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It only seems like yesterday when we saw Gareth Bale acrobatically sent Real Madrid to a record third Champions League success in a row, thus sentencing Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to yet another trophyless season. The 64th edition kicks off this week, as thirty-two of Europes finest do battle once again for what should be another season of high-octane excitement. I take a look at what I believe are the five teams to watch in this year’s competition. As the best of Europe contest for ‘Big Ears.’
For several years they have very much been in the shadow of their cross-town rivals. But, I believe this to be the year they step out of their shadow and conquer Europe’s premier competition. They may be experts in winning the Europa League. Nonetheless, the team Simmone has assembled seems ready to win the Champions League this year. A spine of Oblak, Godin, Koke and Griezmann must be ranked as one of the best. The final this year is being played at Atlético’s new state of the art stadium, so surely its written in the stars for them to claim a maiden victory.
The Old Lady has dominated their respected league for the last seven years! However, not since 1996 have they succeeded in transferring their domestic success into the Champions League. It seems this Juventus are going all out to accomplish that goal. You can’t look much further than the recent acquisition of Europe’s most dominant performer, Cristiano Ronaldo. An already extremely talented squad, the arrival of Ronaldo to partner Dybala leaves many Juventus fans licking their lips in anticipation and one to strike fear in the eyes of their rivals.
Pep seems to have got the squad playing his way, as he seeks a third Champions League triumph. To win the trophy with Manchester City will surely elevate him among the finest coaches of all time. Spearheaded by all-time top goalscorer Sergio Aguero, Manchester City is a real force. Last seasons quarter-final exit must be viewed as a failure, and one I am sure Pep will go all out to make sure he brings the trophy to the blue side of Manchester for the first time.
All the riches in the world have yet to bestow the Parisians with a Champions League triumph. Much to the dismay of their Qatari owners. Managers have come and gone and it is now former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel turn to deliver the goods. Fresh from leading his country to a second World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappe seems a future Ballon d’Or in the making. Dovetailing him, Neymar Jr and Edison Cavani make up quite possibly the deadliest three-pronged attack in this year’s competition. The rest of Europe, you have been warned.
Similar to Juventus situation they to have dominated their domestic league for several years, but haven’t been able to translate that into European success since their last in 2013. They were perhaps unlucky to lose to Real Madrid in last season’s semifinal. However, this could spur them on to achieve another title. Bayern, after all, is a club which has an immense heritage and history in this competition, and they will be looking to build on it.
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BY - George Tipper
18 September 2018