Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Champions League Is Back


The Champions League makes its exciting return this week and millions of fans across Europe are dreaming that this could be their side’s year to lift that famous trophy and be the undisputed kings of Europe. Real Madrid have dominated the competition winning the previous 3 Champions Leagues beating Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool last season. They love winning this competition lifting the trophy 13 times and they will fancy their chances of making it 14 come June 2019. However, Real Madrid will no doubt face stiff competition from the other 31 sides participating this season and recording a record 4th straight title is easier said than done.

Barcelona are no doubt angry and envious watching their bitter rivals lift the Champions League year after year. The Catalans were last kings of Europe in 2015 and they want supremacy once again. A rejuvenated Lionel Messi and with the likes of Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho around him, Barcelona will fancy their chances this season after consecutive disappointing at the quarter finals. The red half of Madrid may also have something to say this season after their Europa League triumph last season. Greizmann, Simeone and co would love the chance to snatch Europe’s top title from their city rivals. Atletico have never won the Champions League but have reached 3 finals with their last being in 2016 losing to Real Madrid. Greizmann is missing a Champions League medal from his illustrious trophy cabinet and he will be determined to get his hands on one this season. Valencia make their Champions League return this season and will be hoping to make a statement. Marcelino has an excellent squad and he will be confident Valencia can challenge the rest of Europe and certainly try and reach the latter stages of the competition. There is no doubt Spain has dominated the Champions League in the last few years with 5 consecutive titles heading to Spain.

But could the Champions League title return to English shores in 2019. Chelsea were the last English side in 2012 but Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United will all feel they have a great chance at winning Europe’s top prize. After last season’s dominance, Manchester City’s only blemish on a wonderful campaign was a disappointing Champions League exit to Liverpool and Pep Guardiola will be desperate to bring the Champions League to the blue half of Manchester having not won the Champions League since his time in charge at Barcelona in 2011. Liverpool will also fancy their chances after reaching last season’s final and no doubt there will be a determination to go one better this season and lift the trophy for a 6th time and since the famous Istanbul final of 2005. Klopp has an exciting squad but also plenty of last season’s finalists still at the club and no doubt Liverpool will be there or thereabouts once again this season. Manchester United will also be targeting a long Champions League campaign after a woeful campaign last time out losing in the last 16 to Sevilla. They went out with a whimper and Mourinho will expect better this season as United aim to be kings of Europe for the first time since 2008. Tottenham have never reached the final of Europe’s top competition but have reached the knockout phases of the competition but have been disappointing at this stage. Knocked out by Juventus last season after holding an advantage for much of the tie and no doubt Pochettino will want more this season. Harry Kane will also want to showcase his skills in the big competition after brilliant Premier League campaigns and a brilliant World Cup. The English clubs will fancy their chances and hope to bring the Champions League title back to England.

However, could the famous trophy be heading to Germany this season? Bayer Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Hoffenheim are the 4 German clubs aiming to bring Europe’s top competition back to German shores. Bayer Munich are arguably Germany’s best chance of seeing the Champions League return to Germany. The Bavarians last lifted the trophy in 2013 in Jupp Heyneckes’ triple winning season but others including Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti and Heyneckes again have failed to bring the Champions League back. No doubt the Bayer Munich hierarchy desperately want the Champions League and Niko Kovac must aim to do that this season. The Bundesliga is generally assured for Bayer Munich but consecutive disappointments in the Champions League are frustrating fans and players alike. But can the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery bring the Champions League back to Bavaria. Borussia Dortmund may also fancy their chances of reaching the latter stages of the competition. A disappointing exit in the group stages last season ultimately summed up a miserable season overall for Dortmund last season. However, they are rejuvenated under Lucien Favre and with the likes of Marco Reus, Axel Witsel and Christian Pulisic in their ranks, you cannot rule out Dortmund. Schalke and Hoffenheim will no doubt cause teams’ problems as they look to showcase their skills on Europe’s top stage. Could the Champions League be heading back to Germany in the very near future? Only time will tell.

Or will the famous trophy be heading to Italian shores. Juventus have spent big in their aim of becoming the kings of Europe. The Old Lady have been the bridesmaids and not the brides in the previous two decades losing their last 5 Champions League finals. The Old Lady last won in 1996 and clearly the wait has gone on long enough. Juventus are desperate and smashed their transfer record to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to Turin in the aim of winning the Champions League. Juventus are serious contenders this season and Ronaldo will be a huge asset to them in the competition because it has been his competition the last few years. But could last season’s semi finalists Roma could a few steps better this season and lift the trophy. Roma were magnificent in last season’s competition knocking out Barcelona and losing to Liverpool in the final 4. They have never tasted success in Europe’s top competition and no doubt just being in the competition year in year out is not what the fans want. Could they spring a surprise on the rest of Europe? We shall see. Napoli may also fancy their chances this season. Under serial winner Carlo Ancelotti, the Naples club may fancy their chances of causing a few surprises themselves and progressing through the competition unnoticed. Ancelotti has plenty of quality at disposal with the likes of Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon, Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne amongst his arsenal of quality. Its been a long 6 years for Inter Milan since their last Champions League campaign. It has been years of poor campaigns and mismanagement on and off the pitch. However, Luciano Spalletti has calmed the frustrated ship and guided Inter to the top 4 last season and a return to Europe’s top table and no doubt they will want to make the most of their opportunity. The likes of Mauro Icardi finally getting their chance to showcase their talents in the biggest European competition around. There are very strong contenders in Italy and no doubt all 4 clubs will feel they have a good chance at potentially winning the competition.

But certainly, PSG will have throw their hypothetical hat into ring. Years of consistent spending have not delivered the title the whole club is desperate for. Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria and co have so far failed to bring Europe’s top competition to the French capital. Thomas Tuchel is the next manager tasked with delivering the Champions League. PSG have largely flattered to deceive in the Champions League and frustrating the entire club and the pressure will continue to intensify until they finally win Europe’s top competition. Could 2019 be that year? However, Monaco and Lyon may also fancy their chances at sustaining a Champions League charge. Despite constant player changes season after season, Monaco remain a competitive force and will again fancy they can push in Europe with their best run being back in 2004 when they lost in the final to Mourinho’s Porto team. Jardim has done a wonderful job at Monaco having reached the semi-finals in 2017 losing to Juventus and no doubt they will hoping to reach similar heights this season. Lyon are making their return to the Champions League after regular Europa League campaigns in seasons gone by. Bruno Genesio has plenty of talents in his ranks with the likes of Nabil Fekir and Memphis Depay being vital in how they play and all these on form could cause teams problems. While France seems an unlikely destination for the Champions League in 2019, you cannot rule it out with PSG certainly being the best chance of the famous trophy returning to France for the first time since Marseille’s victory in 1993.

There are other sides in Europe who could possibly surprise a few including Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and Ajax while Porto and Benfica also will aim to spring a surprise on some of their bigger European rivals. Champions League regulars Shaktar Donetsk usually progress to the last 16 of the competition and course teams plenty of problems and no doubt they will be tough opposition once again this season. Turkish champions Galatasaray also aiming to cause one or two problems and who knows go far in the competition, but this could difficult with many others competing in a similar fashion.

The 2018/19 Champions League will certainly be the most competitive yet with many sides believing they can win the competition but only one will stand tall and take the crown in 2019. Can Real Madrid make it a record 4th title in row or will we have a new champion next year only time will tell but one thing for sure, the Champions League will bring quality goals, brilliant football, moments of controversy and shocks and that’s why we love the Champions League as football fans as its Europe’s best 32 fighting to be the undisputed king of Europe. The Champions League is here and is ready to excite fans across the world as the most prestigious competition returns in all its glory.

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