Champions League prepares to kick-off

With the start of the Champions League proper edging ever closer, the footballing world is preparing for another intriguing tournament. As ever, many of the world’s best teams will do battle in club football’s most prestigious and evenly-fought competitions. Last season saw Barcelona crowned champions for the fifth time in their history, beating Juventus 3-1 in the final in Berlin, and the Catalan giants are expected to be right in the mix for the title again this season. But there are a number of teams capable of going all the way and this could be one of the most open Champions Leagues in a good few years.

Champions League

Image by  El Ronzo 

Here are some of the teams expected to be in contention come the latter stages of this season’s tournament.

Barcelona: It won’t come as a huge surprise that the defending champions will start this season as many people’s favourites to win the competition. In Lionel Messi and Neymar, Barca have two players who recorded double figures in terms of Champions League goals last season and, with Luis Suarez alongside the duo, it’s hard to see a more dangerous attacking team in the tournament. Following a summer in which the club have made some solid signings, Barcelona are looking very strong again.

Bayern Munich: The five-time Champions League winners have been a major contender in this tournament throughout its history, and particularly in recent years. The German champions lost to eventual winners Barcelona in the semi-finals last season, and Pep Guardiola’s men will be determined to right those wrongs this year. Following a summer in which the club have signed world class players such as Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal, Bayern could prove to be excellent value for those interested in UEFA competitions betting.

Real Madrid: Despite adding another two trophies to their collection last season, the season won’t go down as one of the most successful in Real’s history. While they finished second in La Liga behind Barcelona, Real’s hopes of defending their Champions League crown ended in the semi-final stages at the hands of Juventus. While this has been a solid if unspectacular summer in terms of transfers, Real’s front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema is still one of the most threatening in the tournament, and one more than capable of taking apart any defence.

Chelsea: The 2012 European champions will be looking to bounce back following a disappointing Last-16 exit in last season’s tournament, and Jose Mourinho has been given the tools to make a real run at the title this year. A team that won the Premier League title last season has been strengthened further with the addition of left-back Baba Rahman and Spain forward Pedro, and there aren’t many stronger all-round squads in the tournament. While it’s been a tough couple of years for English clubs in the Champions League, there is a growing feeling that this season could see a Premier League club go all the way.