Few might argue that the perennial German champion was not the very best crew in Europe final season and a deserving Champions League winner. Hansi Flick’s facet returned from the coronavirus-enforced break in unstoppable type, successful each remaining recreation of the season.
Essentially the most eye-catching victory within the record-breaking 23-game successful streak — which started in opposition to Cologne again in February and ended with defeat to Hoffenheim on the finish of September — was the 8-2 humiliation of Barcelona within the Champions League quarterfinals.
Maybe most concerningly for Bayern’s European rivals is that the Bavarian membership has arguably solely gotten stronger within the low season. Regardless of dropping midfield maestro Thiago to Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho returning to Barcelona, Bayern has bolstered its ranks with the additions of Leroy Sane from Manchester Metropolis and highly-rated Spanish teen Marc Roca, in addition to the return of winger Douglas Costa.
Bayern has a difficult however manageable group to kick off the protection of its title. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will possible be a contender for high spot, adopted by thrilling Austrian facet RB Salzburg, which put in some thrilling performances within the group phases in opposition to Liverpool and Napoli final season.
Russian facet Lokomotiv Moscow — showing in its first Champions League since 2003-04 — completes the group.
Messi vs. Ronaldo
Rather a lot has been manufactured from Lionel Messi’s motivation going into this season … or lack thereof, extra particularly.
The Argentine made public his need to depart Barcelona on the finish of final season and believed a clause in his contract allowed him to take action at no cost.
Nevertheless, Barcelona refused to budge on the Argentine’s $897 million launch clause and, not wanting to tug the membership he says he loves into an unsavory authorized dispute, Messi opted to remain.
Regardless of the off-field distractions — of which there are a lot on the Catalan membership — Barcelona began the La Liga marketing campaign in good type with Ronald Koeman as its new head coach, successful its opening two video games earlier than drawing in opposition to Sevilla.
Nevertheless, a number of of the crew’s flaws reemerged over the weekend as an insipid efficiency noticed Barcelona endure a shock 1-0 defeat to Getafe.
However Ryan Babel, who performed below Koeman throughout his two-and-a-half years answerable for the Netherlands, believes the 57-year-old has the power to show the membership’s fortunes round.
“He is an excellent coach,” he informed CNN. “Nevertheless, typically in soccer timing is essential. Proper now, there’s lots happening in Barcelona. I simply hope that it would not have an effect on the method of him specializing in shaping his squad.
“He is an excellent coach and capable of deliver success again to Barcelona. For me, I believe one in every of his strengths is giving gamers accountability and creating a gaggle course of … a sure ambiance that he is actually constructing a crew, even right here. For us, Koeman created an environment that everybody needed to be part of.”
Messi has solely managed one purpose to date, a penalty on the opening day in opposition to Villarreal, however Barca has been buoyed by the performances of thrilling teen Ansu Fati, who has bagged three objectives within the opening three video games and likewise made historical past as Spain’s youngest ever goalscorer in the course of the worldwide break.
To make issues much more intriguing would be the presence of Juventus in the identical group, with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo going head-to-head within the Champions League group phases for the primary time.
Juve, too, has its fair proportion of considerations heading into this yr’s marketing campaign, with talisman Ronaldo set to overlook out in opposition to Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday and a doubt for the highly-anticipated conflict in opposition to Barcelona on October 28 attributable to a constructive coronavirus take a look at.
With Juventus and Barcelona vying for high spot, spare a thought for underdog rivals Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros, who will little question each be hoping for that third Europa League spot.
Better of the remainder
Paris Saint-Germain, final season’s overwhelmed finalist, has been drawn in a difficult group alongside Manchester United, RB Leipzig and Turkish champion Istanbul Başakşehir.
The French champion has endured a tough begin to the home marketing campaign, as a bunch of coronavirus instances and a rushed begin to the Ligue 1 season noticed it lose the opening two matches, earlier than bouncing again to go on a five-game successful streak.
Regardless of bolstering the squad with the likes of Danilo Pereira, Rafinha and Alessandro Florenzi, PSG is but to signal a substitute for captain and vastly skilled middle again Thiago Silva, who left to affix Chelsea within the switch window.
The membership got here so near clinching its first European Cup, the trophy its Qatari homeowners crave probably the most, and it stays to be seen whether or not final season’s closing defeat will deflate the squad or turn into an added motivation.
In the meantime, regardless of having by no means received the title, Manchester Metropolis as soon as once more enter into this season’s competitors because the bookmakers’ joint favourite.
Pep Guardiola’s facet was surprised by Lyon in final season’s quarterfinal and the Spanish supervisor continues to be in search of his first Champions League triumph since leaving Barcelona in 2012.
Liverpool, champion in 2019, has endured a turbulent begin to the Premier League season. After successful its opening three video games, two of these in spectacular style, Jurgen Klopp’s facet was humiliated 7-2 by Aston Villa, a facet which escaped relegation final season by one level.
Liverpool now has the joint worst defensive report within the league — for objectives conceded — and cracks that had began to look final season supply opposing groups loads of alternatives to take advantage of, notably in the best way Villa preyed on the Reds’ excessive defensive again line.
Key defender Virgil van Dijk suffered a knee ligament within the 2-2 draw in opposition to Everton on Saturday and shall be out for prolonged spell, additional including to Liverpool’s defensive worries.
There shall be no respite within the Champions League, both, with a difficult draw in opposition to two sensible attacking groups in Atalanta and Ajax that might expose Liverpool’s creaky protection. Time will inform whether or not that is only a short-term blip or a extra persistent drawback.