Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pretenders or real challengers to Bayern's Champions League title?

Bayern Munich start the defense of their Champions League title today against CSKA Moscow, in a group with Manchester City and Victoria Plzen of the Czech Republic. Bayern and City should advance, with not too many wild cards expected to get out of the group stages. But the knockout stages should be really exciting this year - the usual suspects should be joined by teams like Napoli, Athletico Madrid, PSG and Shalke 04.

Napoli have the toughest group, with Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Marseille, but they have looked fantastic in Serie A so far, with Gonzalo Higuain and Marik Hamsik bound to be a handful for any of Europe's top defenses, let alone Arsenal's.

It's hard to look past Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but the English teams may prefer the underdog tag after years of being the teams to beat. Juventus and Napoli have really strengthened over the summer and should compete at the latter stages, and PSG really have to reach the last 8 to even begin to justify the money they have spent.

And here's the beauty of the Champions League. All these big teams expect to advance. Their Chairmen pay huge salaries and transfer fees to reach this stage, and anything less than the knockout stages is a huge failure. But they can't all get to the last 4, and it usually means a manager will lose their job, and even more money will be thrown at the 'project' the next year.

It can't survive the way it is without someone going bust soon. But that's a story for another day.

Today, let's sit back, enjoy the music and see some top quality football. Bayern may have a tough task ahead to try and defend their title, but don't rule them out - they have to be the joint-favorites along with Barcelona, for now.