UEFA Champions League
European football's most glittering stage, the UEFA Champions League, will roll back the curtains for what is likely to be yet another season full of goals, records and renewed rivalries. After almost a decade, there will be six representatives from Great Britain and among them are 3 time winners Manchester United and 5 time champions Liverpool.
The competition, which was rebranded to its present model in 1992, has been dominated by the Spanish giants in recent years. Defending champions and the most successful team in the competition Real Madrid have won 3 of the last 4 editions, while arch rivals Barcelona blew everyone out of the water in 2015.
The Champions League is a platform unlike any, where the best of Europe showcase their skills in what is generally always a feisty battle till the end. The 2017/18 season is likely to be special for a variety of reasons; defending champions Real Madrid are on a hat-trick, while the English without Arsenal among them, will be hoping to recreate their days of domination from 2008. Along with that, when you add the undertones of the world record transfer for Neymar from Barcelona to PSG - one can only expect the season to be a rather rivetting one.
In the Champions League, the stakes are always high - more often than not it helps decide who will eventually take home the individual prizes, while the management of these institutions depend heavily on the revenue generated to mark out the future road map. Apart from that there is the not so trivial matter of keeping reputations intact, a glass ceiling that debutants RB Leipzig and Qarabag will look to break down.
Paris Saint Germain and Manchester United have added a certain spice this season, their deep pockets and flamboyant players are likely to ensure they leave an indelible mark on the fabric. For the French outfit, anything less than a final appearance will force them to go back to the drawing boards, while the Red Devils from England, who return to elite company for the first time since the Sir Alex era will be afforded a little more leeway.
12 time champions Real Madrid created history in this competition when they ruled the roost from 1956 to 1960; more recently they became the first team to retain the 'holy grail' in June, thus forcing comparisons to the great squad led by the legendary Alfredo di Stefano. Zinedine Zidane, who has had a big hand in the last 4 European triumphs for Los Blancos, must deal with the pressures of managing the team to beat - a feeling he is well acquainted to. But it will not be easy to repeat the magic with a squad that may not be as clinical as the previous campaign.
Bayern Munich - Carlo Ancelotti's team have not begun their domestic season in their usual rampant manner, but the master tactician will no doubt have enough tricks up his sleeve as the season moves into the business end. The German champions have always been in the vicinity of the final, and this year the Bavarians will look to make it to the summit clash after a gap of 5 years.
Paris Saint Germain - The new Galacticos of European football announced their intentions with great energy from within their deep pockets. Super star status has been afforded to the new signings Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, both of whom have bolstered an attack which already boasts of Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria. It's a fearsome foursome that on their day can destroy defences at will, but a lack in character and resolve is the matter they need to address. The Qatari owners are desperate to bring home European football's biggest prize and are unlikely to stop at anything, in such a scenario the pressure will be on misfiring coach Unai Emery.
Barcelona - Champions in 2015, the Catalan giants have more than enough pedigree and an aptitude to perform on the biggest stage. The likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta have nothing left to prove, but it is the sheer brilliance of namely the two, that make them strong challengers for the title. Luis Suarez is never short of goals in any season, and the addition of the young Ousmane Dembele will surely help the Catalans fill the gaping hole left behind by Neymar's departure. They have played a big part in the Spanish domination and along with arch-rivals Real Madrid will once again stand among the favourites.
Juventus - The Italian champions have lost 2 finals in the last 3 years, once to Barcelona and then to Real Madrid. For Gianluigi Buffon this is the one feather that is missing from his hat. Ahead of him are the senior pros like Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain who will once again be tasked with orchestrating attack after attack.
Manchester City - For the blue half of Manchester and Pep Guardiola, this is a make or break season in Europe. Pep, who is considered to be one of the best managers in the modern era has not had success at this level since his days at the Nou Camp, while for the hungry City football group administration nothing but silverware will make them happy. At the Etihad, jobs are at stake and no one is breathing easy. Guardiola has spent in excess of 200 million pounds in the summer to beef up an already potent squad, a return on investment is an absolute must.
The Race for the Golden Boot
The 9 month long tournament is bound to throw up a multitude sub plots and rivalries between teams and players. One of the match-ups that will be missed is the Bayern Munich v Arsenal tie, a classic goal fest of sorts in recent years.
That apart, one of the most watched battles will be the one for the golden boot. Last season Real Madrid’s number 7 had to battle hard and reinvent himself in a bid to land the individual accolade, surely he will leave no stone unturned this season either.
Ronaldo scored 12 in 1200 minutes, while Lionel Messi his closest counter-part had 11 goals in 810 minutes. The two along with Neymar, who had a hand in 8 goals other than 4 of his own; will take aim and one expects them to be precise.
The likes of Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Aguero have to bring their best fitting shooting boots to every tie if they want to stand a chance in this three way race which begins on September 12th.