The Champions League kicks off in earnest with the commencement of the group stage on Tuesday, and with a long eight month stretch to the final next May, there are sure to be many twists and turns on the road to Wembley.
As ever, Barcelona are hotly tipped to regain the European crown they last won in 2011, after being defeated by eventual winners Chelsea in a gripping semi-final last time around.
Bitter rivals Real Madrid will have their sights firmly set on climbing the Wembley steps as victors in May though, with coach Jose Mourinho bidding to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs.
Premier League representation is as strong as ever, with last season’s domestic title winners Manchester City looking to make a lasting impression in their second attempt and holders Chelsea aiming to regain the trophy they so dramatically won in Munich last May.
Manchester United and Arsenal will be keen to make their mark on Europe’s elite as Sir Alex Ferguson aims to win it for a third time and Arsene Wenger for the first.
Spain and England may dominate the pre-tournament talk, but there are several dark-horses within the competition who could spring a surprise too.
Big spending Paris Saint-Germain return to the Champions League after an eight-year absence and will be eager to impress following recent lavish outlays.
Similarly, Zenit St Petersburg have splashed the cash during the transfer window, paying out £64 million on Hulk and Axel Witsel, with their owners looking for a return on their investment.
Germany cannot be ignored either, with last year’s defeated finalists Bayern Munich perennial challengers and exciting Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund a potential threat should they qualify from a group including Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.
Juventus should not be overlooked. The Serie A champions are currently on a 42-game unbeaten run domestically and will relish the opportunity to win the trophy they last lifted in 1996.
Will Barcelona justify their favourites tag? Have Chelsea got another heroic achievement within them? Will Champions League glory justify the means for PSG and Zenit? Or could a dark horse such as Arsenal, Dortmund or Juventus spring the ultimate surprise in their quest for European success?
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