As the season finally begins to pack in the action, we begin to look ahead to what the Champions League has in offer for the rest of the 2018/19 football season. Liverpool, claiming their first Champions League win since that famous night in Istanbul in 2005, are holders, and are aiming for a second consecutive win. However, this will be no easy task given the strength of the other sides in the Merseyside club’s group, with Red Bull Salzburg and Napoli also looking to progress. Other early favourites to claim the European trophy would be Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Zinedine Zidane’s re-appointment at Real Madrid may invoke some confidence among many in the Spanish side given their previous successes under the manager, however, their league form would otherwise be a cause for concern for the record European champions and many would suggest otherwise.
After their European disappointment over the last two seasons, many pundits have remained confident in the abilities of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side on the continent and have instilled the Catalan’s side as early favourites. It may be suggested that Guardiola’s men have not yet been able to replicate their ferocious, dominant style of play in the same way in which they have within domestic football, however, one could point out the premeditated tactical aggression, which often carries inadvertent complacency, with which Guardiola often sets out with on the European stage. Last season, for example, this was demonstrated as the Catalan sought to control possession in the opening fixture against Tottenham before playing a dominant, aggressive style of play in the returning fixture and only being knocked out as a result of two somewhat contested VAR decisions. Other sides making up the early favourites are Juventus and Barcelona, the former of whom have made a notable managerial change in bringing in Maurizio Sarri from Chelsea, and the latter whom have added strongly to an already devastating squad. Paris Saint-Germain may be seen as somewhat outsiders, however would raise some doubts given the manner of their earlier exits from the competition, yet the Parisiens possess a deep, frightening squad and have even held on to wantaway star Neymar. Thomas Tuchel’s PSG have added to an already star-studded side, having bolstered their midfield with the signing of several midfield players such as Ander Herrera and Idrissa Gueye- a position which they recently have struggled following the departures of key players such as Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi.
With the final taking place in Istanbul in May, there is plenty of time for the drama and despair of previous seasons. Last season brought us an English spectacle of four English semi-finalists and two finalists with traditional ‘big’ sides such as Real Madrid, rivals Atletico, and Juventus being exiting in the knockout stages of the competition and this season could very well be packed with even greater excitement. Football can often be a game of the underdog and stories encompassing narratives alike the resurgence of traditional superpowers Ajax and AS Monaco in this cup competition often live to tell the tale. 2020’s competition could very well see a new winner given the precipitous strength of the sides contesting the European trophy during the competition’s finale in Turkey.