Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014-15 Season Predictions

Champions League 2014-15 Season Predictions
Champions League Season Predictions
This will be 60th season of the competition organized by UEFA in which the best European football teams compete and 23rd season with a new format called the Champions League. The best team is Real Madrid with 10 titles, reigning champion who defeated city rivals Atletico in last year's final. Real Madrid is on the throne but it will be difficult to defend title because rivals are also eager for winning this prestigious competition and since 1992 under the current format neither team manage to defend their title. Our top favorites for new title are Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Clubs that might surprise and even win the title are Atletico Madrid and PSG. There are several interesting and equal groups so first things first, let's start with acquaintance of teams and its prospects. 

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo - a group led by last season finalist Atletico, who will be one of the latent favorites this season. Atletico has not experienced an exodus of players as predicted, they lost Diego Costa, Courtois, Luis Felipe and gain Mandzukic, Griezman, Oblak. We have impression that they did not lose too much quality. Juventus also has not undergone any changes, the team is almost the same as last year but with substantial change, instead Conte who is now in charge of the Italian national squad, Allegri has taken Turin club. Olympiakos is a more experienced team than Malmo, which is an occasional participant in the group competition. We expect the Greeks to win the third place ahead of the Swedes and continue to play Europa League, Atletico to win the group and Juventus to finish in second place.

Group B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets - Real got easier group than last season and with Liverpool will be the group favorites. After last year's record-breaking winning the tenth title, Real start with title defense. They brought in a few players who shone at the recent World Cup (James Rodriguez, Kroos, Navas) while club lost Di Maria, Xabi Alonso, Morata. I expect Liverpool will show great form and be equal in the battle for first place. Basel will threaten from background, especially Liverpool, because they have shown that they can deal with English clubs while Ludogorets will collect experience of playing Champions League. Real Madrid and Liverpool continues in round of 16, Basel continues to compete in the Europa League while Bulgarians remain bottom of the table.

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco - this is a very balanced and competitive group in which all teams have equal chances. However, Leverkusen with constantly good games in the Bundesliga and the Champions League are little ahead of the others. I expect to be fed into further competition as the winner of the group while others will equally fight for the remaining place. Monaco has lost a great deal of quality and efficiency by transfer out of James and Falcao, so I do not believe in their passage. Benfica has a lot of European experience, which could be crucial while Zenit will try to repeat last year's success. I expect that Leverkusen and Zenit will go to the next round and Benfica will continue in the Europa League.

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht - Arsenal and Dortmund regularly meet in the Champions League group stage, this will be their third common group in the last 4 years. Dortmund is a finalist of 2013, they lost to Bayern Munich, the team is very dangerous, they play very offensively and will be threat to all teams. Arsenal is a regular Champions League participant, this will be their 17th consecutive appearance, and are among a wider group of title candidates. Last season Galatasaray proved to be a surprise, they finished group in front of Juventus but will still win the third place ahead of Belgian champions Anderlecht.

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, AS Roma - this is the toughest group of the competition in which Bayern will have the difficult task of winning the group. The group is almost the same as last season and triplets joined Roma, which replaced Viktoria Plzen. Bayern and Manchester were tied with 15 points while CSKA won last place. Roma may surprise favorites and intervene in the fight for eighth finals. If Bayern passes group, then will become dangerous and how the competition goes they are playing better and could even reach the finals. I expect that Manchester repeat last years success and maybe even move step forward while CSKA have difficult task, but they are not without a chance.

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL - Barcelona with change of coach started reconstruction of team. They brought Rakitic, Vermaelen, Ter Stegen and the biggest star Suarez who will, with Messi and Neymar form a deadly trio. PSG with Ibrahimovic will be the biggest threat to the Catalonians, it is expected equal mutual encounters, the battle between the best attacker Messi-Ibrahimovic and their passage to further competition. Ajax and APOEL remain in the battle for third place.

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting, Maribor - With a strong defense and Mourinho's tactics, Chelsea is almost a guarantee to top this group. Under Portuguese leadership they play as if in a trance and are our main candidates for the Champions League title. Schalke with young Draxler, who can make a difference, will take the team to the second round. Sporting will win third place ahead of debutant Maribor and continue to compete in the Europa League.

Group H: Porto, Shakhtar, Bilbao, BATE - another equal group in which three teams have equal chances. If there were no crisis situation in Ukraine, Shakhtar would express a favorite passage, they have a lot of experience and play very creative and offensive football. Bilbao in the final round of qualifying won against favored Napoli and showed that it can cope with some of the best European teams, which include Porto. The Portuguese are a regular participant but a slight advantage going to the Basque side. BATE is also capable of surprise, as they shocked Bayern in their title winning season.

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