UEFA Champions League Kicks Off Today

The Champions League Trophy - (Photo: Nouse.co.uk)

The most enticing brand of European club soccer kicks off today as the UEFA Champions League group stages are set to begin.  32 teams across Europe will compete for the crown of Europe and all the glory and money that comes with it.  As the competition kicks off, here are some things to look for as well as a few predictions about which teams will be most successful.

How will the rich boys fare?  PSG is a team destined for greatness with their new financial backers and players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi.  However, this is the club’s first season in the Champions League for quite some time, and although they are in a relatively soft group featuring Porto, Dynamo Kyiv, and Dinamo Zagreb, those other teams have more Champions League experience.  Will the club from Paris be able to gel quickly and compete?

Last season was new-look Manchester City’s first Champions League encounter, and they stumbled out of the tournament even with a powerful lineup.  This year, they are a more experienced and stronger side following their English Premier League Championship last season.  But they are in a very hard group with Real Madrid, Ajax, and Borussia Dortmund, who were all champions of their respective leagues.

Manchester City should do better this season, but will be up against tough competition and probably won’t win the trophy just yet.

Chelsea won last year, but are now without their goal-scoring hero, Didier Drogba.  They did bring in exciting prospects like Eden Hazard, but I fear that they lack a true striker (Fernando Torres doesn’t count) and so will struggle to score.

Barcelona is routinely one of the best clubs in the tournament, and should be seen as a favorite.  Featuring a majority of the Spanish National Team, they are the best team in the world, however, with a new manager and a subpar 2nd place finish in La Liga last term, they will need to prove themselves once again.

Arsenal are a club that typically done well in the competition but they will struggle without Robin van Persie who set sail to Manchester United this summer.  However, they look very good defensively through 4 matches in the EPL, and have only conceded one goal.  Also, players like Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla have started to click and their new look offense seems to be good.  They have an easy group with Montpellier, Shalke 04, and Olympiacos so they will hope to progress.  Although I doubt they will win the Champions League, they could provide a shocker.

As for the true contenders, one has to be Manchester United.  Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney will provide two world-class strikers, something no other team can boast.  Another team to look out for is obviously Real Madrid, complete with Cristiano Ronaldo.  However, I think this I going to be another Barcelona year.  Their pride was hurt during the season, and they will be eager to make a statement, something they are more than capable of doing.


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