Which Teams Will Present the Main Threat to Bayern Munich Next Season?

Alex RichardsContributor IApril 30, 2013

Which Teams Will Present the Main Threat to Bayern Munich Next Season?

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    Without a shadow of a doubt, it has been an unbelievable season for Bayern Munich.
     
    Champions of the Bundesliga in record-breaking fashion, they also have a German Cup final to prepare for, as well as having one foot in the final of the Champions League following their 4-0 rout of Barcelona in their semi-final first leg.
     
    The job done by Jupp Heynckes in his final season at the helm of the Bavarians has been exceptional, with a side jam-packed full of talent.  Whether it be the German playmaker Toni Kroos, French winger Frank Ribery, midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger or the new cult hero at the Allianz Arena, Brazilian defender Dante, all have been outstanding.  There is no question that Bayern have played to their optimum more often than not this campaign.
     
    And with the arrivals of Pep Guardiola, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, Dortmund prodigy Mario Gotze this summer as well as a number of other high-quality targets that hav been mooted, Bayern could well be much stronger next term.
     
    However, while most social media, websites and newspapers have been quick to hail this as the beginning of an all-conquering era for the German club, there are a number of sides who will have their own sights set on European glory next season.
     
    Consequently, FC Hollywood may not have it all their own way when it comes to football on the continent next season.
     
    Here's a look at who will be looking to claim the European Cup for their own in 2013/14.

Paris Saint-Germain

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    The nouveau riche Qatari-owned club made an impressive return to Champions League competition this season, with coach Carlo Ancelotti leading le Parisiens to the quarter-finals before their away goals defeat to Barcelona.
     
    The goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic have played their part in putting Paris Saint Germain atop Ligue 1 and with nine points clear with four games remaining, a first league title in 19 years now looks certain.
     
    A playing squad already consisting of genuine world-class talent such as the aforementioned Swede and Brazilian captain Thiago Silva, not to mention the likes of Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and the highly-promising twosome, Lucas Moura and Marco Verratti, will likely be further strengthened this summer. With money seemingly no object for the capital club, more big signings are likely to be en route.
     
    Owners Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have already spoken of their wish to compete on a consistent basis at the top-end of the European game.
     
    Much will depend on the future of Ancelotti, who has been linked with a summer move away, but there is no reason why PSG can't compete for Europe's premier club prize in 2013/14.

Manchester United

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    Having been finalists in 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson will have unquestionably been disappointed with two successive seasons of relative failure in the European Cup, with this season's last-16 loss to Real Madrid having followed last year's inability to navigate the group stage.
     
    Nonetheless, Manchester United have sauntered their way to a 20th Premier League title this season. Having not been amongst the European elite from April onwards will have no doubt rankled Ferguson.
     
    A fine squad consisting of experienced talent like Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand, mixed with highly-rated youngsters such as Rafael, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Phil Jones and David De Gea, will return next term, potentially with greater strength.
     
    England international Wilfried Zaha has already been signed from Crystal Palace, and he has the necessary talent to prove a real wild card for the Reds, both at home and in Europe.
     
    Furthermore, with other top-class talent expected to be added this summer (criticism still remains over the lack of a decisive midfield partner for Michael Carrick) it would perhaps be unwise to back against the three-time European champions making their mark on the competition once more in 2013/14.

Manchester City

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    The blue side of Manchester were extremely disappointing in finishing bottom of their group this time around, and the club's owners will certainly be looking for improvement next season.
     
    Roberto Mancini has led the club to second in the Premier League and another FA Cup final, achievements which, despite City's glaring inconsistency this season, will surely see him remain as Manchester City's boss heading into 2013/14.
     
    However, what the Italian must now do is find City a definitive style, something which has proven all too lacking this season. The need to harness the full-ability of the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez in an overall structure was blindingly obvious in the two early season matches against Borussia Dortmund.
     
    To that end, City's expensively-assembled cast of individuals are still just that, rather than a team which fully represents the vast sum of its parts.
     
    With Txiki Begiristain now having taken a role as Director of Football, having previously been in a similar role at Barcelona, he'll be overseeing player recruitment this summer, and with the vast funds on offer from owner Sheikh Mansour, City fans can expect to count more quality additions amongst their squad next season.
     
    As such, their third season amongst Europe's elite could finally see them make the kind of splash that could mark them as potential challengers. If Mancini can mould greater cohesion and find a definitive style for his side, then there is no reason why they can't present a real threat to the likes of Bayern Munich.

Juventus

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    The Bianconeri have all but secured back-to-back Serie A titles, and having reached the quarter-finals of this season's Champions League—where they were found somewhat wanting by Bayern—Antonio Conte's side could be a smart choice to go further next time around.
     
    Juventus have consistently overpowered their rivals in Italy this season, with the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio enjoying an excellent last nine months or so, whilst Paul Pogba has had quite the breakthrough season.
     
    Yet, whilst Juve have been a vessel of victory in Italy once more, they'll need to upgrade over the summer months if they're to improve and make a bigger impact in Europe.
     
    That no player has reached double figures in terms of goals is bewildering, and surely a new striker, other than Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente who has already agreed a deal, is bound for Turin
    this summer.
     
    With the club on a more secure financial footing than at any point in the past ten years—largely thanks to the security of owning their own home, the Juventus Arena—things off the field are progressing in the same manner as those on it.
     
    Supporters of Le Zebre will be eager for further progression in 2013/14 and if Conte's clan continues to improve as they have in the last two years, then they may well prove a worthy outside bet.

Borussia Dortmund

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    Jurgen Klopp has done a miraculous job at Borussia Dortmund since his appointment, securing two Bundesliga crowns before embarking on a tremendous European run in 2012/13.
     
    A 4-2-3-1 formation based around short passing, attacking overloads and lightning-quick transitional play has made the club one of world football's must watch teams
     
    Nonetheless, such success could well prove the undoing of this particular Dortmund side, with a number of players having been targeted by others and Mario Gotze having already agreed to move to Bayern.
     
    However, such losses would unlikely phase Klopp, having overseen the replacement of key players before—Lucas Barrios and Nuri Sahin departures opened the door for Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan, respectively. The former Mainz manager will likely have a few tricks up his sleeve whatever the scenario.
     
    Perhaps the obituaries regarding this particular Dortmund era have been written too early. It certainly seems as though the club's on-field displays are being predicted to go in only one direction following the conclusion of the current campaign.
     
    But maybe with their incredible support, excellent manager and a summer of unearthing fresh talent and cajoling players that they already have, Die Borussen will be ready to challenge again next season.
     

Barcelona

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    In regards to obituaries, those that have been written about Barcelona following their devastation in Munich have been plentiful.
     
    Following the most successful era in the history of Los Cules, a run which has seen six successive European Cup sem-finals achieved in the past six years and a side that has been the standard across Europe, has now been all but written off.
     
    However, despite the respective ages of the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol and the various problems the side has experienced throughout the current campaign, it is still a side which has romped to the championship in La Liga.
     
    Furthermore, they still count the likes of four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi and World Cup winners Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez and Sergio Busquets amongst their numbers.
     
    Throw into the mix that there are almost certain to be new arrivals at Camp Nou this summer, as the club look to firmly wash away what was a nightmare night in Bavaria.
     
    To not include them as contenders next season would be nothing less than foolhardy.

Real Madrid

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    The pursuit of the Decima has become all-consuming at the Santiago Bernabeu this season, and no club can match the history of Real Madrid when it comes to the European Cup. That Los Merengues may ultimately fall short in that pursuit will only increase the clubs resolve.

    There is likely to be a summer of comings and goings in the Spanish capital which could serve to either strengthen or destabilise a club which has visited the semi-finals in the past three years.

    However, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Xabi Alonso and Mesut Ozil will almost certainly remain, leaving an extremely strong backbone, whoever sits on the bench as manager.

    On their day, Real Madrid remains one of the most devastating attacking forces in world football, capable of beating opponents in a multitude of ways.

    It is a club which is seemingly always there or thereabouts at the end of the European season.

    And given their illustrious history and current crop of talent, much like their most bitter rivals, it would be foolish to back against them being contenders again next season.