The greatest show in European football returns tonight as the Champions League proper kicks off. Now the dull wet autumn nights have a beacon of light when midweek approaches and the discerning gent hears the familiar theme of Handel’s Zadok the Priest getting the evening’s action underway.
This season is perhaps the most intriguing of all Champions League campaigns so far. This is the season of massive managerial changes at a host of the top clubs around Europe. With so much change can Europe’s elite usual suspects sustain a title charge or will the lack of continuity prove a fatal flaw?
Let’s start with current Champions League winners Bayern Munich who won the unique treble last season – Jupp Heynckes retired and former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola takes the hot seat. Over at Barcelona, Gerardo Martino takes over, while across cities Carlo Ancelotti is the new manager of Real Madrid. Over in France Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) appoint Laurent Blanc as head coach. British clubs have been refreshed too as David Moyes takes over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Manuel Pellegrini is the new boss at Manchester City and Jose Mourinho is back at Chelsea.
Big Time Players
Of course the managerial changes aren’t the only thing to catch the eye. The big-money transfers have come thick and fast throughout the summer. PSG bring in Uruguayan hotshot Edinson Cavani for £53million to lead the attack, Barcelona sign Brazilian whizzkid for £48million Neymar to partner up with Leo Messi. Then we have Real Madrid who, not to be outdone in the transfer stakes, break the world transfer record by signing Gareth Bale for £85million.
There are many more multi-million pound deals to talk of from this summer’s transfer window and it’s not just the elite clubs who have strengthened for the new campaign. With competition raised the football-loving discerning gent is sure for a feast top-notch action.
Bayern Munich will be the favourites for the title this season in Elysium Magazine’s eyes. What is already a formidable squad has been further boosted with a number of astute signings and with Pep Guardiola leading the charge it will be very hard oust them. The Spanish duo of Barcelona and Real Madrid will of course want to have their say in proceedings though. Italian club Juventus will be flying the flag for Serie A and will pose tough opposition for any side too.
The British quintet will be hoping for glory this term. It will be fascinating to observe Moyes first real crack at the Champions League with Manchester United. Pellegrini will need to transfer all his know-how of the competition into his ManchesterCity troops who have failed badly in recent seasons. Mourinho has a love affair with the competition but is his new-look Chelsea team ready to go all the way? Arsene Wenger, so often criticised for not splashing the cash, will be under pressure to deliver after smashing the club’s transfer record to bring acclaimed playmaker Mesut Özil to Arsenal for £42million. Celtic have lost a couple of key players from last season and haven’t really brought the same quality in so qualifying from the group stages is looking like a daunting prospect.
Ones To Watch
We’ve talked about all the big name transfers and the big managerial changes for this campaign but there is of course more to the Champions League. Elysium Magazine picks out three players from around Europe who are set to become household names before the World Cup next year:
Isco – Real Madrid – Midfielder
Spanish football is blessed with talented midfielders right now but Isco is something special. A dynamic midfielder with an eye for the spectacular goal, he has already established his spot in the Real Madrid team this season. Expect to see plenty of surging runs into the box and a few scorching goals.
Mario Götze – Bayern Munich – Attacking Midfielder
His signing from arch rivals Borussia Dortmund for £31million was a masterstroke by the Bavarian club who have got themselves arguably the brightest shining light in German football right now. Adept at playing in a number of attacking positions across the front line his skill, creativity and flair will prove a real asset to the German champions.
Juan Fernando Quintero – FC Porto – Attacking Midfielder
Following in the footsteps of Columbians Falcao, Fredy Guarin and James Rodriguez who have hit the big time since starting their European club careers with Porto, Quintero is in good company. The 20 year old No.10 is blessed with a devastating left foot coupled with sublime vision, intelligence and technical ability. A snip at £4.4million this summer, his value will quadruple by the end of this campaign.