Just in case you’ve been self-isolating under a rock, let us remind you of something great: European football is back – and it’s better than ever.
The Champions League returns from its enforced hibernation this week to complete four left over second legs in the Round of 16.
Some ties look done-and-dusted, some are hanging in the balance.
Once those are out of the way we’ll be down to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the big showpiece final itself on Sunday 23rd August.
So who is going to replace Liverpool as the kings of the continent? Here are three teams we reckon you should consider.
What a way to stick up two fingers to the organisation that tried to banish them this would be.
City scrapped with UEFA all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport as the European Football body tried in vain to ban Pep Guardiola and Co for two years from the Champions League after alleged “serious breaches” of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. After locking horns in legal wranglings for 20 months, City would eventually escape with their Champions League slot intact and just £10m fine to pay – chump change to their mega-rich owners.
As you can imagine that episode, coupled with a long-held ambition to hold the premier prize in European football, means motivation shouldn’t be an issue for The Citizens. They’ll have to see off Real Madrid, who they hold a 2-1 aggerate advantage over, in the second leg of the Round of 16 to get there though.
However, their attack is firing on all cylinders coming into this competition after netting a whopping 21 times in their last five Premier League games and we wouldn’t discourage anyone from backing City to finally claim the European title that has eluded them for close to a decade at this point.
There’s a lot to the Bavarians these days, whether it be their swashbuckling attacking style, their relentless push to strangle the life out of Bundesliga or the fact the Robert Lewandowski just can’t stop scoring goals.
Bayern wrapped up yet another German title with typical ease after the restart and are sitting pretty at 3-0 up on aggerate against Chelsea after routing them at Stamford Bridge in February heading into their second leg on Saturday evening.
Hans-Dieter Flick’s men have been battering all in front of them in Europe this campaign, landing 27 goals in their 7 European ties to date – with 10 of them secured against Tottenham.
Expect Frank Lampard’s Blues to feel Munich’s wrath again this weekend and we reckon the Germans may be where the smart money lies if you are looking for the next European champion.
The dark horse
Given that they have already secured their quarter-final berth, the second side in the Spanish capital can afford to put their feet up this weekend and watch others fight it out.
It used to be the case that football hipsters would bow down at the throne of Diego Simeone’s defensive bastardry mastery. But these days their attention has been stolen by flasher models, like the Atalanta outfit who take on moneybags PSG in the quarter-finals.
Simeone and his squad know exactly what it is like to get right into the business end of this competition after contesting finals in 2014 and 2016, but can they finally claim the trophy that they missed out on in three finals in their illustrious history?
Well, you’d have to say that the Spaniards are on the easier side of the draw and if they can get themselves into a third decider in six years, you just never know.
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