By Bez Saciri | September 7th, 2012 | Category: Sports, Features |
Even though some of Europe’s best have been examined, there is plenty more where that came from. In part two, European superpowers Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United will be talked about, among others.
Verdict: The holders are back and better than ever, as they are on top of the Barclays Premier League. Roman Abramovich seems to have his mojo back, as he invested heavily in the squad this summer. Eden Hazard has been magnificent and Fernando Torres has found his form. Can they be the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles?
Star Man: Eden Hazard
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
Verdict: The second of the two Ukrainian teams in the field is looking to upset the holders. Willian is ready to prove Chelsea wrong, as they did not end up securing his signature in the summer. They have experience, but dealing with the holders and Serie A winners may prove to be too much of an ask for them.
Star Man: Willian
Verdict: After a two-year absence, the Bianconeri are back in the Promised Land. After an undefeated campaign gave them the Serie A title, Juventus invested in the squad, and brought in Sebastian Giovinco and Lucio, among others. Andrea Pirlo is still the playmaker, and Gianluigi Buffon is still between the sticks.
Star Man: Andrea Pirlo
FC Nordsjaelland (Denmark)
Verdict: A surprise entry into the Champions League, the Danish outfit are relatively unknown. Joshua John is going to be the one counted to produce the goals for the minnows of the tournament. They will be lucky to even get a point.
Star Man: Joshua John
Bayern Munich (Germany)
Verdict: The losers of two of the last three finals are one the favorites to go to Wembley and get the job done. Bayern have been busy in the summer, adding Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Mandzukic and Javi Martinez to name a few. The Bavarian giants have not won this competiton since 2001, and are ready to change that.
Star Man: Arjen Robben
Verdict: A good team side that does not get much attention is ready to change that once and for all. They have sold many key players over the years, but they still have talent at their disposal. Roberto Soldado still supplies the goals, and Diego Alves is reliable goalkeeper. Expect them to battle with Lille for second spot.
Star Man: Roberto Soldado
Verdict: Even though they lost star player Eden Hazard, Lille still presents a challenge to most opposition. Marvin Martin and Salomon Kalou have come in to try and replace Hazard’s production. Rudi Garcia is one of the most sought after managers in soccer, but he has a job on his hands, as Lille is favorites to go into the Europa League.
Star Man: Marvin Martin
BATE Borisov (Belarus)
Verdict: The best club from Belarus is in the Champions League for the second consecutive season. They did not make much of an impact, as they had Barcelona and AC Milan in their group. Renan Bressan is a rising star in Belarus, and he will be trying to create havoc for the other teams in the group.
Star Man: Vitali Rodionov
Verdict: The Catalans have a sour taste in their mouths, as they only won the Copa del Rey in Pep Guardiola’s final season in charge. Having won this competition in 2006, 2009 and 2011, Barcelona know what it takes to win, and they have the best collection of talent around, led by Lionel Messi.
Star Man: Andres Iniesta
Verdict: The Portuguese side endured a great run in last year’s Champions League, as they topped their group, which included Manchester United, and went all the way to the quarterfinals. Nicolas Gaitan is a great compliment to striker Oscar Cardozo. Can they repeat their performance? It will be a harder task, since they have Barcelona in their group.
Star Man: Nicolas Gaitan
Spartak Moscow (Russia)
Verdict: The second Russian team in the tournament, Spartak made the field via the playoffs against Fenerbahce. Nigerian Emmanuel Emenike is one of the more prolific goal scorers that is under the radar, and Aiden McGeady is a tricky winger who can put good crosses into the box. It will be them and Celtic battling for the Europa League spot.
Star Man: Emmanuel Emenike
Verdict: After a four-year absence, the Bhoys are back in the big-time. Gary Hooper, along with Anthony Stokes, can put the ball into the back of the net, and Scott Brown and Joe Ledley are above-average midfielders. Even though they are a good side, they are lacking the quality to compete with Barcelona and Benfica.
Star Man: Gary Hooper
Manchester United (England)
Verdict: After a hugely disappointing European showing last term, the Red Devils are prepared to win a fourth Champions
League title. Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa will help their cause this time around, and Nemanja Vidic is full healthy. Expect United to be highly-motivated to win this group.
Star Man: Robin van Persie
Verdict: One of the top sides in Portugal, they are in the Champions League to make a name for themselves. They were in the final of the Europa League in 2011, so they know how to advance deep in European competitions. Brazilian striker Lima will look to spearhead the attack. They will barely edge out Galatasaray for second spot in the group. I do not think they will get much further than that though.
Star Man: Lima
Verdict: One of the biggest clubs in Turkey is ready to take down one of the giants of world soccer. They have a lot of experienced players in the side, including Tomas Ujfalusi and Milan Baros, and they made an ambitious bid to secure 2007 World player of the year Kaka. Burak Yilmaz will look to score some important goals for the Turkish outfit.
Star Man: Burak Yilmaz
CFR Cluj (Romania)
Verdict: They are the new force of Romanian soccer, as they have taken the crown away from Steaua Bucurest. They were in the Champions League in 2010-2011, but they finished in last place with Bayern Munich in their group. They will find it hard to gain points, and they will need a lot of luck to advance. Pantelis Kapetanos is known for his late goals, so we will see if he can live up to the billing.
Star Man: Pantelis Kapetanos