The Champions League is back tonight, and it promises to be another special campaign. Can Real Madrid retain their crown? Or will the fierce competition continue to halt a side winning consecutive Champions League titles. Here are five reasons to be looking forward to Europe’s elite competition.
1.) Race for the golden boot
With the plethora of attacking talent on display, this years golden boot race is one all of the household names have a serious chance of winning.
Every football fan will be licking their lips to see Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski and so many more battle it out to be the top scorer.
Last year’s top-scorer competition was a complete no contest, with Ronaldo hitting a record 17 goals in just 11 games, with Ibrahimovic his nearest challenger with ten goals.
Lionel Messi had a disappointing year by his standards with eight in seven games, and with Lewandowski spearheading the Bayern attack and Luis Suarez – who has only ever played five Champions League games – it could prove to be the most tight golden boot ever, that’s not even to mention the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa who have lit up Europe’s biggest stage in recent seasons.
2.) Anyone can win the whole thing..
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are probably the three favourites to win this year’s competition and all three have made massive moves in the transfer market to leave them arguably even stronger than last year.
Add to that a supporting cast of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Paris-Saint Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus and Atletico and it makes for some potentially excellent knockout football.
Chelsea will go into the tournament believing they have no reason not to win it, with all the other sides who are not immediate favourites could still be in contention with favourable draws.
The quarter-finals onwards should be very entertaining, and unlike some of Europes top leagues, it will be close between at least six sides.
3.) Big games in the group stage.
There are five massive clashes in this year’s group stages which are a dream for the neutral.
Manchester City’s brutal group see them play Bayern Munich, with the Germans having bought sensibly in the summer in the form of Lewandowski, Medhi Benatia and Xabi Alonso. City’s game with last year’s semi-finalists was a 3-2 thriller, and has all the potential to explode into life this year too.
Real Madrid taking on Liverpool in Group B is also one of the most anticipated fixtures in this year’s group stages. The defending champions will be favourites against The Reds, who are playing in their first Champions League campaign for five years. But we all know what magic a European night at Anfield can bring, and both games should be the one for the neutral.
Group F will be all about Ibrahimovic when Barcelona face PSG, and Barca’s Spanish compatriots Atletico face a blockbuster clash with Juventus in Group A.
Arsenal facing Dortmund in Group D is also a mouthwatering clash, with both sides favourites to get out of the group.
4.) English clubs have a good chance
English clubs were once the fear of the Champions League, but that reputation has since diminished.
But clubs will be desperate to avoid the Premier League’s elite, despite only having three quarter-finalists from the past three campaigns.
But those transitional periods seem to be past their worst stages. City seem to have finally adapted to the Champions League after tough draws over the past two years.
Arsenal have added Chile international Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, which should make them more of a threat in Europe with their pace and power.
Liverpool’s brand of football may surprise one or two of their opponents and they have no pressure to perform upon their European return. It’s always refreshing to see a new English representative and while history has served them well in this competition, it is good to see the Reds back.
Chelsea, defeated semi-finalists last season, will be up there once more and having added Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. They should be one of the favourites once again – particularly with Mourinho desperate for European glory.
5.) Seeing the young talent develop and flourish in Europe
The Champions League is the place where reputations are made, and there are plenty of young players hoping to establish themselves within Europe’s elite. The Champions League produces special nights and these are just some of the young players will be hoping they will help them evolve into special players.
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool, who has impressed in the Premier League and for England, will make the step up for the first time and test himself against the best.
Geoffrey Kondogbia of Monaco has been linked with Europe’s top clubs for several years, and will feature in the tournament with a reputation as one of the best young box-to-box midfielders in the game.
Serge Aurier, heavily linked with Arsenal in the summer, impressed at the World Cup for the Ivory Coast and will feature for PSG.
Munir El Haddadi was a key member of the Barcelona team that won the UEFA Youth League last term, and has since made the step-up to the first team and the full Spain squad.