This seasons Champions League main stages will kick off again on September 15th, with the final due to be played in Milan's San Siro on May 28th. According to numerous betting websites, there are 3 clear favourites for the competition, and somewhat unsurprisingly, it is the 3 most recent winners of the competition, last year's victors FC Barcelona, 2014 champions Real Madrid, and German giants Bayern München. Various sites view them in different orders, and so I will give a run down on the transfers each team has made and their respective chances of success, as well as a look at chances of a first English Champions League success since 2012.
So what about the English clubs?
Last season marked a low point for English clubs in European football, with all sides having been eliminated before the quarter final stage. With Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and a returning Manchester United representing England in the top club competition, will there be any redemption? Whereas the favourites are almost guaranteed to reach the latter stages of tournaments, English clubs are far more dependant on the luck of the draw upon exiting the groups. I believe each team has the capability to exit the group stages in one of the top 2 positions this year, but the importance of finishing first instead of second is more apparent than ever. Chelsea and Manchester United both have been drawn into relatively easy groups, but the ability to secure top spot may be difficult if they continue the questionable form of the first few matches of the season. Arsenal should still be confident of a runners up spot in their group featuring Bayern, but as shown by their last 16 matches with Monaco last year, their consistency is a major issue even against supposedly inferior teams. Ultimately, I believe due to the quality of their signings and defensive strength, Manchester City pose the greatest threat to Europe's elite, despite facing the most difficult group of all the English clubs. They have the goals in them, with Sergio Aguero being arguably a strong contender for third best player in the world, and signings such as Raheen Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne will inject more flair into the City team that has looked jaded in Europe the last 2 seasons. However, their form in Europe has been far from the calibre that you would expect from a squad worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Will their poor form in Europe continue for a fourth consecutive season? Only time will tell, they have the players if a top European side, but do they have bottle?
The Dark Horses