Champions League Week One Preview
So here we go again. It all starts here. Europe’s premier football club competition kicks off this week, with all the usual fanfare. Last season was one of the competition’s most dramatic in recent memory. Chelsea stunned the continent with last ditch wins over both Barcelona and Bayern Munich. And as ever there are plenty of issues and questions up in the air going into this year’s tournament.
What’s up with Real Madrid?
There is talk of dressing room discord. Mourinho forcing Mezut Ozil to train with the substitutes because his performances aren’t worthy of the first team. Cristiano Ronaldo also talks of unhappiness, refusing to celebrate after a recent goal. Maybe a new contract with a whole bunch of money would cheer him up? That usually works?
Madrid have gained just four points from their first four league games. Their worst start to the league in years. And they haven’t lost their opening European fixture in exactly 50 years. As they take on the English champions, Manchester City, are they about to break this admirable streak? Perhaps not. But these are none the less troubling times for Jose Mourinho. Not to mention they are in group D. And you all know what D stands for.
An easier group awaits Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. Bob Paisley’s record of being the only man to win the European Cup, with the same club, three times, won’t be an unfamiliar record to Sir Alex. It is his task to equal that magnificent achievement. And who knows, maybe surpass it. The easy group certainly helps. Braga, Galatasary CFR Clug shouldn’t offer too many problems. But then again this is football and bloody hell and all that.
It’s a good year for UK representation. With the return of Celtic to the group stages of the competition for the first time in four years; there are five teams representing Britain. It was essential that Celtic reached this stage of the competition, in light of the perilous state of Scottish football’s finances.
And what about Barca? They are of course favourites for the competition. And with Barcelona victories over English clubs in three of the past seven finals, and the remaining strength of English clubs in the competition. Who’s to say we won’t have another Barca v [Fill in name of English club here] final. One an English team might even win. Stranger things have happened.
These are some of the issues as we head into week one. And what of the English champions? They’ve spent a lot of money, and achieved little in Europe. Roberto Mancini may discover sooner than he would like that obscenely rich and mysterious owners of Premier League clubs soon grow bored of mere domestic glory.
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