Manchester City join the European elite for the first time and intend to shock everyone by winning the trophy with their vastly expensive and experienced side. Whether Roberto Mancini has the ability to guide the Blue Moon past so many huge obstacles in their debut season is questionable. To get through the so called ‘group of death’ with Bayern Munich, Villareal and Napoli is the first challenge after that they may struggle. A journey to the quarter finals would be a great feat in their first attempt, but don’t write them off completely.
Italian giants Inter and AC Milan always pose a threat, but to suggest that the trophy will be going anywhere else other than England or Spain would be brave, but a lot can happen between now and May.
Bayern Munich always carry some weight in Europe, but after a poor season last term it would take a lot to get past the last eight. The team seems to rely too heavily on injury prone stars Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben.
Surprise packages of this year’s UEFA Champions League could be Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund who house a number of incredibly talented young players such as Mario Götze and Lucas Barrios. Lyon, Marseille and 2006 winners FC Porto also have capability of going on a good run and upsetting a big side on their way.
To stop Messi and co, is the plan for every team entering this year’s Champions League, that is easier said than done and if they carry on the way their going, people won’t bother saying it anymore.
Images courtesy of UEFA