UEFA Champions League 18/19 – five of the favourites

With club football’s most prestigious tournament kicking off this week, anticipation, and speculation, is rife, as fans begin to dream of their club potentially hoisting the trophy aloft at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, next May.

In this article, I will take you through the five teams I think have the best chance to be successful in this year’s competition, in order of least to most likely.

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Real Madrid

Not only are Real Madrid vying for their fourth successive Champions League title, but they are doing it without one of the greatest pure goalscorers in football history and the man who has brought them so much success over the last nine seasons; Cristiano Ronaldo.

His summer switch to Juventus may or may not have swung the Champions League pendulum in their favour, but focusing on the club from the Spanish capital, the loss of their main source of goals is sure to be worrisome.

They are one of only two teams with their 100% La Liga record intact – no prizes for guessing the other one – but have yet to be properly tested.

They faced a big side only once under new coach Julen Lopetegui, the UEFA Super Cup final opposite fierce city rivals Atlético, and were thoroughly outclassed and outperformed, losing 4-2.

While the chance of winning such an illustrious title in the ground of their main city rivals is sure to provide motivation, if any is needed at this point, looking at the current squad and setup, it does seem to be just out of their reach.

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Paris Saint-Germain

PSG’s approach to winning this competition has been no secret. Spend hundreds of millions of euros on world class players and hope that they function cohesively, and although it has failed before, this side has a different feel to it.

Their 4-0 first leg collapse against Barcelona two seasons ago was symbolic of their European form and they eventually rolled over last campaign opposite Real Madrid 5-2 on aggregate without much resistance, but their attack can not be ignored.

Kylian Mbappé certainly is the real deal and has one year more experience, as well as World Cup success, under his belt, centre-forward Edinson Cavani has gotten better with age, and superstar forward Neymar has (somewhat) taken the baton of poster boy and ran with it.

If Thomas Tuchel can get his defensive tactics right, something previous coaches have failed to do, then the Parisians seem like a safe bet for a deep run into the competition they are so desperate to win.

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Manchester City

Last campaign was a strange one for the Citizens, and while that seems a crazy statement to make when looking at their domestic form, the nature of their exit from this competition somewhat put a dampener on the season as a whole.

They cantered to the Premier League title, losing only twice from 38 games while scoring an incredible 106 goals, but when tasked with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the quarter-finals, they were a shadow of their usual self. In the first leg at least.

True, there was a dubious foul called in the lead up to a Gabriel Jesus goal that would have put City in a great position just before half-time at home during the second leg, but nonetheless, the Merseysiders progressed, and Guardiola’s men were out.

With Guardiola’s two victories in this competition coming during his time with Barcelona, critics have been quick pointing out the fact that his results continentally with Bayern and City have quite simply not matched up.

Pep was obviously appointed with the intention of bringing this title to the Etihad, and failure to do so this season may see pressure mount, as domestic success will not be enough under the lucrative funds of Sheikh Mansour.

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The Bianconeri are this high up on the list for one plainly simple reason; Cristiano Ronaldo. Say what you want about his antics on and off the pitch, and he may or may not be better individually than other players, but his ability to score when it matters most is incredible.

He has left Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos behind in Madrid, but has now joined up with Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanić in Turin, meaning his supply should not be any different or worse off than it was last season.

Further back, Leonardo Bonucci has re-joined the club following his controversial year long stay with rivals Milan, and Mattia Perin has been brought in from Genoa to ‘replace’ Gianluigi Buffon. Easier said than done.

Juve’s recent deep runs and final appearances in the Champions League have been largely down to an impenetrable back line, while their attacking options, or lack thereof, have proven to be their downfall.

Gonzalo Higuaín has been booted out on loan to Milan as part of the Bonucci deal, meaning Ronaldo will have no competition for the central striking role and can flourish on his own, as he so often does on this stage.

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Bias aside with the placement, the Champions League is the main objective for Ernesto Valverde and Barcelona this season, following an (almost) impeccable domestic campaign last year.

Before the annual Trofeu Joan Gamper last month, where Barcelona brushed aside Boca Juniors 3-0, Lionel Messi made a promise to the fans in attendance that the Champions League trophy would be at the Camp Nou next June.

They have got arguably the strongest starting 11 on paper, with Ousmane Dembélé now fully fit and Philippe Coutinho no longer cup tied.

While stalwarts Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi look set to sit out a lot of international duty over the course of the next several months, with the former retired, the latter on hiatus and Alba out of favour.

While they looked set to push for it last season, a second leg collapse against Roma at the quarter-final stage saw those hopes put to bed, but it really does look like Barcelona’s title to lose.

The Author

Robert Barter

18 year old lifelong football fan from Dublin, Ireland. Aspiring journalist. Twitter handle @RobertBarter16.

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