Make Or Break
This Champions League will be very important for three. Barcelona, Juventus and Pep Guardiola (in Reuters picture) and his Manchester City. While Real Madrid kept ruling Europe, Barca fell behind. The last time they won was in 2015 and since then have helplessly watched Madrid making rapid strides. Barca lost to AS Roma and Liverpool in the last two editions from seemingly winning positions. Talking about Guardiola, the Spaniard won everything under the sun as Barcelona coach. But since he left Nou Camp, the Champions League title has eluded the City manager. Like Barcelona and Pep, Juventus also badly need to win the Cup they last got way back in 1996. Juventus, and Cristiano Ronaldo, will take another shot at the title.
The English Force
English clubs are making a lot of noise in Europe for the last two seasons. Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are the three clubs who have given sleepless nights to their rivals. Their good performances have also to do with their smart managers. Liverpool, under Juergen Klopp, have become a very balanced side and this season also they will be the team to beat. Man City, under Guardiola, have been a delight to watch and will continue to be so. Last edition’s losing finalists Tottenham’s domestic form this season hasn’t been good enough. Now it remains to be seen how they perform in Europe. Chelsea return to the Champions League after a gap of one year.
The New Faces
Ansu Fati is the first name that comes to mind. The youngster is making waves in the Barcelona shirt and Europe is waiting to see what impact he has. He is in the squad for the Borussia Dortmund game and should get some match time. The 16-year-old made headlines on Saturday with a goal and an assist for Frenkie de Jong as Barcelona defeated Valencia 5-2. That came two weeks after his maiden Barca strike in a 2-2 draw with Osasuna, which earned him a place in the books as the Catalan club’s youngest-ever scorer.
Rodrigo, Real Madrid’s 19-year-old Brazilian, and Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix are two new faces the world will also follow closely.
Cristiano Ronaldo with his family on Sunday. (Twitter: @Cristiano)
Neymar & PSG
Paris Saint-Germain have always wanted to win the ‘big’ trophy. For that they got Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, to name a few. Neymar hasn’t been able to deliver since arriving in Paris in 2017. There is a perception that PSG falter in the Champions League because of a weak domestic league where there is hardly any competition. Neymar wanted to return to Barcelona, but the deal never materialised. Now back in Paris, he wants to turn the page. And what better way than inspiring PSG to their maiden title.
Kylian Mbappé is the most exciting talent right now. His lightning speed makes him a dangerous proposition and he is the star to watch out for. Along with Neymar, Mbappé can wreak havoc any day. Jadon Sancho is another player to follow. The 19-year-old England international will be the main player for Borussia Dortmund. We got a glimpse of Sancho’s precocious talent during the 2017 Under-17 World Cup and since then he has improved by leaps and bounds. This season could belong to the likes of Mbappé and Sancho.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The Portuguese has scored 126 goals in 162 matches, while the Argentine has 112 in 135. It’s like if you can do this, I can do better. They light up Europe with their sublime skills and competitiveness and in 2019-20 their rivalry will continue. Fans are lucky to see these two stars. At 34 and 32, Cristiano and Messi are not getting any younger but they can still prove to be decisive. Another famous name is Mohamed Salah of Liverpool who will grab headlines this season also. He is Liverpool’s main man along with Senegal’s Sadio Mané.
Then there is Sergio Aguero, Manchester City’s goal machine. Whether his team wins or loses, Aguero’s name is usually there on the scoresheet. He has never won in Europe. Will City break their jinx this season? Time will tell.