Who will be Europe’s top club this season?
The Champions League is the world’s greatest club tournament.
Last season, Chelsea, led by their now-permanent manager Roberto Di Matteo, took the trophy home for the first time in their history and the Blues have spent heavily this summer to create a squad that could win the highly coveted competition for a second successive time.
Here are three of the clubs who could derail the holders' hopes of a repeat of last season’s heroics.
1. Real Madrid
Real Madrid are currently the prime favourites to win the Champions League next spring.
The team is led by their influential manager Jose Mourinho, who has arguably the most complete squad in world football right now.
The former Chelsea manager has talented and promising lads for every playing position and it will be hard to see the Spanish giants not winning the trophy this time around.
Added to that, with Luka Modric a possible transfer target, the arrival of the Croatian playmaker will add to immense depth to the team and could quite convert Los Merengues into the same force that Barcelona were last-to-last season.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be the most important player for Madrid. The Portuguese international had a phenomenal last season, scoring 60 goals for the club and will have to play an integral role to play in his club’s possible road to glory this around.
He might not be considered as the best player on the planet due to a little Argentine, but a Champions League win with Madrid will surely establish Ronaldo as one of the greatest and illustrious footballers to have ever graced this planet.
After a heart-breaking last season, in which they could only muster out on major trophy, Barcelona will be keen to make amends for their failures and return back to the summit of the European football.
The Catalans have so far made only one summer signing in the form of Jordi Alba, but are currently in negotiations to sign Alex Song from Arsenal.
If Song does get transferred to Camp Nou, this could mean that Barcelona will again start their season with a feeble central defence.
Hence, one would surely need to hope Carles Puyol will be able to shrug off his fitness issues and that Gerard Pique is able to re-discover his form that made him one of the best defenders in world football.
Personally, I feel Barcelona’s most important player could be David Villa. The Spaniard missed most of the last season due to a broken thigh and his return will bring in the much-needed attacking prowess and impetus to the team.
In all fairness, Barcelona are still one of the best clubs in the world and are surely one of the heavy favourites to clinch the Champions League for a fifth time in their history.
3. Bayern Munich
Last season, if Arjen Robben wouldn’t have choked in the final, Bayern Munich might have been the European champions instead of Chelsea.
The Dutchman missed tons of chances in the finals, including a penalty kick, that effectively lost the Bavarian giants the title to their English opponents.
However, like Barcelona, Bayern Munich are keen from their disappointment and finally end their Champions League drought this season.
With the arrivals of Mario Mandzukic, Dante, Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro, the team is now well-stacked in all areas and I feel that the most important player for the team could be Frank Ribery.
The France international was in great form last season and will continue to play at his potential best of Munich are to win the Champions League.
His magical plays down the left wings can easily change the momentum of a game and this could well be one of the last chances for the 29-year-old to win the prestigious trophy.
By Surya Solanki
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