So, enough of Spanish domination in Europe!
Two all-Madrid Champions league finals in the space of two years, three consecutive all-Spanish European Super Cups.
Time for England to strike back?
Manchester City could have a shot at the Champions League, but they’re an outside bet at and it still feels like you pick a winner from Barcelona, Real Madrid at or on Bayern Munich.
When you take the team which made it to the verge of the final last season, add a coach whose entire Champions League record reads: winner, semi-finalist, winner, semi-finalist, semi-finalist, semi-finalist and semi-finalist, it’d be kind of stupid not to bet on City making the last four.
Especially as Bravo, Gündogen, Sané and Stones have significantly improved the squad.
It’s just my perception, but while Guardiola will add experience, nous, talent and strategic excellence to a revitalised squad. He’s short by three or four of the kind of players/men he needs to interpret his orders to their extreme and to make City Euro-dominant.
In Guardiola’s perfect world he’d add a player as versatile as Joshua Kimmich or David Alaba – at least one more Toni Kroos-like midfielder and at least one more devastating striker.
For all the massive interest in a battle of Britain, against Celtic, and Pep v Barcelona, there’s a ticklish fact about the Borussia Moenchengladbach ties. Six times Guardiola faced that club while in Germany, winning only twice – and either losing or drawing every time since January 2014. They’re not pushovers.
As far as the other half of Manchester goes, this is United’s tournament to lose.
ONLY if Jose Mourinho doesn’t fancy it and wants to concentrate his best resources on other fronts might the Reds not reach the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden – where Zlatan leads them to their first European trophy in nine years.
Arsenal haven’t significantly improved on what hasn’t been good enough to win in Europe under Wenger so far.
Spurs need to enjoy the experience, learn and attempt to add to their coffers with a healthy run in the knockout rounds at .
Wanyama will make them harder to beat in Europe, but adapting to European games at Wembley and a lack of killer goals should cost them. Ruud van Nistelrooy’s a big Vincent Janssen fan and who am I to doubt him.
But, Spurs are short of a Chicharito/Solskjaer style player who’ll nick them narrow games.
Leicester? If they don’t go through the group at it’ll be serious setback. There’s no gimme’s in this competition, but look at the field.
Porto, having pumped Roma in Italy, are no mugs. But Nuno Espirito’s side recently lost to a Sporting Lisbon, who were staffed by Premier League legends like Bryan Ruiz, Sebastian Coates and Joel Campbell.
Sporting’s win included a goal from Leicester’s late signing Islam Slimani.
Copenhagen will be feisty, but have won one of eight European ties with English opposition and Brugge are moribund domestically. Given their exploits last season and how hard they made themselves to beat, if the Foxes can’t outfox an average Belgian mob then, for Leicester’s sake, they’ve slid a hell of a lot since last May.
Ranieri’s European record isn’t a thing of joy to Chelsea fans [Viking, St Gallen, Happoel and THAT semi-final against Monaco]
However, he at least reached two semi-finals, has been a regular in the last sixteen of Europe and can cite big wins over Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in his career.
Celtic’s group offers glamorous names, but gory encounters.
Unless Brendan Rodgers’ team significantly (by which I mean astronomically) changes its retention of possession and general defensive philosophy across the pitch, then they’ll finish bottom with Borussia in the Europa League.
Viewed from this distance the Scottish champions making it to that competition and ensuring European football post-Christmas would be a massive result – but an unlikely one.
* Bayern profile like winners at . They’ve a great squad, taken to the brink three times under Guardiola and now in the hands of a serial Champions league winner in Carlo Ancelotti.
* Barça v Bayern final.
* Leicester in the last sixteen.
* Man City in the last four.
* Lewandowski to challenge Messi, Suarez and Ronaldo for Champions League top scorer.
* Man United are a great chance to be Europa League winners.
Two trophies European trophies in the city of Manchester by next summer?
I don’t think so. But… stranger things have happened.