thumbnail Hello,

Goal.com looks at the sides who are likely to fight for supremacy in Europe’s premier club competition next season

ANALYSIS
By Subhankar Mondal

Chelsea defied the odds and critics to win the 2011-12 Champions League, getting the better of the much-fancied Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties in the final on May 19 at the Allianz Arena. It was the Blues’ first-ever triumph in Europe’s premier club competition as owner Roman Abramovich finally claimed the one trophy he has been searching for since his takeover of the London side in 2003.

While Chelsea continue to revel in their hard-fought success, they must be prepared to face a stiffer test next season if they are to become the first club in the Champions League era to successfully defend the title.

The likes of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, Premier League champions Manchester City, Italian powerhouse Juventus and French big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain will all be gunning to replace the Blues on the throne, and will make all the necessary effort during the summer transfer window to strengthen their respective squads.

Below, we look at the aforementioned teams as well as a few others who will be competing to wrestle the Champions League crown from Chelsea in 2012-13.

REAL MADRID


Real Madrid started the 2011-12 campaign as one of the top two contenders for the Champions League, and until the semi-finals they were near flawless. However, for the second season in a row under Jose Mourinho, the Spanish champions failed to overcome the last-four hurdle, losing to Bayern Munich on penalties.

Not many major changes are expected this summer at Madrid as Los Blancos aim to go a few steps further next season and win their elusive 10th European Cup. Mourinho already has arguably the most extensive squad in the world with unparalleled depth, and with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas all vowing that their team will bounce back in 2012-13, Real are already favourites with most bookmakers. Having won the Copa del Rey and the Primera Division in his first two years at the Santiago Bernabeu, Mourinho’s next target will be clinching the Champions League.

Odds to win the Champions League: 7/2 with Paddy Power

BARCELONA


With Tito Vilanova replacing Pep Guardiola as coach at Camp Nou, it will be interesting to observe Barcelona next season. The Blaugrana endured a disappointing campaign in Europe this term, going down 3-2 on aggregate to Chelsea in the semi-finals, but will once again be one of the frontrunners for the competition come 2012-13.

A couple of top signings - a left-back and a centre-forward - could make Barca an even stronger force than they already are, and enhance their chances of lifting the Champions League for the fourth time in seven years. The Catalan giants still possess the most dazzling first XI on the planet with Lionel Messi having had a historic 2011-12 campaign, but Vilanova’s inexperience on the big stage and his untested influence on the side could have a large say in their fortunes.

Odds to win the Champions League: 7/2 with Paddy Power

MANCHESTER CITY


Having accomplished their mission to conquer England this season, Manchester City’s next target is to win the Champions League. Roberto Mancini has the experience of both playing and coaching teams in European football’s glamour club competition, and with the backing of his wealthy employers, he will be gunning for continental glory.

City already have a rich and strong squad at their disposal and with more mega-money summer signings inevitable, the Citizens could boast a mouthwatering team by the time the 2012-13 Champions League kicks off. The club will also be buoyed by the fact that they now know they can upstage a rival such as Manchester United, and will be keen to replicate their glory in Europe.

Odds to win the Champions League: 13/2 with Paddy Power

BAYERN MUNICH


Failing to win the Champions League final in front of their own supporters this season will have certainly struck a blow to Bayern Munich, who also finished second in the Bundesliga and runners-up in the DFB Pokal final, but Jupp Heynckes’ side have no dearth of talent in their team.

The Bavarians have already started reinforcing their squad, with the signing of Swiss starlet Xherdan Shaqiri, and boast a young squad who are only going to get better next season. Even in the final at the Allianz Arena, Bayern were the better team and lost to Chelsea only on penalties, and they are rated as one of the favourites to lift the Champions League trophy at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Odds to win the Champions League: 10/1 with Paddy Power

MANCHESTER UNITED


The current Manchester United squad is regarded as one of their weakest in recent memory but even then they came within minutes of winning the Premier League this season. Summer arrivals are all but certain and in manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils have one of the best and most experienced football minds around.

The return of key defender and club captain Nemanja Vidic from injury will also be crucial next season, as United attempt to return to the Champions League pinnacle after crashing out at the group stage this term. The Old Trafford side have defied the odds to reach the final of the competition thrice in the last five years, and a similar feat or even something more spectacular in 2013 is not out of the picture.

Odds to win the Champions League: 10/1 with Paddy Power

CHELSEA


Chelsea’s football en route to their first-ever Champions League triumph in Munich was hardly inspiring, but Roberto Di Matteo may just have given club owner Roman Abramovich the incentive to construct yet another squad revolution. It is clear that the Blues need to start replacing some of their ageing stars and bring in fresh blood, and if the Russian billionaire can replenish the squad adequately, then Chelsea can aim to become the first side to successfully retain their crown.

Whether or not Di Matteo remains at the helm to lead a revolutionised Chelsea is uncertain, but after what they achieved this season, few would bet against them hoisting the trophy again in their home city of London.

Odds to win the Champions League: 12/1 with Paddy Power

JUVENTUS


Juventus will be back in the Champions League fold for the first time in three years and will be expected to make waves in the competition. The Bianconeri went the entire 2011-12 Serie A season unbeaten as they roared to the Scudetto, and in Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio they boast one of the most complete midfields in Europe.

Coach Antonio Conte has proven himself to be a tactical genius in Italy and he will be raring to showcase his potential in club football’s biggest competition. However, the Old Lady of Italian football clearly lack a top-class centre forward and unless they solve this problem in the summer they could struggle for goals against Europe's best.

Odds to win the Champions League: 18/1 with Paddy Power

AC MILAN


AC Milan progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League this season only to go down to Barcelona. Coach Massimiliano Allegri has been criticised for his lack of flexibility and naivety in Europe, but the Italian could do little to stop a Blaugrana team who only progressed following a controversial penalty call.

The 2012-13 edition will once more see the Rossoneri begin the competition as one of the frontrunners to win it, but they will have to adopt a stronger mentality and belief that they can beat the best of the best. Milan will undergo a significant squad overhaul this summer with the departure of a host of veterans such as Alessandro Nesta, Rino Gattuso, Mark van Bommel, Gianluca Zambrotta and Pippo Inzaghi. How they replace these legends will decide the club's fortunes.

Odds to win the Champions League: 25/1 with Paddy Power

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN


Currently, Paris Saint-Germain can only be described as secondary challengers for the Champions League next season. But with a wealth of funds at the club's disposal and a summer in which they are expected to make some big signings, they could be a genuine threat to the usual suspects. At least one world-class forward is likely to be recruited by the French giants, who are led by one of the Champions League's most successful coaches in Carlo Ancelotti.

After finishing second to Montpellier this term, winning the Ligue 1 title will be PSG’s main target for the 2012-13 campaign, but the Parc des Princes club will certainly take a shot at the elite European tournament too. If sporting director Leonardo can bring in a number of high-profile stars with Champions League pedigree, PSG could be one of the surprise packages next season.

Odds to win the Champions League: 25/1 with Paddy Power

  DARK HORSES
 


Borussia Dortmund endured a disappointing campaign in the Champions League in 2011-12 and even though they are likely to lose a key player in Shinji Kagawa, the German champions have a young squad that will be bolstered by the acquisition of Marco Reus, and will be keen to make a better impression next season. This is a team who have won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and defeated Bayern Munich five times in a row.

Under-achieving Arsenal will be looking to conjure up an upset or two, and have started well in the summer transfer market. The Gunners have already recruited Germany hero Lukas Podolski, and are working on a number of other top targets.

Elsewhere, Portuguese giants Porto are always darkhorses for the Champions League, and generally perform well when they are not expected to. Another team to keep an eye on are the newcomers from Spain, Malaga.

Follow Subhankar Mondal on
 

Related

From the web