Paul Pogba and 20 Storylines to Watch in the UEFA Champions League Next Season
The UEFA Champions League has yet to reach its conclusion this year, but already the storylines for next season are forming an orderly list.
How will Juventus fare, will Paul Pogba stay, will Athletic Bilbao's squad handle the rigours and which Portuguese boss are we set to welcome back?
There's a lot to run through, so let's get started!
Jose Mourinho's Second Charge
Chelsea fell at the semifinal stage in this year's Champions League, forfeiting a strong position by losing at home to Atletico Madrid.
Jose Mourinho has been consistent in his belief that this was a rebuilding year for an aging, changing squad, and that next season he'll be able to mount a proper assault on silverware.
We're all watching, Jose.
Manchester City's Pot Luck
Finally, after seasons of being shafted by horrific group-stage draws, Manchester City have built up enough of a UEFA coefficient to land in Pot 2.
That means they won't be faced with a slew of evil opponents blocking their way to the knockout stages, and their luck may finally turn so long as they're not partnered with Bayern Munich from Pot 1. Again.
Liverpool secured Champions League football for the first time since the 2009-10 season, and although the fans are distraught at losing out in the Premier League title race, this is one hell of a consolation prize.
The achievement has allowed the Reds to take a firm stance on Luis Suarez this summer in the face of interest from Real Madrid, and Steven Gerrard will taste the European elite at least one last time before retiring from the sport.
They'll entertain us, that's for sure.
Arsenal a Team to Fear?
All the noises coming out of Arsenal right now are absurdly positive; winning the FA Cup has given the players fresh belief that they can use it as a platform to secure more silverware.
As such, the rumour mill is going crazy and linking many top players around Europe to the Emirates Stadium. If just one or two of the names can be hauled in, the Gunners could be a powerhouse much sooner than you'd think.
Juventus' European Blues
It will be an interesting summer for Juventus for a number of reasons, and how successful they are over the coming months could well determine how their Champions League campaign goes next year.
Antonio Conte has been itching to move away from his 3-5-2 formation, as despite its obvious and unparalleled success in Serie A it falls apart on the European stage.
The Old Lady need to be much, much better on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and the summer signings could facilitate a change in formation to improve the side.
Paul Pogba will be one of the most sought-after players this summer, and if he stars for France at the 2014 FIFA World Cup his price tag could reach unprecedented levels.
His asking price is likely to reach around the €60-80 million mark despite his relative inexperience, and if Juventus are able to keep him, he'll do some serious damage in the Champions League next year.
Wherever he plays, he's worth your attention.
It's been a long time since AS Roma graced the Champions League, and it's no coincidence that when the club's board finally made the right managerial appointment, they've turned it around in the space of 10 months.
Rudi Garcia has transformed the fortunes of the Giallorossi, and while they couldn't keep pace with Juventus at the top of Serie A—who could, after all?—they were clearly the second-best side in Italy last season.
Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Co. are back!
Atletico Madrid, Long-Term
Whether they're crowned champions in this weekend's final or not, everyone will be intrigued to see how Atletico Madrid shape up in the near future.
If the world's press are to be believed, this epic side led by Diego Simeone is to be torn to shreds this summer as the vultures swoop in.
Diego Costa, Filipe Luis, Koke, Arda Turan and Thibaut Courtois have all be linked with moves away from the side; what state will Los Colchoneros be in next year?
Barcelona's "Rejuvenation" Under Luis Enrique
Barcelona's official website have confirmed Luis Enrique is to be the new club manager, making him the eighth former captain to take the post.
For the first time in years, Cules are looking forward to a bright future and are eager to see how Enrique, who did so well with Celta Vigo last season, will shape the team.
A bit of optimism is long overdue.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale 2.0
The attacking tandem of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale has been a joy to watch all season, and there's no reason to believe that won't be the case next year.
CR7 bagged 16 goals and three assists in the buildup to the Champions League final this Saturday, while Bale recorded five and four respectively.
Playing off the clever Karim Benzema they're fast, potent and decisive.
Athletic Bilbao's Squad Size
Athletic Bilbao have qualified for the 2014-15 Champions League by virtue of finishing fourth in La Liga.
The club are currently celebrating that feat and rightly so, but once the partying stops they'll need to work out how they're going to negotiate three different competitions (Copa del Rey) with such a small squad and limited market.
The team's policy of only signing Basque players means there are no more than 10 players they're actually able to purchase. Cesar Azpilicueta, Stephane Ruffier, Mikel Arteta and Xabi Alonso are likely off the table, too.
The rise of Aymeric Laporte last season was incredible; he did more for his stock in a year than Raphael Varane did when he broke through.
He stands as one of the finest young centre-backs in the game and nullified both Lionel Messi and Diego Costa in the 2013-14 campaign.
If clubs are hesitant about pulling the trigger on this kid now, a Champions League campaign will certainly bring them around.
Paris Saint-Germain's Redemption
Paris Saint-Germain have a lot of explaining to do.
They should have qualified for the Champions League semifinals after taking a 3-1 lead over Chelsea in the first leg. They should not have panicked, badly, at Stamford Bridge, thrown Marquinhos on in defensive midfield and surrendered the (aggregate) lead to Demba Ba.
Laurent Blanc owes the city of Paris a semifinal, and with the spending set to continue that'll be the minumum requirement.
Lille's Stubborn Defence
Those unfamiliar with Lille's 2013-14 Ligue 1 campaign will see them as an easy target in the Champions League next season.
But LOSC play some of the most frustrating, careful and methodical football around, and they'll be a ridiculously tough nut to crack for any side taking them on.
Marko Basa, Simon Kjaer and Vincent Enyeama have been nearly unbeatable for the last 10 months.
Robert Lewandowski: Difference-Maker?
Robert Lewandowski's chapter at Borussia Dortmund has come to an end, with Bayern Munich acquiring him on a free transfer from July 1.
Bayern eventually fell short this season in the Champions League, with very little attacking threat present in the semifinal against Real Madrid.
Can Lewandowski come in and provide the running and finishing Pep Guardiola so desperately needs?
Pep Guardiola's Retort
Pep Guardiola was given the daunting task of following, and replicating, the treble Jupp Heynckes won with Bayern Munich in 2013.
He failed, falling at the semifinal stage to Real Madrid, and his retort will be interesting to watch. The Spaniard knows what he needs to do to breach the gap and which players he needs to change.
Will the three-man defence shown off during the DFB-Pokal win vs. Borussia Dortmund become a staple, or does he have something else up his sleeve?
Juergen Klopp's Reload
Borussia Dortmund finished the season trophyless, sustained a number of ridiculous injuries and lost Ilkay Gundogan for the entire year.
Juergen Klopp could scarcely believe his luck when during the DFB-Pokal final a goal for his side awarded by the assistant was overturned by the referee in a worse position.
Klopp needs to get his team back on side, believing once again, and somehow replace Robert Lewandowski. An interesting summer lies ahead.
Schalke's Young Progress
If Julian Draxler and Max Meyer are still on Schalke's books for the 2014-15 season—and there's a decent chance they will be, particularly the latter—then the Royal Blues will be well worth a watch.
Their academy continues to churn out young gems, and they've made a habit of acquiring them too. Kyriakos Papadopoulos should return to fitness, and Leon Goretzka appears a formidable prospect.
Schalke is a talent factory.
Andre Villas-Boas will return to the Champions League for the first time since managing Chelsea in 2012.
The Portuguese boss led Zenit St Petersburg to second place in the Russian Premier League this weekend—a point shy of winners CSKA Moscow—and lost just one game since taking over from Luciano Spalletti.
It's about time AVB was back on our screens in prime time.
Always watch out for the underdog; there are always teams who threaten, impress or upset.
Last season FC Basel did so much damage to Chelsea, Jose Mourinho decided to recruit Mohamed Salah for himself. Steaua Bucharest also impressed, with young talents Nicolae Stanciu and Gabriel Iancu winning some admiring glances.
In 2012, Cypriot outfit APOEL Nicosia reached the quarterfinals and gave Real Madrid a game.
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