Contrary to expectations, Real Madrid have not started the season as expected – both domestically and the Champions League. Los Blancos are currently sat at 5th place in La Liga at the time of writing and although they’ve won both of their games in Europe, they are a very unstable side at the moment. The absence of main-man Cristiano Ronaldo towards the start of the season was anything but helpful, however anxious performances at the Bernabeu seem to be their biggest problem.
It’s nowhere near catastrophic for Zidane’s men but their recent form is definitely a cause for concern. Real Madrid started the season as firm favourites to win the Champions League and, although their odds of winning the competition still sit at 4/1, teams like Paris Saint Germain have proven themselves to be strong contenders. Madrid really ought to start building up their confidence at home, or else they’ll miss out on becoming the first team to win the Champions League three years in a row (in its current format).
As already mentioned, PSG have had a fantastic start to the season. Having already beaten Celtic and Bayern Munich comfortably, Unai Emery’s side are looking like a force to be reckoned with. Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani have already scored a stunning 22 goals collectively this season. That’s expected, though, considering those three players alone cost PSG’s Qatari owners an estimated €466 million…
The Parisian’s performances have certainly lived up to, and perhaps even exceeded, expectations. The link-up play between their front three has been outstanding and now it seems any ego clashes between Cavani and Neymar have been ironed out, they can really start to kick on. PSG will be one of Europe’s most dominant forces for many years to come, however an important question to ask is whether or not they are good enough to win the Champions League this season. Only time will tell.
For the past few years there’s been a core group of four teams who are a cut above the rest. Real Madrid are part of this group, and they’re joined by Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus. All of these teams (including Real Madrid) have a long list of problems at the moment, though.
Barcelona’s squad has become noticeably weaker since the departure of Neymar and, although they’ve managed to start the season well, this good form will come to and end sooner or later. Like Barcelona, Juventus lost one of their key players, Leonardo Bonucci, during the summer and are definitely worse off because of it. In fact, the Italian side suffered a 3-0 loss to Barcelona earlier on in the Champions League group stages this season – a strong indication that they are not up to scratch. Finally we come to Bayern Munich who endured a sobering loss of their own earlier on this season to PSG, also by a scoreline of 3-0, and have since decided to part ways with their then manager Carlo Ancelotti, which will cause further disturbance to the German side.
As you can see, the majority of Europe’s elite teams have a lot of issues so this season the Champions League shall prove to be a very open competition. Real Madrid and PSG are widely regarded as the two favourites to win it, but other than that, there’s an almost never-ending list of teams with an outside chance. All the teams already mentioned, plus the likes of Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs, have a shot being crowned European Champions next summer.
One thing is for sure; this will be one of the most unpredictable editions of the Champions League in years.
by George (@georjecb on Twitter)