Ranking the Contenders to win the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League
The beautiful game is back, and it is back with a bang. The English Premier League returned on August 11th as reigning champions Manchester City travelled to Burnley to face off against the former captain Vincent Kompany, who is the current manager of the Clarets.
The talk of football in England this season is whether anyone can usurp Pep Guardiola’s treble winners, and with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, and cross-city rivals Manchester United hot on their tale, there may well be a number of surprises over the course of the next nine months. And speaking of surprises, those are something we have seen plenty of over the course of the summer.
The USA was earmarked as a favorite for glory by numerous previews on sites like Joefortune. However, they have already been sent packing by Sweden during the ongoing tournament.
The likes of Canada, Brazil, and Germany have also been eliminated, and it isn’t just in international football where there have been shocks aplenty. In the ongoing qualification campaign for the Champions League, there have also been a plethora of gob-smacking results.
Faroese minnows KÍ Klaksvik have already sent Hungarian champions Ferencváros and Swedish champions BK Häcken packing. Whether those shocks continue once the competition properly gets underway remains to be seen, however, let’s take a look at the usual suspects and how they may fare over the course of the upcoming campaign.
Manchester City are the Clear Favorites
It seems like every single season; Manchester City is positioned as the favorites for continental glory. However, for the majority of those years, the Blues only knew heartbreak.
Initially, it was the quarterfinals they couldn’t get passed, with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and lowly Lyon all handing them shocking defeats over the years. Then, they managed to lose games from seemingly impossible positions.
Last May, they were two clear goals ahead of Real Madrid heading into injury time of the semifinals. They would somehow concede twice in less than a minute before going on to lose in extra time. However, Pep Guardiola’s men put all of that behind them last term as they finally lifted the famous ‘Big-Eared’ trophy for the first time in the club’s history.
They managed to vanquish the ghosts of the year before as they defeated Los Blancos to reach the final in Istanbul. There, they would hold their nerve to secure a narrow 1-0 victory over Inter Milan courtesy of Rodri’s second-half strike.
This season, they are the overwhelming favorites for glory once more. Powered on by the goals of Erling Haaland and the playmaking abilities of captain Kevin De Bruyne, the Etihad club will take some stopping this season, and it would take a brave punter to bet against them.
The Chasing Pack
At the front of the chasing pack are German champions Bayern Munich. The Bavarians stumbled to an eleventh consecutive Bundesliga crown last term, however, they did so in less than convincing fashion.
The decision to sack Julian Nagelsmann midseason and replace him with former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was almost catastrophic. However, the 49-year-old managed to steer the club to the title.
With a full preseason under his belt and with Harry Kane being a new addition at the Allianz Arena, the Germans will surely reach the latter stages of the competition. Last term, however, they were handily dispatched by Manchester City in the quarterfinals, and they will have to improve if they are to threaten the reigning champions.
As will Real Madrid. The record 14-time champions were also outclassed by the Blues last season.
But they have impressed in the summer transfer window by fending off a whole host of clubs to secure the signing of English prodigy Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund. Will he be enough to power Los Blancos to a 15th title?
Arsenal returns to the Champions League this season for the first time since the days of Arsene Wenger. The Gunners gave Manchester City all they could handle in the Premier League title race last season and after spending heavily to bring in the likes of Declan Rice and Kai Havertz, they may well surprise a few people.
They managed to defeat the Blues in the recent Charity Shield via a penalty shootout and they have made a perfect start to the new English top-flight season, they will be aiming to reach the latter stages and perhaps even have their sights set on lifting the famous big-eared trophy for the first time in the club’s history. Paris Saint-Germain has been considered a contender in recent years however, they are currently a club in disarray.
Superstar striker Kylian Mbappé has informed the club that he will be leaving on a free transfer next summer while strike partner Neymar has also informed the club he wants to leave. New manager Luis Enrique is a proven winner however, he will have to be at his absolute best if he is to lead the Parisians to the latter stages of the competition.
It wouldn’t be right to write an article regarding Champions League contenders without highlighting Spanish champions Barcelona, despite their recent woes in the competition. The Catalonians managed to secure La Liga for the first time in four years last season.
However, they have been eliminated from the Champions League in each of the last two seasons. With young Spanish midfield duo Pedri and Gavi supplying goal-machine Robert Lewandowski, they will be hoping to make their mark on the continent for the first time since they last won the tournament back in 2015.
Finally, we have last year’s beaten finalists Inter Milan. As demonstrated last term, who knows what can happen in the Champions League when you receive a somewhat favorable draw? The Nerazzuri reached the Istanbul showpiece last season against all odds, and they did so by defeating FC Porto, Benfica, and cross-city rivals AC Milan.
They are the favorites to taste Serie A glory at the culmination of the current campaign, and if they are drawn to face such sides in the knockout stages once more this term, they may very well impress once again.