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Who is your favourite to challenge Barcelona in the 2012 UEFA Champions League?

Barcelona delivered a master class performance in last season’s UEFA Champions League final, defeating English champions Manchester United 3-1.

Only the most biased of fans could deny Barcelona favouritism again for this season’s premier European torunament, but looking for a clear second favourite makes for a much more difficult piece of analysis.

Real Madrid’s captain Iker Casillas confidently declared that “100 per cent,” Madrid would have beaten United had they made it through to the final.

AC Milan’s Massimo Ambrosini offered a slightly more level-headed observation recently, when he told La Gazzetta dello Sport; “only Barcelona are in a league of their own at the moment. Milan are part of a group of five or six teams of the same level that can all go a long way as well.”

Below we analyse those five teams Ambrosini may have been referring to:

AC Milan

Starting with the Italian champions – there is no doubt that they will pose a serious threat to their opponents in the upcoming version of the UEFA Champions League.

Led by some of the best attacking players in world football, in Alexander Pato, Robinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano, goals should not be hard to come by for the Rossoneri.

Milan have also strengthened their defence with signings of AS Roma’s French defender Philippe Mexes, and Marseille’s Nigerian left-back Taye Taiwo. The squad at the San Siro is not a youthful one, but it is oozing in experience and quality, two vital factors required in a successful European campaign.

Inter Milan

Inter Milan suffered from an extremely disappointing campaign last term, after the fantastic treble they captured the season prior under the management of Jose Mourinho.

Whether they do have the ability to bounce back this season and impress in Europe once again, may depend on their movement in the transfer market over the next few weeks. Inter have been heavily linked with the want-away Argentine striker, Carlos Tevez, but rumours continue to persist that their star midfielder, Wesley Sneijder, may leave for Manchester United.

If Inter can keep Sneijder and capture Tevez then there is no reason why the Nerazzurri won’t impress in Europe and reach the latter stages of the competition once again. Injury was a poisonous cloud over their attempt to defend their European crown last term, so any realistic chance this season must be accompanied by a relatively injury free season to their key players.

Real Madrid

The current Real Madrid side should be recognised as a fantastic football team, which makes the dominance of Barcelona all the more remarkable. Mourinho’s club record almost dictates that Madrid must win something this season, and if Cristiano Ronaldo continues his fine form, then Los Blancos will be irresistible to watch, and very difficult to overcome.

There is no need to examine their supremely talented squad, though they are possibly one quality striker short. With the move of Sergio Aguero to Manchester City, there are rumours that Madrid may make a more determined effort to capture Tevez.

With or without another striker, it is hard to disagree with Casillas’ comments that Madrid are the second best side in the world. Barcelona may well be the only team that can prevent Mourinho from winning the UEFA Champions League with a third club this time around.

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has worked extremely hard to replace his retiring stalwarts this summer, but whether these replacements can deliver remains to be seen. Shot stopper David de Gea had an outstanding season with Atletico Madrid, but at just 20 years of age, de Gea is lacking in experience at the top level.

Ashley Young and Phil Jones are both yet to experience the challenges of playing in Europe’s elite competition. Fans will have to hope that Sir Alex can inspire his new signings to lift to the level required, should the Red Devils play off in the Munich final.

The most impressive aspect of United’s game over the past few years has been their ability to win matches, when their performances have been sub-standard. Examining the squad from Old Trafford this season, they do not appear as strong as their continental rivals, but it would take a brave person to write off a club as strong as Manchester United.

Chelsea

New Chelsea manager Andre Villa-Boas will be expected to lead the Blues into the final stages of the Champions League this season, and he has some experience in Europe after winning the Europa League with Porto last term.

A lot more will be expected of Fernando Torres and David Luiz in their first full campaigns at Stamford Bridge. Both players failed to live up to their high expectations last year, given their combined price tag of £80 million.

Similar to Milan’s ageing squad, the London based club make up in experience for what they lack in youth. Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry are all entering the twilight years of their respective careers, and their form this season will be vital for Chelsea.

Summary

This year’s version of the UEFA Champions League will feature some fantastic teams from all across Europe, including several that have not been mentioned above, in Arsenal, Manchester City, Napoli and Bayern Munich.

As the current holders, Barcelona should rightly be regarded as the favourites to lift the European cup, affectionately known as ‘Big Ears,’ in Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena this May.

But the chasing pack consists of some quality sides, and if Barcelona do drop the level of their performances just a touch, then one of a whole host of sides could be named European champions this season.

Which club are likely to pose the biggest threat to Barcelona in this season’s UEFA Champions League?

Fri 29 July, 2011
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49 Comments:

  1. Sam says:

    David Luiz failed to live up to expectations?? You’ve got to be joking mate

  2. Are you kidding me, David Luiz failed to live up to expectations??
    His goal against Man u, gave chelsea hope, not forgeting against man city as well….i think you need to check the facts and rewrite this article…..what a biase statement…..chuups

  3. Shashank says:

    If David Luiz has been bought this summer, it would cost around 35m.. easily(Henderson – 20 m then Luiz >>35 m)

  4. Ogbuagu Chibueze says:

    David Luiz was quite a hit at Chelsea last season. For 2012 UCL, I’ll put my money first on Real Madrid followed by Chelsea.

  5. vyasan says:

    david lusiz is a good buy for chelsea.
    None of the above teams are going to beat barcelona in the champions league

  6. Chelsea FC Fan says:

    Good ol’ Adrian always pushing everyone’s buttons…hahaha…

  7. Brad says:

    Yeah, CFC Fan, I don’t think anyone can match barca, whatsoever. the teams with the best hope of doing so, I would say, are Manchester United, followed by Real Madrid and Chelsea.

  8. Barca Fan says:

    I do believe Real Madrid is the second best team in the world and would have had a great chance to win the final had they beaten Barcelona in the semis. Man U had many unimpressive games mixed with others that were outstanding, but Real Madrid was consistently excellent all season, just barely topped by Barcelona. I wish Manchester United and Real Madrid had been matched up in the CL semis, with Barcelona getting the easier draw as the best team. But it doesn’t work that way, of course. Real Madrid’s talent, depth, and quality are incredible, making it even more remarkable that Barcelona has continued to dominate, as the author says.

    I think Spain’s two giants will be the two best in Europe this coming year. Chelsea is aging, Man U’s central midfield won’t be able to cope with RM and Barca, and Arsenal’s current squad is unproven. Maybe Milan, but I think Milan would get severely exposed by RM and Barca with their highly attacking style, despite their talent. If Barcelona has enough depth defensively and avoids defensive injuries, they are clearly the favorite. Real Madrid is close behind if Barca slips up one bit.

    It will be VERY interesting to see where Manchester City ends up this season, with a squad loaded with depth/talent but lacking CL experience.

  9. MapleLeaf says:

    David Luiz scored more goals than Torres, he could not have had a better start to his Chelsea career, especially since he wasn’t allowed to play in the Champions League

  10. Chelsea FC Fan says:

    @Brad…I hate to agree, but that’s the way it is looking…i’d even exclude my Blues from your list THIS YEAR as I don’t believe we have a built a midfield that can win championships. But, you never know what kind of fight we’ll put up…

    anyway, Adrian had a previous article about AC Milan being top contenders against Barcelona…and he mentions it again in this one…I know you’re gonna think i’m crazy too, but i’m beginning to believe he’s really on to something there…

  11. Brad says:

    Milan? they’ll get in deep as usual, but even with all of those players, I don’t think Milan will get it. even if they were to beat Barca in one game, Barca would kill them in the other.

  12. cloud says:

    no matter how good those teams are, as long as the referees will help Barcelona they will still win it. just a quick reminder, the drama against Arsenal and Madrid last season… i just can’t understand how people can easily forgot those incidents.

  13. Dylan says:

    It’s because Barca was always truly the better team.

    As far as who can challenge? I sorry to say (but not really as a LFC fan) Sir Alex is really messing up not making improvements in the center of the park. It’s possible to beat Barca (think Copa del Rey with Madrid) but you’re going to need quality center mids. Xavi Alonso, Ozil, Kaka, Diarra, and Khedira are simply miles better than United’s mid-field. The Special One has Kaka as a sub and Sir Alex has…. Anderson? How do they seriously expect to challenge?

    Madrid has the best chance to de-throne Barca next season. They were the only team to beat Barca when it mattered most in recent memory.

  14. Bill says:

    I’m a Liverpool fan so I know this will sound biased but I honestly agree with the assesmen of Luiz. I know he is great on the ball for a centre-half and he can score a goal which is always a great bonus attribute to have, but in his primary role – defending the goal – he is susceptible.

    There was the famous mistake at Old Trafford which was your title deciding match, and he has shown on other occasions too that he can be error prone.

    30 million is a monstrous amount of money to spend on a player, and in time Luiz may turn out to be worth it. But I’d agree and say last season he did not have the season of a 30 million pound player.

  15. Asif says:

    No club could dethrone the excellent Barce is my concrete opinion her. though to me the tough challengers in future could be Chelsea, Milan and i dont know why i feel threat for Barca would turn up withe the face of City.

  16. Anthony says:

    hahaha the moment i read the david luiz comment i was gonna mention how wrong you are but then i noticed every one else beat me to it when i scrolled down haha. Luiz met ALL expectations this past season. He was a real hit. He was everything chelsea needed in a CB. He even has real attacking flair too! Future captain too, for sure! I do believe Chelsea can challenge barca this year.

  17. shubham says:

    only real are some where near barca no othe team

  18. kallol panda says:

    chelsea ia a aged squad they can challange aston vila,celtic no barca or manu.Real threat in this summer will be man city and after adding augero they become much stronger..

  19. Brad says:

    Dylan, I’ve got to agree about our midfield problem. if the best we’ve got is Anderson, we’re screwed.

  20. Halar says:

    Hey Bill, if you want to talk about mistakes than let’s talk about Your “Carragher”. He’s so experienced but yet he makes more mistakes in a single match than those which “Luiz” makes in a whole season.

  21. Russ ru says:

    United and madrid… And MAYBE Man city if they get rid of mancini…

  22. no matter how gud they are chelsea w beat yhem this season

  23. girish says:

    barcelona dnt need any refrreee side support to win the r in the greatest form god help others….

  24. sellassie says:

    Man united is da one to dethrone barca ,if only we get a perfect replacement for schooles. And i united is da second to barca b,cos even xavi and pep guadiola said it.

  25. Man.Utd can still do it with the crop of young talent mixed with experience.This can be done perfect with the arrival of Sneijder since it’s the midfield disturbing Dr.Sir Alex alot

  26. Yiannis, Athens says:

    I think Coentrao will be a quality signing for Real and the team will be even more homogeneous this year..lets hope Coentrao and other Real defenders will not be sent off the pitch after regular common markings against we all know who..

  27. Saklek plus says:

    barca are not unbeatable team.its true that they rise like other teams in europe previously and they can go down anytime while another team will rise again…messi is the top flop in the history of argentine football great player…….so most teams in europe reign for one or two season..these are the list of teams that on top for this season…ac milan and real madrid then we can consider chelsea,and porto…we can now lastly consider the likes of man utd and barcelona…….

  28. Leo says:

    Barcelona is…well as everybody sais that they play the most beautiful football one touch in the history of soccer and to be honest guys Barca does play the most beautiful football at the moment and i think they won’t let down their lever this season as they didn’t do it the previous season and this season we’ll see the queen of europe again in action and not to forget they allreayd won a turnament against Bayern Munich in the final…so…they are already in good form.

  29. j r says:

    i know that barca is alive with referee

  30. neil dcruz says:

    united,though they look inexperienced i think the youngsters coming in have huge potential and with six alex around dont write them off just yet barca!

  31. neil dcruz says:

    no doubt barca is playing the best football at the moment but the world has watched and analizing is how tackle their short passing possession football is in full swing and genius’ like mourinho and sir alex ar not gonna too long

  32. Luvsam says:

    I think Barca has a chance, buh wit the indepth that mancity has, they shld be a club to watch and not written off easily, but with madrid and man-utd… I think they have a shot @ picking it…

  33. alen says:

    david luiz faild to impress!!! this is a joke if it wasnt for him we would have probably finishes 3rd maybe even 4th in the premier league last year hes the reason chelsea beat man city and man u last year and he wasnt even aloud to play in the champions league

  34. Roy Smith says:

    I definitely see Chelsea as a contender to beat Barca. They have all the tools.

  35. Enzo says:

    Only Real stands a chance with barca

  36. Jesse Brown says:

    I think any of the teams mentioned above can beat Barca on their day. Never write any side. Most people claim that Barca are untouchable, that’s rubbish. Arsenal beat them… Inter Milan even kicked Barca out. Look at Man United for example, if they kept playing the way they did when Rooney scored there would have been that chance. I still think Man United and Madrid are the main sides though… If Barca get Man City in the knock out stages I wouldn’t be shocked if they are the ones to beat them as well. We shall see, good luck to every team this season.

  37. Anthony says:

    It’s Chelsea’s year boys ;)

  38. james says:

    no one can do it, overrated united still arent good enough this year! shame AS roma arent in champo league they look good, city wont be able to take the pressure on their debut! barca are just too good, united need a masterclass achitect in the form of snidjer or kaka to dictate play, this is key and they dont have a playmaker! pissed off they got an easy group too grrr

  39. Asif says:

    No Milan, no Inter, no real and of course not againnn for Man utd., not at all chelsea… But the biggest threat i feeel right now is the only club that could surprise the world is City, yes thats true. I m ready to bet life on this and undoubtedly Barca is itself football and its best.
    City r tremendous wid latest recruitments they have consolidated and they will be future threat to every team in the world and most on red devils. U cant justify or predict wid on one loss as on community shield match results. Just imagine Dzeko, Aguero, Nasri, Silva, Tevez, Balotelli, A.johnson, Wrightphillips, yaya toure, Barry, Clichy, and many many more, it seems like many stars collected from heaven and fixed in City,, i do have mercy on Sir Alex and sypathy wid Reds fans….!!

  40. Hayden says:

    Yeahhhh to the previous 2 comments, probably should have waited an extra couple of hours before posting.

    Manchester United 8 – 2 Arsenal

    That’s 8 goals. 6 of fantastic quality all with an average age of 23.

    Now i don’t believe that they will win the champions league this year but to write them off is frankly propostorous. Within 5 years, Manchester will rule world football.

  41. Ali says:

    CFC for sure… followed by Real Madrid…

    BLUES for LIFE!!!

  42. Ld Hayes says:

    Very few people have mentioned that fact about Champions league new comes Man City could bring a new fresh look. True that City have not experianced the champs league but most of their players have.
    Barry with aston villa, Yaya with Barca, Nasri with Arsenal, and some many more. Beating Spurs 5-1 was a big mile stone.
    But I think the best is yet to come.
    But just to set the record straight I am a massive ManU fan. I can just recognise talent when I see it.

  43. Empathy says:

    I think Real Madrid is the only club that has learnt how to play Barca, in the 1st and 2nd leg of the Super cup, they really attacked Barca, i wouldn’t allow Barca to get hold on the ball. But one thing about Real Madrid is that they play aggressively which normally fetch them red cards.

  44. A.C.M 1899 says:

    “A.C” MILAN FOREVER … !
    IT WILL 8TH “Eighth” CHAMPIONS IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE … !

  45. A.C.M 1899 says:

    of course if refrees & THE OTHERS let … !

  46. Puta Madrid says:

    Dortmund > Real madrid.

  47. Ismail{united} says:

    Hellow guys don’t let us waist much of our time,d 1 and only club dat can challenge barca is d red devils.(UNITED 4 LIFE)

  48. the_real_deal says:

    I don’t think any of the established footballing giants will win this year. I have faith in teams like Valencia, Dortmund or Fiorentina taking the prize.

  49. sahil says:

    manchester united will

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