Champions League 2020/2021: Can Bayern Munich turn out to be simply second crew in historical past to retain the trophy?

Champions League 2020/2021: Can Bayern Munich turn out to be simply second crew in historical past to retain the trophy?

Actual Madrid’s all-conquering crew, led by Zinedine Zidane, gained membership soccer’s largest prize for an unprecedented three consecutive years between 2016 and 2018 — now Bayern Munich has a sensible probability of doing the identical.

Few may argue that the perennial German champion was not the most effective crew in Europe final season and a deserving Champions League winner. Hansi Flick’s facet returned from the coronavirus-enforced break in unstoppable kind, successful each remaining recreation of the season.

Probably the most eye-catching victory within the record-breaking 23-game successful streak — which started towards 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 teenager Marc Roca, in addition to the return of winger Douglas Costa.

Could Bayern Munich be just the second team to win back-to-back Champions League titles?

Bayern has a tough however manageable group to kick off the protection of its title. Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid will probably be a contender for high spot, adopted by thrilling Austrian facet RB Salzburg, which put in some thrilling performances within the group levels towards Liverpool and Napoli final season.

Russian facet Lokomotiv Moscow — showing in its first Champions League since 2003-04 — completes the group.

READ: Objectives galore as European soccer experiences one more wild weekend of motion

Messi vs. Ronaldo

Rather a lot has been made 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 without spending a dime.

Nonetheless, Barcelona refused to budge on the Argentine’s $897 million launch clause and, not wanting to pull 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 loads on the Catalan membership — Barcelona began the La Liga marketing campaign in good kind with Ronald Koeman as its new head coach, successful its opening two video games earlier than drawing towards Sevilla.

Nonetheless, 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 in command of the Netherlands, believes the 57-year-old has the power to show the membership’s fortunes round.

“He is an excellent coach,” he advised CNN. “Nonetheless, typically in soccer timing is essential. Proper now, there’s so much 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 convey success again to Barcelona. For me, I believe considered one of his strengths is giving gamers accountability and creating a gaggle course of … a sure environment 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 this point, a penalty on the opening day towards Villarreal, however Barca has been buoyed by the performances of thrilling teenager Ansu Fati, who has bagged three objectives within the opening three video games and likewise made historical past as Spain’s youngest ever goalscorer throughout 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 levels for the primary time.

Juve, too, has its justifiable share of issues heading into this yr’s marketing campaign, with talisman Ronaldo set to overlook out towards Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday and a doubt for the highly-anticipated conflict towards Barcelona on October 28 because of a optimistic coronavirus check.

With Juventus and Barcelona vying for high spot, spare a thought for underdog rivals Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros, who will little doubt each be hoping for that third Europa League spot.

READ: ‘Life can come at you very onerous and fast,” says Ryan Babel.

Better of the remaining

Paris Saint-Germain, final season’s crushed finalist, has been drawn in a tough 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 alternative for captain and vastly skilled heart 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 essentially the most, and it stays to be seen whether or not final season’s remaining defeat will deflate the squad or turn out to be an added motivation.

Neymar couldn't lead Paris Saint-Germain to Champions League glory last season.
READ: Liverpool and Everton share spoils in entertaining Merseyside derby

In the meantime, regardless of having by no means gained 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 shocked by Lyon in final season’s quarterfinal and the Spanish supervisor remains to be searching for 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 document within the league — for objectives conceded — and cracks that had began to look final season provide opposing groups loads of alternatives to use, notably in the way in which Villa preyed on the Reds’ excessive defensive again line.

Key defender Virgil van Dijk suffered a knee ligament within the 2-2 draw towards Everton on Saturday and can be out for prolonged spell, additional including to Liverpool’s defensive worries.

There can be no respite within the Champions League, both, with a tough draw towards two good attacking groups in Atalanta and Ajax that would expose Liverpool’s creaky protection. Time will inform whether or not that is only a short-term blip or a extra power drawback.

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