Huh!! The magical nights are finally back. The competition for which all the football fans all across, not only Europe but also the entire world, wait eagerly, the holy grail of European club football has returned. Yes, you have guessed it correctly. I am referring to none other than The UEFA Champions League. Europe is well known for its famous domestic leagues and very high profile clubs who play in those leagues. But the charm of the Champions League or The European Cup, as it was called earlier, is something extraordinary. It has achieved this cult status not only because it pits the best teams across Europe against each other but also it allows the greatest of players to showcase their talent on the biggest of stages. This year’s edition will be no different, with the whole host of superstars on the display.
There will be some excellent teams playing in this year’s competition. But the one team that stands out as the firm favorite is Bayern Munich. The reigning champions look better than the other teams and seem to have all bases covered. The mighty Bavarians have appointed ex-Barcelona boss and two-time UEFA Champions League winner Pep Guardiola as their new manager, after Jupp Heynkes’s departure. There will be pressure on him to emulate the same success that he achieved with the Catalans, but I am pretty sure that with the fantastic squad that he has got, there is no reason why he cant do the same.
The Spanish duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid will be the ones which will have the onus to stop Bayern from running away with the trophy. Both these teams have terrific European pedigree, no questions about that, but when you compare their squads with the one which the Germans have , you will find that their squads do lack quality in certain areas. Also both these teams have had the managerial changes of their own. Especially Barcelona, who have struggled to regain their ascendancy on the continental front since Pep’s departure, will have a lot to prove.
The Dark Horses
The Bundesliga has come on leaps and bounds in the last half a decade or so and the mesmerizing run of Borussia Dortmund in the last season was the testimony to that fact. Jurgen Klopp and his team play the football as it should be played.
Their academy based structure is really wonderful and it connects the local fans with the team. I would not be surprised at all if they go on to have a similar campaign this year as well. Elsewhere, I think PSG will do well. The free spending French champions have signed a brilliant goal scorer in Edinson Cavani and he will form a terrific partnership up front with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a partnership which will cause ample amount of problems to the defences across Europe. Their defence also looks pretty solid with the presence of Thiago Silva and Alex.
I hate to say this (especially being a premier league fan) that the chances of the English teams are looking bleak this season. Three of the Four teams which will be participating have had managerial changes. But surely there are several other reasons that are responsible for this (may be that is a separate topic altogether). For the first time since Champions League era began, Manchester United will be entering without the presence of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson on the sidelines. It will be a massive test for the successor and his fellow Scot, David Moyes, who has very little Champions League experience. Jose Mourinho has returned to the Stamford Bridge but this time around he doesn’t seem to have the same squad at his disposal, the squad which used to strike fear in the hearts of the opposing teams. But his Chelsea team will be England’s best bet this time around. Arsenal’s squad look very thin to me and looks like it will be another year of disappointment in Europe for Arsene Wenger’s men. Manchester City will have a task cut out for them when they start their campaign. They have to get rid of this monkey of getting knocked out in group stages off their backs. Much like his rival neighbor Moyes, Manuel Pellegrini too has very little pedigree in this competition and it surely will not help City.
Overall, I expect this year’s tournament to be no different than any of the previous ones in terms of entertainment and excitement. Although it looks like fairly predictable, we have seen in the past that how a team can spring a surprise from nowhere and lift this coveted trophy. You would not want to bet against it, would you?