European soccer is still streets ahead of any other continent on earth. European powerhouses Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United are among some of the riches sports teams in the world, and continue to dominate.
However, the emergence of the oil-rich teams, as well as a host of well run clubs from a financial standpoint, means that some of the leading teams in this season’s Champions League may not get it all their own way.
Defending champions Barcelona, were installed as favorites even before the group stages were drawn. Barca were drawn in the same group as Italian side Roma, the always dangerous Bayer Leverkusen and Belarusian minnows Bate Borisov.
With a front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Saurez, it would be hard to bet against them not retaining their title. And Barca may not have to look far for what could be their stiffest competition in the tournament this year. Atletico are seen as one of the best clubs never to win the competition, and have improved year-on-year under the guidance of the astute Diego Simeone. Barca also need to keep a watchful eye on Real Madrid, too as they have started their European campaign well. Having been drawn against the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo, it’s a group the Bernabeu-based side should prevail from comfortably.
The general consensus in the soccer world is that one of the above two, or even Bayern Munich are most likely to capture the Champions League title again this term. That’s doesn’t mean that teams cannot dream, though. In the past we’ve seen the likes of Porto under Jose Mourinho in 2003/04 season win Europe’s biggest prize. But, the margin of error for the smaller sides seems to be diminishing. Referencing the Barca front three, as well as Madrid’s combination of Gareth Bale, Ronaldo and Karem Benzema shows how these two clubs literally hold all the aces when it comes to world class talent.
We all like to dream. Watching underdogs in sport prevail is something that endears us to teams, and make soccer so enthralling. So, what teams should we be looking out for this season, aside from the favorites?
Having finished third in the Premier League last year, Arsene Wenger’s team were set to finally fulfill their potential in Europe this season. However, after back-to-back losses in the competition, qualifying from the group stage is looking doubtful. Next, they face Bayern Munich in a crunch match, which will determine whether they can progress, but with stars like Alexis Sanchez, Metsut Ozil and Jack Wilshire in the side, anything is possible.
MANCHESTER CITY (England)
Another oil-rich club, it seems weird to class Manchester City as an underdog, having won two league titles in the last four seasons. They were fortunate to beat German side Borussia Monchengladbach last time round, with Sergio Aguero scoring a last minute winner to keep City’s European dreams alive. But, like Arsenal, if they can get through the group stage, the likes of David Silva, new signings Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, and world class striker Aguero could well steer them to their first Champions League crown.
ATLETICO MADRID (Spain)
Ateltico have never won European soccer’s biggest prize, although they came within a minute of doing so in the 2013/14 season against Real Madrid. Unfortunately, Real’s captain Sergio Ramos headed in an equalizer in the final minutes, and then the white half of Madrid went on to win the match 4-1 in extra time. They also lost Arda Turan to Barca in the summer, but they were quick to add a raft of new players including Felipe Luis from Chelsea and Jackson Martinez from Porto. Simeone has quickly established himself as one of world soccer’s most promising managers, and a Champions League title would increase his stock further.
Main Image; http://www.rantsports.com/soccer/files/2015/08/2015-16-UEFA-Champions-League-Draw.jpg
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