The potential for the closest Champions League in recent years


This week sees the return of European football’s premier club competition, the Champions League. Rather than the somewhat processional route to the final Barcelona had last season though, already there are indicators around Europe that this campaign may be much harder to call.

Although 32 teams compete in the Champions League, realistically there are only a handful of sides which could go the distance. In the last few seasons this has been an exceptionally small handful, yet this time round there is cause for wider optimism. Much of this stems from the beginnings of both the Spanish and English top flight seasons. Most football fans would agree that Barcelona, if not the greatest club side ever, have been at least the most gifted side of their generation. The Champions League reflected this last season, and overall as reigning champions are fairly labelled as the favorites. But times could be changing.

Barcelona’s start to the season has not been poor by any means, yet out of the traps they seem somewhat rusty, a judgement magnified all the more by the early progress of three other teams in particular. In Spain it would seem that Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid have got as close as any Real side have to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. The summer signing of Fabio Coentrao and the stepping forward of Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil have given the Madrid side an abundance of creativity and movement akin to their Catalan rivals. Additionally, whilst Barcelona may still just about have the best eleven, Real Madrid boast a more complete and experienced squad. This has been the case for the last few seasons, yet Barcelona have been fortunate that they have largely avoided serious injuries. Will they be so fortunate again? If Barcelona show any weakness Mourinho can be trusted to exploit it and run with it.

Closer to home the standout performers in the Premiership have been the Manchester sides. Manchester City have been brilliant so far, scoring goals for fun, with Roberto Mancini seemingly forgetting his Italian and conservative traditions. Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko, Silva and Nasri all have the speed and movement which Barcelona have so successfully used in recent years.

But unlike Barcelona, Manchester City have more players who can close games out and through sheer force can see games out, such as Yaya Toure, Nigel De Jong and Vincent Kompany. Some pundits have already exclaimed these merits of Manchester City to such an extent where they would be able to beat Barcelona now. At the moment that may be too soon, yet come the Champions League final in May, it could be accurate given the time and experience City will have had to gel.

The red side of Manchester though is not to be out done by the blue portion domestically or continentally. Its extremely arguable, but Manchester United may not have been quite so smooth with the ball compared to City thus far. But their record in front of goal will shut anybody up.

Wayne Rooney seems world class again and in Young, Nani, Welbeck and Cleverly they have hungry players wanting success. Goalkeeper aside, they also have probably the best back four in Europe. There was a sense that Sir Alex Ferguson was extremely regretful in the way his team were dismantled by Barcelona last May on English soil and sets his sights purely on revenge.

Sides from the rest of Europe may also spring a surprise, yet the tournament is spread over enough games to sort the men from the boys and test not only the 11 men on the pitch, but their entire squads also. Sanchez and Fabregas arriving at the Nou Camp will further strengthen the Barcelona front line and have the world class talent to maintain Barcelona’s status as tournament favorites for now.

But questions can again be asked of their defensive replacements. How often can they keep getting away with playing midfielders in defense? F.C Barcelona will need to start looking over their shoulders… are seeking new writers to join the team! If you’re passionate about football, drop us a line at “” to learn more.

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