LaLiga wants to rule in Europe again. Spain dominates the Champions League track record with 18 winches, 13 from Real Madrid and five from Barcelona. They are followed, by far, England (13, Italy (12) and Germany (8). But Madrid and Barça are not alone. Atlético – runner-up in 1974, 2014 and 2016 – and Sevilla – six times champion of the Europa League – them They accompany them with a clear objective: to snatch the ‘indomitable’ Bayer n the title won in Lisbon against Paris Saint-Germain (0-1).
Roza el ‘sextete’ – he must still play the Club World Cup – after winning the League, Cup, Champions, German Super Cup and European Super Cup. Right now he is an unstoppable ‘roller’: 39 victories in 43 games with Flick confirm it. He has signed ‘bottom of closet’ with Nübel, Sarr, Roca, Douglas Costa and Choupo-Moting. Sané will compete with Gnabry and Coman to ‘feed’ Lewandowski and Müller. Kimmich is the ‘soul’.
Thomas’s departure at the last minute disrupted Simeone’s plans. Torreira arrived, but new additions are not ruled out in a team that in the last Champions League gave the cal, eliminating Liverpool and the sand, falling in the quarterfinals against Leipzig. Oblak bolts from the goal, Joao Félix – more mature – wastes talent and Luis Suárez should put the goals that have resisted him in Europe away from home in recent campaigns.
Last season they had the pleasure of being the highest-scoring team in a group that shared with Naples and Liverpool. Haaland is gone, but the ‘Red Bull factory’ continues to generate talent in abundance. Between Daka, Mwepu, Koita and Szoboszlai they have quality to give more than one surprise. The bad thing, like last year, is the little chance that the two ‘coconuts’ he has in the group will give him: Atlético and Bayern.
Two years staying on the verge of achieving the Premier League is not achieved by chance. They face this UEFA Champions League with much more experience than in the two previous editions and with the desire to make up for the poor performances of the past years (12 games, two wins and 10 losses). The one who was a fixture in the group stage of the European Cup at the beginning of the 2000s, now has three consecutive appearances again after a few years away from the top competition.
The ‘king of the Champions’ chains two seasons falling in the second round (Ajax and City) after winning four ‘orejonas’ in five seasons. Zidane presents a team ‘identical’ to the one that won last League, with the exception of Odegaard. The ‘lack of goal’ that Benzema and Ramos try to compensate – with a set piece – has become the great handicap of a team that depends more and more on Courtois. Young people (Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinícius, Asensio …) are expected to step forward.
No incorporation has had Luís Castro’s team for the 2020-21 season more than the promotion of the side Kornienko’s subsidiary. As usual he appears in the UEFA Champions League as champion of the Ukrainian Premier League. The group that touches him is similar to every year: difficult. Real Madrid, Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach will not make things easy for one of the most Brazilian squads in Europe.
Conte has one of the most complete templates in Europe. The forward Lukaku-Lautaro Martínez -with Alexis waiting- is ‘pure dynamite’. Achraf’s arrival has made up for the lack in the right lane. In midfield there are profiles for all tastes: Brozovic’s sobriety, Vidal’s struggle, Barella’s dynamism, Sensi and Eriksen’s talent … In addition, he has recovered Perisic after his transfer to Bayern and can become an element important.
It is the third time that Borussia Mönchengladbach will participate in the Champions League. On the previous two occasions he fell in the group stage and it so happens that both times he shared a group with a Spanish team: Sevilla in 2016-17 and Barcelona in 2017-18. He always lagged behind the Hispanics, something that Real Madrid will seek to repeat in the current campaign. Thuram’s speed and Pléa and Embolo’s hunger for goal are his best weapons.
Porto regained the Portuguese championship title last season and returns to the Champions League after a year of absence. For this, Sergio Conceiçao’s team has been joined by the young Brazilian striker Evanilson, Taremi, Toni Martínez, Felipe Anderson and Sarr as the most prominent reinforcements. However, they have shed a lot of talent with the departures of Alex Telles, Fábio Silva, Danilo Pereira and Zé Luis, something that has weakened them as a team.
Guardiola has tried to alleviate his historical problems in the rear by paying 68 kilos for Rúben Dias and 45 for Aké. He has already spent more than 480 million on defenses and has not yet ‘hit the mark’. The Champions League has resisted him since 2011 and continues to add notorious eliminations, such as last season in the quarterfinals against Lyon. Without Silva, City will entrust the great De Bruyne and Sterling’s goals to conquer the long-awaited ‘orejona’. Ferran Torres arrives to add quality minutes.
He won the title of champion of Greece after two dry seasons with El-Arabi as the big star. The former Granada player was the Pichichi of the competition, and this year he started with the same nose: six goals in six games. The Moroccan is accompanied in attack by quality players such as Valbuena or Fortounis. In defense, Semedo, Holebas and Rafinha give consistency to the team. In addition, they have signed young talent such as Vinagre and Bruma. Enough to fight for second place in the group?
Six seasons later, Olympique Marseille returns to the Champions League with several high-level attacking pieces: Thauvin, Payet, Benedetto … Villas-Boas’s team has a lot of offensive muscle … but also problems behind and in the medullary. They have started the campaign irregularly. Capable of the best and the worst, the Champions League will be a challenge for the Vélodrome team.
The champion of the Champions 2018-19 and the Premier 2019-20 has received a hard blow in the form of injury: Van Dijk will be out almost the entire course. Replacing him is almost impossible. To compensate, the ‘MSF’ (Mané, Salah and Firmino) will have to increase, even more if possible, its scoring production. The ‘reds’, with Klopp, continue to add new records. The signing of Thiago comes to open up closed defenses from the inside, not only with the centers of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson. Diogo Jota will give the ‘Pool’ a boost of guarantees.
Ajax lands in the Champions very diminished. Ziyech, Van de Beek, Dest, Veltman … have left the club making a huge hole for Ten Haag, who continues to lead some ‘ajacied’ who will have to reinvent themselves to compete with the best. Tadic, Neres, Onana … survive from the Ajax who marveled two seasons ago … and who need their pearls to step forward to be dangerous.
The ‘Goddess of the goal’. Gian Piero Gasperini does not stop producing ‘miracles’ with the 11th salary budget (42.6 million) of Serie A. In the last 16 of last season, Valencia confirmed the power of the ‘Calcium’ top scoring team in the last two seasons: fell 4-1 and 3-4. Miranchuk has arrived, but the best ‘signing’ would be to recover Ilicic after the ‘depression’ that had him separated from the group in the last section of last season.
Thanks to a model based on statistical algorithms, the Danish Midtjylland will make their debut in the Champions League experiencing the best stage in their history. Matthew Benham, owner of the club and lover of mathematics, has won three leagues since his arrival – he is the current champion of the Danish Super League – and a Cup. Now, after overwhelming in the previous phase, the Cinderella of group D is ready to give to talk.
It is clear that the Europa League – it has won six editions since 2006 – is too small for it. The victories over Manchester United (2-1) and Inter (3-2) in the semis and in the final last season attest to the potential of the team led by Julen Lopetegui. The best news is that Monchi has managed to retain almost all the heavyweights. Banega left, but Rakitic returned. Acuña arrives to make up for Reguilón’s goodbye. Behind, Diego Carlos and Koundé guarantee safety and Fernando balances. Navas continues to overflow like a youth. If En-Nesyri or De Jong are plugged in there is reason to be optimistic.
The 247 million invested by Abramovich this summer, more than anyone in Europe, demands a step forward in Premier … and in Europe. The start of the course, however, has shown that Frank Lampard has work ahead of him to ‘fit in’ the newcomers: Havertz, Werner, Chilwell, Ziyech, Mendy, Thiago Silva … In goal he has a ‘hot potato’ with Kepa. The ‘new blue sap’ (Mount, Abraham, Pulisic …) faces a season of revalidation after the departures of ‘classics’ such as Pedro or Willian.
In one of the most open groups of the edition, Krasnodar will fight for a place that will give them access to the round of 16 in their first experience in the competition. Despite their poor start to the season (they are seventh in the Russian League six points behind the lead), they are keen to turn the cold Krasnodar Stadium into a stronghold, where they have only lost one match of the last nine.
Another rookie who, in this case, is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. He comes from being third in Ligue 1 and winning the Cup in 2018-19, his first trophy in 48 years. Julien Stéphan has been key in this growth that Eduardo Camavinga embodies better than anyone. The 17-year-old has taken flight in midfield since the arrival of former Sevilla player Nzonzi as a pivot. This year he lost Mendy and Raphinha, but he tried to make up for it with the additions of Guirassy, Terrier, Aguerd, Rugani, Dalbert … and especially Doku. The former Anderlecht player is a ‘diamond in the rough’.
The hegemony in Russian football remains Zenit. He is the champion of the last two Leagues and in 2020-21 he aims to continue making history in his country, since he started the course with the Super Cup title. In the recent transfer market, he has announced the hiring of defender Dejan Lovren, who knows the ways of the Champions League for his title with Liverpool. Leaders in Russia follow: seven wins, three draws and one loss.
It has one of the largest arsenals in Europe from midfield onwards: Haaland, Sancho, Hazard, Brand, Reus, Reina, Reinier … On the backlash they are practically unstoppable. Haaland has already made his mark in the last Champions League with 10 goals and this season he wants more. He has lost potential on the right with the departure of Achraf – Meunier has arrived – but his Achilles heel continues to be in its extreme defensive fragility and in the inability to manage clearly favorable markers.
Lazio surprised last season, with the Immobile Golden Boot and a great job from Simone Inzaghi. Probably, they were above their possibilities, but it is a team with great interior play and very well worked. He has signed Pepe Reina as second goalkeeper. Difficult to be a starter. The Spanish Patric and Luis Alberto do tend to play from the start.
Brujas has been gaining prominence in his country. Defending the Belgian League crown after a stellar final season – 21 wins, seven draws and just one loss – and now he faces the ‘Europe mission’. In the 2019-20 Champions League he was in the same group as PSG and Real Madrid, with whom he got a draw at the Bernabéu. Clement’s men want to forget the ‘only’ three points they have won and have a good campaign.
Winning the ninth consecutive ‘Scudetto’ was not enough to guarantee the continuity of Sarri. In this almost eternal search to combine local successes with a carat ‘calcium’, the ‘Vecchia Signora’ was entrusted to a magnificent footballer with no experience on the bench: Andrea Pirlo. Morata, Arthur, Chiesa, Kulusevski, McKennie have bequeathed … but it takes time to translate football ideology. Cristiano Ronaldo -68 goals in 91 games with Juve- needs tall companions to storm the Champions League again.
The 2-8 fit in Lisbon at the hands of Bayern, added to the debacles in Rome and Liverpool, still stings. Leo Messi stayed “reluctantly” and now must lead the reconquest of the Champions League, a trophy that has resisted him since 2015. The “clean” predicted by Bartomeu was half. Arthur, Semedo, Rakitic, Suárez, Rafinha, Vidal left … and Pjanic, Dest, Trincao and Pedri have arrived. Now Ronald Koeman will have to shape a ‘project’ in which the main ‘obstacle’ continues to be finding the best possible performance for Griezmann.
A history of Eastern football. They have been losing the league to Shakhtar for four seasons in a row, although they have just beaten them in the last Ukrainian Super Cup. They have managed to return to the Champions League after three years watching it on television. In qualifying they eliminated two cheating rivals Gent and AZ. They are Ukrainians, but they hardly have a Brazilian on staff …
A Hungarian soccer giant (31 leagues and 21 cups) … and the weakest team in the group. Ferencvaros return to the Champions League after 25 years of absence. In the qualifying phase, he left clubs like Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb or Molde on the way. Its squad is a ‘Macedonian’ of flags, with up to 17 footballers of different nationalities. Undefeated leaders march in the Hungarian league: four wins and one draw.
He arrives wanting to ‘vendetta’ after falling to Bayern (1-0) in the final of the last Champions League. To make matters worse, an ex-tenant, Kingsley Coman, was the ‘executioner’ of the pharaonic project headed, for another year, by Mbappé and Neymar. It has been a year of ‘goodbyes’ in Paris: Thiago SIlva, Cavani, Meunier and the young Nianzou and Aouchiche have left. The newcomers have a not very media profile, but they can add: Rafinha, Kean, Florenzi … In addition, Danilo Pereira should correct the almost historical lack of PSG in the defensive midfielder.
The arrival of Bruno Fernandes in the winter market ‘resurrected’ the ‘ManU.’, Who, after a great comeback, got into the Champions League. Van de Beek was presumed the only summer addition until Tottenham’s win (1-6) led him to undertake four signings at once on the day the market closed: Cavani, Alex Telles, Pellistri and Ahmed Traoré, who will not arrive until January. With Cavani comes, finally, a ‘9’ of reference that ‘mixes’ with the mobility of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood. Back, however, there is still a lack of defensive forcefulness. With De Gea and Maguire it is not enough.
Atlético already tried Nagelsmann’s ‘medicine’ in the last Championships (quarters). A dizzying team, attractive to see and that is not intimidated in any scenario. Their bands are noticeable and deep, usually in a 1-3-4-3 system. Klostermann, Halstenberg, Angeliño … they are daggers. He needs to reaffirm another ‘9’ to replace Werner’s departure.
Istanbul Basaksehir makes their debut through the front door in the group stage of the Champions League. His letter of introduction, to be the champion of the competitive Turkish league. Before him, three monsters: PSG, Manchester United and Leipzig. The latter is precisely his example to follow. They have not started the season on the right foot, as they are 19th in the league with just one win. Everything that arrives in the European Cup, welcome.