Champions League returns
The Champions League is set to return to our screens next week.
The first set of fixtures takes place on Tuesday the 14th of September, with Sevilla vs RB Salzburg and Young Boys vs Manchester United kicking off the action at 5:45 PM UK time.
United, as well as Young Boys, have been drawn in Group F alongside Atalanta and Villarreal.
Elsewhere from the Premier League, current holders Chelsea are set to face off with Juventus, Zenit and Malmo in a group they should have little issues qualifying from.
Meanwhile, Manchester City and Liverpool both have fairly tough groups on paper. City must take on PSG, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge, whilst Liverpool are facing Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and FC Porto.
The full group stage draw can be seen below:
All set for the 2021/22 season! 🤩
Which Champions League group are you most excited for?#UCLdraw | #UCL pic.twitter.com/gpOCzlRtOd
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 26, 2021
Who will win the Champions League?
Who, though, will win the Champions League this time around?
The Premier League’s dominance over European football has grown in recent years. They have had at least one team representing them in the last four finals, with 2020/21 and 2018/19 seeing all-English affairs played out.
And, with FC Barcelona and Real Madrid having declined somewhat in recent times, it is hard to see Spain faring to well in this season’s competition.
Italy also do not look set for a strong showing in Europe’s most coveted club competition either.
Juventus’s quality has waned and, after losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, they are not expected to get far.
Champions Inter Milan, meanwhile, have parted with Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku. But even with that duo, still struggled to mount any sort of serious challenge in the CL last time out.
This, on paper, should leave the English, French and German sides with the best chance of securing silverware.
The Premier League does look to have the most serious potential challengers for the Champions League in 2021/22.
Manchester City made it to the 2020/21 final with Pep Guardiola finally opting against chopping and changing his side up constantly for knockout matches.
Instead, the Spaniard stuck with a false-nine system that largely saw Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan occupying the five most advanced positions.
Granted, Pep did changes things up slightly in the final, opting not to start either of Fernandinho or Rodri.
But with the same squad plus the edition of Jack Grealish, the Sky Blues should once again make it to the latter stages this term as well.
However, without the services of a proper no.9, City’s ability to win the competition is lessened.
Liverpool should also be amongst the favourites this year after recovering from their injury crisis.
Jurgen Klopp has an excellent record in the competition with the Reds and they do have one of the best starting elevens in Europe. But there is a case to be made that Liverpool’s overall squad is not good enough, especially their forward reinforcements.
So, unless Liverpool sign a big-name attacker in January, it is hard to see them winning it.
The final English side amongst the favourites to win the Champions League is Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel has already proven he can get the majority of these players to the final. And, with the Londoner’s excellent squad now reinforced by Saul Niguez and Romelu Lukaku, another final appearance does look very likely.
Outside of the aforementioned PL sides, Bayern Munich are one of the more likely to make it to the latter stages of the Champions League this term.
Julian Nagelsmann took charge of the club over the summer and brought with him two very impressive players in the form of Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer.
The pair back up an already remarkable squad that includes some of the best and most experienced players in Europe such as Robert Lewandowski, Joshua Kimmich and Manuel Neuer.
All of the above sides have some seriously top talent and some of the best managers in world football right now.
However, it is simply too hard to look past PSG as the favourites for the 2021/22 Champions League.
A front four of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria is arguably the deadliest attack in football.
PSG’s squad has also been further boosted over the summer by Euro 2020 winning goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Champions League and Premier League winner Georginio Wijnaldum, Serie A winner Achraf Hakimi and, of course, serial winner, Sergio Ramos.
So, if Mauricio Pochettino can keep said players fit, there is really no reason why PSG should not be in this campaign’s Champions League final.