The qualifying stages of the 2013/14 Uefa Champions league are already underway but what will the 21st edition of Europeâ€™s premier club competition have install for us?
Will Bayern Munich under the stewardship of new boss Pep Guardiola retain the title they won in spectacular style last season at Wembley? Or will one of Europeâ€™s other big nameâ€™s rise to the fore. Here we look at the 4 most likely contenders.
Chelseaâ€™s 2012 Champions League triumph felt like a long, distant memory for much of last season but now that the self-proclaimed â€˜special oneâ€™ has returned, Jose Mourinho will be desperate to get his hands on the only major trophy that alluded him during his previous tenure at Stamford Bridge. With quality summer signings in the shape of Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel complimenting an already experienced European squad, Chelsea are well placed to win their second title next May and odds comparisons sites like freebets.com seem to agree by offering a tempting price of 13-1 for the blues to be crowned champions.
Spanish giants Real Madrid will be desperate to make Champions League history by clinching â€˜La Decimaâ€™; a tenth European title during the 2013/14 campaign. New boss Carlo Ancelotti has plenty of experience having guided AC Milan to glory twice in 02/03 and 06/07 and the Bernabeu outfit boast arguably the best squad on the planet. If Madrid can prize away the Premier Leagueâ€™s leading light, Gareth Bale, then â€˜Los Blancosâ€™ 11 year wait for the trophy nicknamed â€˜Lo Orejonaâ€™ (big-ears) could soon be over.
Despite being dismantled 8-0 on aggregate in last-yearâ€™s semi-final to eventual winners, Bayern Munich, it would be premature to write off Lionel Messi et al at Barcelona. The Catalan superstars will be desperate to re-install their reputation as the greatest football team on the planet during this yearâ€™s competition and new signing Neymar will no doubt want to prove his worth in what will be his debut season at the Camp Nou.
Pep Guardiola has a tough task attempting to emulate the historic treble Bayern won last season and his most burning objective will no doubt be trying to retain the Champions League trophy. Critics still question whether or not Pep has what it takes to manage another big European Club having been nurtured so intimately at the Camp Nou. However, Bayern are the bookmakerâ€™s favourites at 4-1 to become the first club ever to successfully defend the Champions League and scarily, their squad has improved since last season with the addition of German starlet Mario Gotze and Spanish ace Thiago Alacantara.