Champions League 2010-11: 5 Teams To Watch
The play-offs have been concluded and we have the 32 teams who will be competing to be European champions in 2010-11.
The official draw for the group stages will be held in Monaco deciding which clubs will be seeded together. It is going to be another year of heartbreak for some and rejoice for others.
While the bigger teams will be looking to add another trophy to their closet the smaller teams have much to prove as well. The minnows will be looking to earn some respect for themselves and make life troublesome for their more successful and stronger counterparts.
In the following slideshow we will take a peek into the teams to watch out for in this season's Champions League.
Inter Milan: Can Benitez Fill Mourinho's Big Boots
Italian giants Inter Milan have had their best year in recent years under the self-proclaimed "Special One" during the previous season. They were crowned Serie A champions as well as European champions under the guidance of highly successful Jose Mourinho.
But Mourinho ended his relation with Italy and moved on to a new challenge in Spain early this season where he took up Real Madrid's managerial job. With his departure Inter brought in Liverpool's highly-respected but not so successful manager Rafa Benitez.
Rafa has great boots to fill, left vacant by the Special One's departure and Internazionale's fans as well as the club will have high hopes from him.
Rafa had to cope with shoe-string budgets during most part of his tenure at Anfield and yet he helped the Reds' win a Champions League. At San Siro he has sufficient budget to sign new players and bring more talents. So it remains to be seen if he can fulfill the expectations and guide the Nerazzurri's to another successive treble.
Inter's squad will almost be the same as previous year with a few addtions, the most signinficant being Liverpool want-away Javier Mascherano. With Zanetti, Milito and their other stars looking in good form it can be Rafa's year at Italy.
Rafa will be under scrutiny and he has his respects under fire.
Manchester United: Will Fergie's Old Boys Keep His Faith
Manchester United were reportedly quite during the transfer season. They signed youngsters Javier Hernandez from Mexican side Guadalajara, Chris Smalling from Fulham and Bebe from Vitoria Guimaraes at relatively cheap prices.
Though it is suspected that lack of sufficient transfer funds were the reason for lack of big name signings United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as well as the chairman of the club refuted any such reports. The Red Devils have an ageing squad with many of their key-players well above 30.
Among the older players are Rio Ferdinand(31), club legend Ryan Giggs(36), dependable Scholes(35) and Gary Neville(35). Whereas, Patrice Evra, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov aren't getting any younger. Sir Alex needs to find younger players who can fill in for these experienced veterans if they are to bid for European and domestic success.
But Fergie has faith on his older boys and hopes they can help him win some more silverware this season. These Champions League might well be the last for many of these United veterans and what better way than to retire as European champions.
These season might also well be United's most successful managers last at Old Trafford and he too would like to end his illustrious managerial career with a Champions League trophy. Whether he is able to do that with his veteran players or not will be of much attraction during this years Champions League tourney.
The "Special One" has arrived at Bernabeau. With his arrival has risen expectations that he can turn Real Madrid's fortune and deliver some trophies. The La Liga giants have been going through a trophy drought as they have failed to win any silverware in the past couple of seasons even after investing millions in signing world-class players.
They signed Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United and Kaka from AC Milan in record-breaking transfer deals but still were humiliated by Barcelona time and again as they lost the La Liga and were ousted from the Champions League.
Jose Mourinho now has two Champions League titles from the three clubs he managed and the Portuguese will be looking to add some more in his highly impressive CV.
He has already spent a hefty amount on new signings which include German sensations Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and promising Argentine Angel Di Maria. The Bernabeau giants have the potential to be serious contenders for becoming European champions. With an enviable squad featuring Ronaldo, Kaka, Higuain, Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso the new additions will further make the Los Blancos a very dangerous opponent.
Real Madrid with their squad full of big stars and an even bigger manager will surely be looking to revive the Galacticos' days. More than Real it is Mourinho's expectations to win another medal in his and become the most successful club manager in club football history.
It remains to be seen whether the "Special One" can forge another winning partnership with the Bernabeau giants.
Barcelona: Will They Rise From Last Year's Ashes
After being outsmarted by Mourinho's Inter Milan in last year's Champions League the Catalan giants will be looking to come back hard this time and prove that they are not finished yet.
With the £40 million signing of David Villa from Valencia the Nou Camp outfit's attacking options have been bolstered and Pep Guardiola's side will be looking to maintain their reputation of being the best in the business come this season.
They will be facing stiff competition from Real Madrid and other European clubs as well this season. With the arrival of the Portuguese tactician Mourinho the Los Blancos will be challenging Barca even more both in the domestic league as well as the Champions League.
The Catalans are reportedly under severe financial crunch and the club's management has admitted that the club is facing tough financial times up ahead. This season will be their chance to prove that financial conundrums have nothing to do with the Catalanian destructive style of play.
It remains to be seen whether Guardiola's boys can wipe out last season's heartbreak to Inter Milan and go about in their style to reclaim the title of being European champions again.
Chelsea: The Hunt For The Silver Trophy Continues
The "Double" arrived at Stamford Bridge last season but still that one more silverware remains absent from Chelsea's closet, the coveted European champions title.
Chelsea have been so-near-yet-so far in the past couple of seasons. Be it in the 2009 Champions' League semi-final where they were defeated by not Barcelona but by poor refereeing or in the 2008 Champions League final at Moscow where Terry had an unfortunate penalty miss or the controversial goal that awarded Liverpool the match in Champions League 2005, the Blues' have been victims of poor refereeing almost in every Champions League campaign including the last one where they were denied several penalty kick appeals.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has one unfulfilled wish in his otherwise successful association with Stamford Bridge and that is these piece of metal in the club's closet. Since Roman Abramovich's takeover the West London outfit has emerged as one of the most feared teams in club football circuit and a Champions League title is all they need to establish themselves as European superpowers.
Whilst last season was a disappointment as Chelsea were knocked out in the Round of 16 by Inter Milan, who were eventually crowned champions, this season the Pensioners' will be looking forward to fulfilling their owner and fans' one last unfulfilled dream.
A poor pre-season had raised doubts that Chelsea would suffer due to their ageing squad and would struggle in the new season. But the club has put to rest any such doubts by opening their season in style and has proved that the team is even more deadly than ever. Most of the players are in their top form and if they can maintain the tempo through the whole season it could very well be their first Champions League title.
But it remains to be seen if the "Double" winning manager Carlo Ancelotti can deliver what even the "Special One" had failed to secure during his highly successful tenure.