This season, it seems like the Spanish hold on the trophy could finally be broken. Ronaldo has left Real, Barcelona haven’t significantly strengthened and PSG, Juve and Man City all look capable of mounting a concerted assault on the competition. In this article we take a look at the main runners and riders in this season’s Champions League.
The Old Lady came within minutes of taking eventual champions Real Madrid to extra-time in last season’s knock-out stages, and have bought this summer with revenge in mind. The sale of former talisman Gonzalo Higuain has been mitigated by the arrival of Europe’s hottest property, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese forward has won the Champions League more than most clubs in Europe and will be determined to win it again with Juve. The return of Leonardo Bonucci coupled with the arrival of holding midfielder Emre Can should add even more defensive solidity to Juve’s already formidable backline.
Who they’ll need to perform: You guessed it, Ronaldo. Top performances from him will be the difference between failure and success for the Turin outfit.
Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled squad made short shrift of their domestic opponents last term, but came up short once again in Europe, being heavily beaten by Liverpool over two legs. Sheikh Mansour has pumped well over a billion pounds into the former exploding clown car of English football, and will see Champions League success as the minimum expected return on his investment.
Who they’ll need to perform: Sergio Aguero may grab the goal-scoring headlines for City, but Kevin De Bruyne could prove to be the difference in tough clashes against Europe’s elite.
Just like Manchester City, PSG have the expectations of super-wealthy investors on their shoulders. Neymar was signed last season for an eye-watering amount, and his arrival failed to usher in European success.
Experienced ‘keeper Gigi Buffon has joined this summer from Juventus, and the PSG hierarchy will be hoping his experience and winning mentality will rub off on the rest of the squad.
Who they’ll need to perform: Thomas Tuchel, the new manager is tasked with one of the toughest jobs in football. Getting a tune out of some of the best players in the world, who seem thoroughly disinterested in taking orders from anyone.
When Liverpool were smashed by Spurs and Man City last season, who would have predicted they’d reach the Champions League final? Absolutely nobody. That’s the beauty of the European competition and what makes placing a bet on these competitions exciting, sometimes the winners or runners-up come in the form of an unlikely team.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men have been growing as a group for the past couple of years, and undoubtedly possess the talent to advance in tight knock-out games. One or two favourable draws in the latter stages could see Spurs surge to European success in the most unlikely of fashions.
Who they’ll need to perform: Harry Kane, their prolific front man loves scoring, but has been known to go missing in some of the bigger games. His performances against Croatia for England, and Juve and Man United last season for Spurs left much to be desired. If he rises to the occasion for Spurs though, he could fire them to European glory.
Who are we backing?
Manchester City are the favourites, although Juventus seem like the strongest outfit in the Champions League this term. Max Allegri’s tactical flexibility could be key in crunch games, and the arrival of Ronaldo brings a star quality to their squad. That being said, any of the teams mentioned above could feasibly win the tournament. There could even be a massive upset with a real outsider winning the tournament for the first time since Porto in 2004.