CHAMPIONS LEAGUE preview by Alex
Is it me, or is this the most eagerly-awaited Champions League for many a year? In this preview, I’ll look at a few teams in turn and give you my thoughts:
BAYERN MUNICH with two Champions League titles on his resume, Pep Guardiola should arrive in Munich with plenty of confidence. After a year off, Guardiola is now tasked with retaining the trophy won in such style by Jupp Heynckes in May. They begin their defence of the title at home to CSKA Moscow.
REAL MADRID Carlo Ancelotti, also with 2 European titles on his CV, moves to Real Madrid after a brief spell at moneybags Paris Saint Germain. He has to take over from The Special One (now, of course, back at Chelsea). In their first game, Real Madrid will hope Cristiano Ronaldo and new signing Gareth Bale can work their magic in Turkey against Galatasaray (not an easy place to secure a result).
CHELSEA Jose Mourinho (with two Champions League cups to his name – seeing a pattern here!) returns to his love-hate relationship with Chelsea and its irascible owner Roman Abramovich. Mourinho is a manager par-excellence, but does his Chelsea team really have the weapons to trouble the elite of Europe? They host Swiss side FC Basel at Stamford Bridge.
NAPOLI One of the dark horses this year could be Napoli. They look very solid, but Rafa Benitez, another manager with proven Champions League pedigree, will have to get off to a fast start as his side host last season`s runners-up Borussia Dortmund.
BARCELONA What more can be said about this majestic Barcelona team? Greatest of all-time? Maybe, but they were made to look ordinary by Bayern last year and (whisper it) they might not even be the best team in their own league this year. Barcelona`s new coach Gerardo Martino will have to go a long way to win over the fans, long used to success under the likes of Frank Rijkaard and the aforementioned Pep Guardiola. They begin against Ajax, in a group filled entirely with former winners.
MANCHESTER UNITED Another rookie coach (David Moyes) will have to be on top of his game. They naysayers could argue that The Reds actually underperformed under Fergie’s reign, but any side with RVP must be fancied to go all the way. They begin with a tricky tie against Leverkusen.
MANCHESTER CITY The Blues have been handed something of a group of death, but they have vastly-experienced Manuel Pellegrini at the helm and should have enough weapons at their disposal to get through the group stages. They begin away against Group D minnows Viktoria Plzen and the club will be expecting an improvement on the previous two seasons.
OTHERS The Italian clubs are not highly fancied this year but (along with Napoli) Juventus and Milan might be able to spring a few shocks. Paris St Germain, one of only two French clubs in the group phase, begin away to Olympiakos on Tuesday. Arsenal travel to Marseille on Wednesday, but are not expected to do much damage this year.
- Any spread prices quoted are indicative and as always prices are subject to fluctuation.