The Champions League. By far the best club competition in the world, it has given us so many dramatic, enthralling, gripping moments that show us why we love football. As the 2018/19 group stage kicks off today, I decided to run down which five clubs I believe are the main contenders to be lifting the iconic trophy in Madrid next year. So, here are my top 5 Champions League contenders.
Liverpool were outclassed in last year’s final in Kiev, but it was a remarkable achievement to reach that stage. This season, their squad has been massively bolstered, with key additions such as Alisson, Naby Keïta and Fabinho. A fresh midfield alongside one of the best frontlines in club football could do the trick for Liverpool this season, further supported by a fantastic start to the new Premier League season, where they have won their first five games.
They had a fantastic run in Europe last year, which has really boosted the confidence of all Liverpool fans. The final hurdle now is for Jürgen Klopp to deliver a trophy, which he has been craving during his whole career at Anfield. Liverpool will be looking to repeat their run from last season and going one step further, potentially becoming the first English team to lift the Champions League since Chelsea in 2012.
4. Paris Saint-Germain
Despite some huge signings in recent years, Paris Saint-Germain are yet to really leave their mark on this prestigious competition. They have succumbed to Spanish opposition in the Round of 16 for the last two years, losing a 4-0 lead to Barcelona in 2017 and being swept aside by eventual champions Real Madrid last season. The Parisians are yet to win the Champions League, yet that could change very soon.
This season, they have experienced Gianluigi Buffon inbetween the sticks after his move from Juventus. What could prove most instrumental however is Kylian Mbappé. The 19 year-old is in the form of his life, having come back from a monumental World Cup triumph in Russia. A rejuvenated Mbappé alongside an ever-clinical Edinson Cavani and a skilful Neymar could finally do the trick this season.
Juventus have been the club we all want to win the Champions League in recent years, purely for the sake of Gianluigi Buffon. Two final defeats in 2015 and 2017 have been agonising, with last year’s campaign ending in heartbreak as a 97th minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty sent the Bianconeri crashing out.
Just five months later and that has all changed. Veteran Buffon has switched to Paris, while Ronaldo has come to Juve in the biggest transfer deal of the year. With CR7 adding to an already impressive Juventus squad, could he finally be the difference for the Italians to lift their first Champions League title in twenty-three years?
2. Atlético Madrid
Since their historic title win in 2014, Atlético Madrid have been rejuvenated and really able to compete with the two traditional Spanish heavyweights of Barcelona and Real Madrid. This is not only domestically but in Europe as well. Having come close to lifting the Champions League in recent years with two final appearances, they are a big contender for this year.
Not only that, but they are entering this year’s competition off the back of European silverware, having won the Europa League and Super Cup within three months. Antoine Griezmann’s decision to stay has been huge, and this could be the year for Los Colchoneros where their momentum builds up to the biggest club trophy up for grabs.
1. Real Madrid
Who else for number one? Every year for the past two seasons after Real Madrid’s win in 2016, I have been predicting a different winner of the Champions League. In 2017 I went for Bayern Munich, in 2018 I went for Paris Saint-Germain. Yet both years they failed, and both years Real Madrid were victorious, knocking them out en route to lifting the trophy.
However, if their winning streak could end any year it seems it could be this one. Zinedine Zidane calling his time at the Santiago Bernabeu and starman Cristiano Ronaldo leaving after nine years for Juventus could prove costly, but I don’t think that will be the case. Real Madrid work as a team, and they don’t need to rely on one player to succeed.
Now, after winning an incredible three consecutive Champions Leagues, I cannot look any further for a winner than Los Blancos. Their dominance in the competition is unprecedented, and it is not hard to see why. They play beautiful football, score wonderful goals and play the game perfectly. Could it be el decimocuarto for Real Madrid? I say why not.