With the 2014/15 Champions League kicking off tonight, our sports writers assess who may be in with a chance of taking this years crown in Berlin next May.
Chris Gray (The Linc editor)
– For me, there’s only three teams capable of winning it. Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Real Madrid are fatally wounded by the loss of Di Maria and Xabi Alonso and that will show in the latter stages of the tournament.
Mourinho will be desperate to win it and he has built a team that plays his tendencies of sitting back and playing on the counter and they will be a certainty for the quarter finals and that’s when Mourinho will work his magic.
Bayern Munich were hurt by the thrashing at the hands of madrid last season but with Alonso in their midfield, they will have the capability of making it 2 out of three wins.
Barcelona however is my favourite to win the competition. When top players are down, they come back fighting and with a front three of Suarez, Messi and Neymar they will out score any team in Europe.
Edward Seaman (Sports Editor of The Linc)
– Neither Jose Mourinho or Chelsea require the Champions League on their football résumés but what they do lack is winning it together, and this year could be their year.
It is no secret that Chelsea are a well drilled defensive unit and at times last season you could argue that their downfall was the lack of a world class striker.
In Diego Costa, they now have one. The summer signing has made an impressive start in London and has Champions League experience as he guided Atletico Madrid to the final last year.
Another man in that team was Thibaut Courtois, who this year has returned to Chelsea and immediately staked his claim as their number one goalkeeper. With the further addition of Cesc Fabregas, Mourinho has turned his good team into what could be a great team.
Adam Tomlinson (Deputy Sports Editor of The Linc)
– To be honest once again it’s a toss up between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both teams have once again strengthened significantly and if they do end up playing each other I’m sure it’ll be almost impossible to call.
However, on this occasion i have chosen Ancelotti’s men to retain the Champions League. The additions of Kroos and Rodriguez will only propel them further forwards. The transformation of Gareth Bale has been astounding over the past season. Those three plus Ronaldo going forwards would be impossible for any team to handle.
Even though Real have had a less than impressive start to the season, I’m sure they will gel in time for the competition and will definitely be the team to beat.
– Realistically there are only a handful of teams who can win it. Whilst no one has ever defended the Champions League, Real Madrid have a great chance to be the first team to do so. Having finally won “La Decima” last season after a 12 year wait, they’ve added even more quality to their star-studded squad.
However, to accommodate the arrivals of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso have been allowed to move on. Even so, they’ll be very difficult to stop. If any other team is to take the trophy away from them, they’ll probably have to beat Real at some point in the competition.
Even though they themselves were swept aside by Real last season, the most likely team to do this is Bayern Munich who have strengthened the entire spine of their team with the additions of Medhi Benatia, the aforementioned Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski.
Adam Allcroft (SU Sports Editor)
– I think this is the most open Champions League ever with all the big teams having big weaknesses. I think we’ll see the re-emergence of Barcelona with them sorting out a lot of their issues.
– My heart tells me that Liverpool could make a sensational return to the competition after a five year absence by adding a sixth European crown however, realistically I think this is the year Barcelona return to the top of the European game.
Whilst Real Madrid will be hoping to break records by becoming the first team to successfully defend their Champions League, and Bayern Munich wanting Pep Guardiola to make up for their embarrassing semi-final defeat to the eventual winners, I can’t see past the Catalans.
The simple reason being that Barcelona’s front three of Messi, Neymar and now Suarez is arguably the best on the planet and with all three wanting to firmly forget the disappointments of their respective World Cup campaigns winning the biggest prize in club football would be the perfect way to do it.
– I think Chelsea could be serious contenders this year. They have Diego Costa on form and a very well organised defence under Mourinho so I think they’ll go far.
Barcelona are also likely to go the distance, Neymar, Messi and Suarez are probably the best three strikers in the world. They aren’t playing as well as the Pep days but when you have so many world class players in one team you’re going to do well.
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