The world’s biggest and most decorative club football competition, the Champions League, is heading into Week 2. There is a long way to go and a number of shocks will be created, but it’s time for SportsPundit to take a look at top five contenders for the trophy this season.
Every season Real Madrid start the Champions League as favourites and every season they disappoint – at least have been since 2002. The Spanish giants have headed into this season’s campaign in a similar way, having failed to go beyond the semi-finals under Jose Mourinho in each of the past three years. Now under the management of Carlo Ancelotti, Madrid will be aiming to go a step further. Progressing out of their group should not too difficult, especially as they beat Galatasaray 6-1 away from home in Istanbul on Matchday One, and with the likes of Isco, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema in their team, there is every chance that they could win the fabled ‘La Decima’.
Barcelona last won the Champions League in 2011 and that has been considered a disappointment at the club, so much is the expectation is at Camp Nou. Having said that, the Catalan giants have reached at least the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition since 2009 and that trend could continue this campaign. Barca have pretty much the same team that they had last campaign, with the notable exceptions of the departure of Eric Abidal and the arrival of Neymar. With Lionel Messi in red-hot form and the rest of the team as world class as ever, Gerardo Martino’s side will be expected to once fight all the way.
No club during the Champions League era has ever won the competition twice in a row and that will be Pep Guardiola’s main task at hand in his first season in charge of Bayern Munich. In 2012-13 under Jupp Heynckes, the Bavarian giants won the treble for the first time in their history – Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League. Now Guardiola has not only got to make the players play even better – they were by far the most entertaining and complete team in Europe last season – but also to retain all of their titles, especially the Champions League. Reaching the last 16 should not be a problem for the likes of Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery, who will be tested in the knockout rounds.
Chelsea may have lost to Basel at Stamford Bridge on Matchday One, but Jose Mourinho’s side still remain one of the favourites for the title. With the return of the ‘Special One’, the Blues are buoyant and do have a genuinely talented team that could challenge for top honours. At the moment, Chelsea are still a team under construction but there are every signs that they will get better and better.
For the past two seasons Juventus have been the best team in Italy and last year Antonio Conte’s side reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. This summer the Bianconeri signed strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente and coupled with them keeping the rest of their squad, they are a real force to be reckoned with this term. Conte is one of the best young tacticians around and his experience of Champions League football as coach last season is certain to have a positive impact on the team’s fortunes this time around.