Last season’s Champions League was the most open for a number of years. Three-time holders Real Madrid were eliminated early on in the knockout rounds, opening up the draw for a number of sides. This resulted in a final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, Champions League finalists for the first time in their history.
Of course, Liverpool claimed their sixth European Cup and the Reds will surely be among the contenders again this season. The 2019/20 Champions League campaign promises to be another compelling one with so many teams eyeing the famous, old trophy. Here is a preview of the season ahead in the competition.
An all-English final last season suggested the tide was turning is turning in the Champions League. While the competition was dominated by Spanish sided for the best part of a decade, now it appears the Premier League is becoming the predominant division on the continent, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all among the presumed contenders this season.
Of course, the usual Spanish sides - Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid - cannot be discounted, nor can Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-German who make up the rest of the usual suspects. The biggest criticism of the Champions League is that it has become a closed shop and indeed, it’s difficult to envisage anyone crashing the party.
1.5u - Back Manchester City To Win @ +500
Every so often, an outsider makes a run deep into the latter rounds of the competition. Look at Ajax’s run to the semi finals last season, where they were just a matter of seconds away from making the final. Two seasons previously it was Monaco who caught the imagination by making the final four on the back of Kylian Mbappe and co.
Inter Milan might be a dark horse to go far in this season’s Champions League. Antonio Conte is moulding the team in his image following his appointment this summer, with the former Chelsea and Juventus coach expected to make some big signings before the window closes. Valencia could also make waves, with Maxi Gomez their big summer signing. If they can avoid the early season struggles of last term, they could be a dangerous team to face.
As with every discussion around the Golden Boot, two names rise to the top of the list. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have made the Champions League their own in recent years, with one the record top scorer and the other second record top scorer. However, there are some contenders if you look beyond The Big Two.
Antoine Griezmann faces a challenge to adapt his game to the trademark Barcelona philosophy, but if he can do that he will surely stand a chance of crossing the 20-goal mark for the season. Gabriel Jesus might also be a solid bet with the Brazilian expected to play a more central role at Manchester City after being handed the number nine shirt.
EXCITING TEAM/NARRATIVE - Can Atalanta make a mark at the top level?
They provided one of the storylines of the 2018/19 season in European football, finishing above many of the traditional Italian giants to claim third place in Serie A. Indeed, what Atalanta did last term was nothing short of extraordinary. As a Pot Four team, they will likely be handed a tough draw, but Atalanta managed to hold their own against more illustrious opponents in Serie A last season. Can they lift their game to make a mark at the top level?
PLAYER TO KEEP AN EYE ON - Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
There is a new king at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo’s departure from the Spanish capital a year ago left Real Madrid without a frontman, both on the pitch and in the dressing room. We all saw the impact of his sale last season, with Real Madrid going through three different managers. Now, however, Hazard has been signed as Ronaldo’s Galactico replacement.
That isn’t to say that Hazard will play the same role that Ronaldo did for Real Madrid. He doesn’t carry the same goal threat that the Portuguese forward does. But whether or not he finds his feat in the Spanish capital will go a long way to determining Real Madrid’s success or failure this season and that in turn will shape the Champions League race.