With the fourth round of matches having taken place, some of the biggest teams in the world are looking lik they are on their way out – in spite of the countless millions spent by Manchester City, they’re about to fall by the wayside for the second season running. If they had managed to get through to the knock-out stages they would have stood a good chance of going all the way, but as it is they’ll be lucky to get into the Europa League!
Here’s who we think are the main contenders (in no particular order!)
Yeah, they might have lost to Celtic last night, but the reality of the situation is that Barcelona had 80% possession, 17 shots, including 11 on target. Celtic by contrast had two shots, and were lucky enough to score two goals! There will always be the odd match where Barcelona struggle to break-down a resolute opposition, but they are few and far between, and it only takes the slightest of defensive errors to let messi, Xavi et al in (Arsenal would be massacred!) They are the obvious choice, but by no means unbeatable. We think theres a 30% chance they will be taking the trophy home.
Having got the better of Barcelona in the league this season (even though they lag on points), Real Madrid are a threat in all competitions. Whilst they have been criticised for being over-reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, you certainly can’t blame them for that – if I had Ronaldo in my team I would pass him the ball each and every time I got a chance to! They have the attacking brilliance to score against even the meanest defences, anwith Mourinho at the helm they have the never-say-die attitude that was exemplified by their late goals against City. They have a 25% chance of winning the trophy.
Last year, United were accused of being too complacent in Europe, as they failed to get out of what was a relatively easy group. This year they have made no such mistakes, and were the first team to qualify in first place, with a clear 8 point lead in the group meaning that they can afford to rotate their best players in the final two group games. Having been to three finals in recent years, they know they have what it takes to reach the final. The only problem will be beating the team they meet there – Barcelona have managed to thwart their last two attempts – but even if it is the Catalan giants again they stand a chance. Realistically they have a 20% chance of landing the European Cup for a fourth time.
Anyone who can convincingly beat another team in the Champions League will be hitting the headlines across europe (just like in Champ Man!), and Bayern are no different. If you throw their six goals against top-class opposition in with their defensive strength, you get a well balanced side. They are loosely based on the young, brilliant German side of recent years, but with the added skill and pace of Ribery and Robben to add an extra dimension. They made the final last year and deserved to win the title, only for Chelsea to somehow hold on for penalties, and triumph. They have the players, the experience and the ability, and can beat anyone on their day – as they proved last year against Barcelona. 15% chance.
When they were drawn in the same group as Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax, you could have been forgiven if you had decided to back them to finish bottom of the group, but the truth is that the German champions are much better than Mancini, Mourinho and the world’s media thought they were. They are a well organised team who have the guile up-front to create chances, and clinical finishers in Lewandowski and Grosskreus to make teams pay. Had they managed to keep hold of United-bound Kagawa they would be an even more mouthwatering proposition. They managed to take 4 points of their head-to-heads with Real, and drew with City to really set the cat amongst the pigeons. Their league form hasn’t been great, leading to Sir Alex questioning whether they had prioritised winning the Champions League instead – they certainly seem to save their best for this competition. If they are, they stand a chance of going all the way, especially if the bigger threats have league difficulties to distract them. Dortmund have a 10% chance.
Anything to Add? Agree? Disagree? Hit us up on twitter (@ftbllr) and let us know your thoughts!