World Cup Aftermath: Top Four Champions League Teams in 2010-11
With the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup this past weekend, it is now time to look ahead to the upcoming club season.
Luckily, the World Cup gave us a great idea of the talent on display for each country and, potentially, the strength of the top clubs in Europe, from FC Barcelona to Bayern Munich.
Little-known players prior to the World Cup have proven themselves this past month in South Africa and offered us a glimpse of what is in store for the Champions League this season.
Here are some teams with a real chance of winning the competition...
Real Madrid C.F.
Two words will give Madrid fans hope that this year could erase all of the disappointments from years past.
Love him or hate him, the man has proven one thing thus far in his young coaching career in Europe.
It is that he is a master of handling world-class egos and controlling star players, a skill that will be much-needed at the helm of a team featuring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
A two-time Champions League winner, "The Special One" has also won consecutive league titles in both the Premier League and Serie A, with Chelsea F.C. and Inter Milan, respectively.
If there is one manager who is capable of bringing a Champions League trophy to Madrid as quickly as next season, it is Mourinho.
And, of course, having superstar talent also helps.
What happens when you add David Villa to a team with Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and Carles Puyol?
Well, let's just say you have a pretty good team.
Xavi and Iniesta, arguably the two best midfielders in the world, lead a cohesive unit that blends together Spanish-born talent, now with a World Cup trophy to call their own, and foreign star power.
Messi is a perfect fit for Guardiola's system, in which he managed 34 goals last season, tied for a La Liga record.
Best player in the world or not, not many teams can say that they have a player of the Argentinian's caliber.
Now, if you add Villa, an explosive and consistent striker, to the mix, is there any doubt as to who will be the Champions League favorites this season?
F.C. Bayern Munich
The stock of the German side, in terms of potential, has skyrocketed because of this past World Cup.
Considering the impressive performances of Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich is a clear contender in this year's race for European glory.
Mix in this trio of explosive German stars (which includes Toni Kroos) with a group of steady veterans, like Miroslav Klose and Mark van Bommel, and the result is a very well-balanced club.
The firepower does not stop there, however.
The two players most responsible for the club's successful season last year, in which Bayern won the Bundesliga and reached the Champions League final, are Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Two of the best wingers in the world, both will be ready to lead their side to success once again.
With Chelsea, it's the same old story.
Like the Boston Celtics of the NBA, the English club features a group of steady, dependable veteran players who are still looking for that first Champions League trophy.
Coming off a Premier League title for the first time in four years, this European campaign is a perfect opportunity for Carlo Ancelotti's side to fly under the radar and quietly pile up results.
With clubs in Spain stealing the spotlight in recent years, do not count out a resilient Chelsea team with extra motivation.
The fact that Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and John Terry are looking for their first European title cannot be underestimated.
So, don't worry just yet, Chelsea fans, because it's still not too late for this team.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona are the clear favorites to meet in the final in 2010-11.
Sporting two of the strongest midfield units in Europe, both sides have that perfect mix of young, explosive talent and steady leadership, a formula which has proven to be successful for both clubs.
The bottom line is to look out for both of these teams come next season.