Champions League got underway last week, and was as dramatic as he finished last season. Chelsea got their defence of the trophy underway, but let a 2-0 lead slip to an impressive Juventus. Real Madrid beat Manchester City in the best game of match day 1, with a last minute Ronaldo goal. Barcelona, Manchester United, and Arsenal got off to wins, and French outfit PSG looked impressive in their first Champions League game in 8 years. The final is once again in Wembley this year, and looks favourite to be walking down Wembley Way come May. A terrific venue for a final, what two teams will take place in that final?
Barcelona: Probably been favourites for the last 5 seasons now, and there is many reasons why! Barcelona has not been knocked out before the semi finals in the last 5 years. They won it in 2009 and 2011. Close losses in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 semi finals too, each time to the eventual winners, it really does prove that they are the team to beat, and remain so to this day. Lionel Messi is the best footballer on the earth, and supported by other great players like David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. To beat Barcelona, you will need to be at your best and need a slice of luck, so Barcelona are the clear favourites in my view. Only problem I see with them this season is their defence, so they are definitely not unbeatable.
Real Madrid: Have come really close in the last couple of seasons, narrowly losing in the semi finals to Barcelona, and last year Bayern Munich, with the latter being decided on penalties. Real Madrid weren’t too much of a threat in this competition, but Mourinho has made them one of the favourites once again. They won La Liga last season, and that may give them the boost to go all the way. They looked a fantastic team last year, and this season has bolstered their squad with the signing of Luka Modric.
Ronaldo is still untouchable, along with many other creative players and a solid defence. Also, when you have Mourinho in charge, it seems to give them an extra motivation, and all teams will fear Real Madrid. Can they win their 10th title? It’s been 11 years since their last one.
Manchester United: Last season was bizarre for Manchester United, as they were placed in an easy group but failed to finish above Benfica and Basle. Before last season though, they have reached 3 out of for Champions League finals, winning one and losing two. They will look to avoid complacency in the group stage, and once they play in the knockout rounds, everyone will fear them. Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa will give them that extra edge up front, and with a consistent back four, they will be hard to beat for any team. When the fans are up for it, Old Trafford is the toughest place to go for any European team, as I expect this United team to be there in the latter stages of the competition this year.
Manchester City: They don’t have the Champions League experience like the other three favourites, but in terms of their squad, they will be in with a fantastic chance. They have a tough group to get out of first, but if they make it through to the next stage, I expect them to come a long way in this. Solid team throughout and have attacking players likely to hurt any defence in front of them. Mancini is the manager and often plays a more conservative approach, and that may benefit the Manchester City fans, as Chelsea won it last year being tough to break down.
Bayern Munich: Unbelievably close last year, and perhaps should of won it. Fantastic all the way through last season, looked flawless, and got their bit of luck when they beat Real Madrid on penalties in the semi final. At home in the Allianz Arena for the final, it looked inevitable for them to win the Champions League on home turf. As if that wasn’t painful enough, they did of course lose two years ago to Inter Milan. This year they will be desperate to make amends for two final losses, and have kept the same team as last year, with a few more signings. They have what it takes to win, they just need a bit of luck, when in recent years they just simply haven’t.
Chelsea: It’s never been done in the modern Champions League era, but Chelsea will try and be the first team to retain the Champions League trophy. Manchester United came closest, as they got to the final after winning it one year, and Chelsea will look to go one better this year. It will be tough though for them. They were rather fortunate to win the title last year, and perhaps their courage and commitment was the main reason they won it last, something which they may lack this year, due to being successful last season. We will soon find out if they have the hunger to retain it.
Juventus: Opened up with an impressive 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge. They won Serie A last year, and went the whole season unbeaten. They have a new found spirit at Juventus, and they look a team tough to beat, with some incredible danger going forward to. Legendary midfielder Andrea Pirlo is still pulling the strings and would love to the trophy one more time in his illustrious career. If a team from Italy wins it this year, it will be Juventus, and not many people will be surprised if they reach the semis or final this year, or even going the full distance.
Arsenal: I’d say some people may forget Arsenal when mentioning favourites to win the Champions League this year, but it may work to their advantage. They have started the Premier League and Champions League very well and yet to lose. Cazorla looks a fantastic player in the midfield for Arsenal, and on their day can beat anyone in the competition. They have come close before, but it seems Barcelona always get in their way. They have been knocked out to them 3 times, and if it isn’t them, it is usually another English team. Arsenal have always missed out on that luck you need to win this trophy, but in terms of quality, they certainly can, as Chelsea proved last year, you don’t have to be the best team to win it.
PSG: Surprise package from France. They have recently seen a injection of cash into their club, and a fantastic squad has been assembled for their first season in the Champions League in 8 seasons. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, and Ezequiel Lavezzi joined in the summer to join a club continuing to improve. They opened up with a win, and look dark horses to win this competition. Manager Ancelotti has won it before with AC Milan, so they have a man who has the know how to go all the way. They won’t be expected to win it, but will be a hard game for any of the other favourites mentioned.