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Champions League: All set for kick-off

The curtains are set to rise on yet another edition of Champions League. By far the most exciting football tournament on earth, CL is the platform for the best to showcase their talent.

Thirty-two premier European clubs will slug it out to win the trophy on May 29 next year when the final will be played in Istanbul.

Will holders Bayern Munich be able to retain the title? That’s the question on most football lovers’ mind. Arguably the German team has the best squad with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka in fine form.

The return of Douglas Costa and a likely CL debut to 17-year-old Jamal Musiala will only strengthen the team.

For the past few years Manchester City have been the bookmakers’ favourite. But Pep Guardiola’s team has only flattered to deceive. Last season was no exception – losing to Lyon 1-3 in the quarter-final.

With the array of talent in their ranks, Man City should easily sail through to the knock-out stage. Pep hasn’t won a CL trophy since 2011 and that should be motivation enough.

Will Liverpool, the most successful English club in Europe, emulate their 2019 CL form? The English Premier League title holders were knocked out 2-4 in aggregate by Atletico Madrid in the last-16 stage in the last edition.

This season the club’s domestic form has been patchy, the highlight being a 2-7 drubbing to Aston Villa. A knee injury to defender Virgil van Dijk will likely dent Liverpool’s chances.

Like Man City, last season’s finalist Paris Saint-Germain have for long held CL pretensions. But have failed on the big stage. This season too they start as one of the bookmakers’ favourites.

With Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria PSG’s firepower is not in doubt. But recent departures have left holes in the side. The likes of Thiago Silva, Thomas Meunier and Edinson Cavani will be missed.

Spanish behemoths Barcelona and Real Madrid have slipped a bit over the past two seasons. Barca are still to get over their shock 2-8 drubbing in the hands of Bayern in last season’s quarters. Real exited in the round of 16 losing 2-4 in aggregate to Man City.

Both teams have had a rather tepid start to their domestic season. But because of their experience on the big stages they can never be written off.
What about Italian champions Juventus’s chances? Well a lot will depend on the talismanic Ronaldo. Another factor is the impact new coach Andrea Pirlo will have on the team. Though considered a European powerhouse Juve last won the Champions League trophy way back in 1996.

Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Atalanta all have exciting players to watch out for.

As have Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Rennes and Ajax. They’re sure to give a tough fight to the heavyweights but are unlikely to cause serious upsets.So get set for a drooling, months-long football tournament.

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easterntimes

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