The 2017/18 season is now in full swing across Europe, and we’re starting to get an idea of which sides will be competing for the silverware. However, there is one competition that stands out above the rest. Played by only very best teams of top-division European clubs, the UEFA Champions League is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. It is the most competitive club league in the world of football has returned, and there are already several sides who have made a strong statement in the two opening group stage fixtures.
Spanish Teams Have Started Strong
The football world has recently been rocked by the arrest of the head of Spanish football, Angel María Villar, with allegations of corruption and embezzlement. However, this hasn’t had any impact on the strong start of the Spanish teams in the Champions League.
Real Madrid currently holds the trophy and are the most successful club with 12 titles. Last season they became the first team to successfully defend their title in the Champions League since it changed its name from the European Cup in 1992, and they have started strongly again this term. Real Madrid has two wins from their opening games and is joined at the top of Group H by Tottenham Hotspur. A top of the table clash this week will decide who heads into the second half of the group stage fixtures in front.
While both sides look to gain top spot heading into the second half of the group stage fixtures, it’s Real Madrid who are outright favourites. Many predict the Spanish giants to breeze through, but if there’s any chance of an upset, you’ll find the latest odds on Betsafe. While Tottenham’s young squad faces a mammoth task, Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur) believes they have the quality and belief to get over the line.
One of Real Madrid’s closest challengers, regarding geography, squad strength and wealth, is Barcelona. After selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Barcelona will be desperate to show that it hasn’t affected them. The last time the Catalan giants won the Champions League was 2014/15, where they dispatched Juventus 3-1 in Berlin. They have started the league season brilliantly with seven wins and one draw in their opening eight matches. And with two wins from two in Europe, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with, despite the off-field issues throwing the club into the unknown.
Can the England Silence the Critics?
While Spain has dominated world football on the domestic and international scene in recent years, England is a footballing country with much to prove. The last English side to compete in the final of the Champions League was Chelsea, who won it back in 2012. However, this year could quite easily see another strong challenge from an English team as four of the five Premier League representatives have won both of their opening matches (Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham). Diego Simeone (Athletico Madrid) stated that the standard of the five teams is higher this term after his Atletico side were outplayed and beaten 2-1 at home by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) Are Big Contenders
One of the big contenders for the trophy is PSG in Ligue 1. Led by two of the most expensive players of all-time, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG will be tough to beat. Mbappe is yet to sign permanently, although, a fee of around €145 million has been agreed with Monaco.
After demolishing Celtic 5-0 in their first group game, PSG followed up with a comfortable 3-0 win over European giants, Bayern Munich. The strength of the French side’s squad is fantastic, with each position suitably covered across the field. PSG shouldn’t be underestimated in this year’s tournament; however, their lack of experience may turn out to be their downfall.
Bayern Munich is Still One of the Favourites
While the loss against PSG meant that Carlo Ancelotti was relieved of his duties as manager, Bayern Munich is still at the top of their game and one of the favourites to win the Champions League. The club has re-appointed Jupp Heynckes, the manager who delivered them their last European trophy, for the fourth time. Due to his knowledge of all things Bayern, he won’t need time to settle in, and he is expected to hit the ground running with a very strong side. Bayern Munich faces Celtic in their next Group B match and will be desperate to get a few wins on the board as they look to put pressure on PSG at the top of the group.
Can Napoli Make their Mark?
While each of the teams mentioned so far has some past success in the Champions League, one team that may have a chance to write their name in the history books is Napoli. The Italian side has been knocking on the door for a few years now, and with eight wins from their first eight games in Serie A this term, it’s fair to say they are one of the hottest teams in Europe right now.
The front line of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon has been devastating in the Italian top flight, with each of the forwards scoring in the 3-1 victory over Feyenoord in their last European fixture. However, a 2-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in their first game put them in third position of Group F, behind Manchester City and Shakhtar. Napoli has the chance to challenge for a place in the latter stages, but they need to recreate their league performances in the Champions League.
Watch the Best Teams in Europe Compete
It is no surprise to see Real Madrid considered as favourites to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy in June. But with their below par start to the La Liga campaign, this could pave the way for another side to steal their crown. Barcelona and PSG are the next two teams in a good challenging position, but a Manchester City side led by Pep Guardiola shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is no doubt that this will be one of the most entertaining Champions League seasons in recent history, with an array of top clubs and players vying for glory.