The UEFA Champions League is arguably the biggest club competition in the world and ended on a somewhat familiar note last season.
Reigning champions Real Madrid have secured the coveted trophy for the fourteenth time in their history, following a 1-0 win over Liverpool in Paris.
With the 2022 FIFA World Cup set to kick off in November, a number of factors could come into play this season as teams prepare to fine-tune their squads ahead of the new campaign. Many transfers have already taken place, with FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich having been particularly active during the summer transfer window.
That said, I have a feeling we will see an all-English final this season, as I sincerely believe the Premier League is head and shoulders above the rest of the domestic leagues in Europe. Unless the draw puts two English teams head to head in one of the knockout rounds, I think they will meet in the final.
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have plenty of world-class players in attack, like Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, but a better team always trumps a group of individuals. They have a terrific attacking trio, but when they don’t have the ball it feels like they are playing with eight which leaves the rest of the team torn to pieces. The Parisians parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino and appointed Christophe Galtier. Whoever the new manager is, will he be able to control his star-studded attacking trio?
Another problem for PSG is that their league games are too easy, so they don’t really know what to do when facing the UEFA Champions League greats. The day after the Champions League opens, PSG will have won the French league, but they’re not building such an incredible squad to win the Ligue 1 title, are they? not ?
Another team I’d like to talk about is Real Madrid – I can’t figure out what they did last season. Were they great or were they just lucky? Real Madrid were knocked out of the competition three times in the round of 16 against PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, but they managed to defy the odds each time, and they won the final despite better play and better chances from Liverpool. It’s one of the most one-sided finals I’ve ever seen, but they still came out on top!
Karim Benzema, who is rightfully the favorite for the 2022 Ballon d’Or, had one of the greatest moments of his career last season, but will he be able to continue the same this season?
Predicting the five UEFA Champions League favorites while we’re still in pre-season has proven to be a bit of a challenge, but here are the teams I’ve picked based on what I think them at this point.
#5 Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich might have a slightly different squad this season, as Robert Lewandowski moved to Barcelona, but he will still be in contention for the UEFA Champions League. Sadio Mané is a different player to Lewandowski, but he is a big game player and he will take Bayern to the next level. I think the former Liverpool player is my player to watch in the UEFA Champions League this season as he allows Bayern to use different formations depending on the opposition.
Matthijs de Ligt’s name has been in the headlines for the past few weeks as the Dutchman left Juventus to join the Bavarian giants. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Matthijs de Ligt, but he will definitely improve the defense at the club. Bayern Munich aren’t stupid – they don’t spend big bucks on players like Mane and De Ligt to win the Bundesliga, they will win the German Premier League even if I play defender for them all season next !
They have also brought in players like Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui to revamp their squad. It’s obvious they’re doing all this to try and get as far as possible in the Champions League.
Robert Lewandowski’s arrival at Camp Nou has been the biggest talking point of FC Barcelona’s summer, but the club have essentially renewed their squad with the signings of Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie and Raphinha, while the extension Ousmane Dembele’s contract break could also be seen as a massive blow for the Catalans.
One moment I hear about their debts, and the next moment they are snatching Lewandowski for a big sum of money! It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? Something is happening in Barcelona, you know what I mean? People say they have no money, but they keep buying players, that’s beyond me!
Lewandowski is a goal-scoring machine and he will no doubt continue to do so at his new club, but if I had to choose between the Pole and Benzema to lead my team, I would choose the Real Madrid striker. Benzema gives a lot more off the ball, so he contributes more to the team when he’s not scoring. Don’t get me wrong, Lewandowski is a machine, but I don’t think he contributes much else when he’s a little dry in front of goal.
Raphinha, meanwhile, is also a decent player, despite having no UEFA Champions League pedigree. I’m giving Barcelona a chance because of the signings they’ve made, but they might learn to run before they walk if they get their hands on the UEFA Champions League ahead of the La Liga title !
Chelsea have already signed Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling and if rumors are to be believed, Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is close to joining the club. Kounde and Koulibaly alongside Thiago Silva as part of a three-man defense is solid, while Trevoh Chalobah, Malang Sarr and others could be seen as competent assistants. The only thing that can be said is that neither Koulibaly nor Silva are particularly young.
To win the UEFA Champions League you need to be strong at the back and Chelsea have been very orderly defensively under Thomas Tuchel, while Reece James and Ben Chilwell – who I consider to be the best pair of full-backs in the world – can shake things up on both sides of the pitch.
As for their midfield, they have three solid options in Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho, while Conor Gallagher could also make the first team this season after a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace.
Sterling is a player I really admire – he gets things done on offense. People slander him for the chances he misses, but he does everything to put himself in a position to score and he was a key player for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
I put Chelsea in third place, but they can easily be first or second if their new players fit in quickly. The only thing that worries me is that they don’t have a real goalscorer, but I don’t think that’s a problem when it comes to cup competitions where they can stay tight in defense and score a goal at the other end.
Liverpool are a solid team and have proven their worth consistently in the Champions League over the years and I’m not surprised at all that they’ve reached the final three times since 2018. They lost Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich and he will be a big absentee, but it will be interesting to see how Darwin Nunez fares at Anfield. They paid big money for him and Jurgen Klopp is almost never wrong when it comes to attackers so we’ll have to wait and see if the lad proves to be a special player.
Unlike last season, Luis Diaz is on the radar this time around. When he joined the club, the discussions of the managers of the opposing team did not really focus on him, but today he has quickly appropriated the left wing and will find it more difficult to make an impact. this season. He has been a fantastic addition for Liverpool and should continue where he left off last season.
Liverpool have world-class players in all positions and a strong backbone in Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho. What isn’t talked about much is the midfield, as forwards and defenders always make the headlines, but the Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho are part of the engine room and keep the club running. They are the unsung heroes of the team and will once again have to give their best if Liverpool are to be competitive on all fronts.
#1 Manchester City
I opted for Manchester City and I think they are the best team in the world of football at the moment. But I have the impression that they are missing something, we will have to see what it is. When it comes to Manchester City and the UEFA Champions League, the pressure is such that they have to win it every year which could hurt their hopes.
In the Premier League, Guardiola and his teammates play hard. They could play someone like Bournemouth on Saturday night and crush them 5-0 with their style of football but when it comes to the Champions League they will be punished if they play that way in my opinion notice.