Champions League: 5 Unfancied Teams Who Could Go Far in This Year's Edition
The 2011/2012 Champions League is about to start. The group stage draw will be tomorrow and every team will get to know their first three opponents.
As always, Europe's biggest, most famous sides are considered favorites to lift the trophy. But there are some teams who don't get as much hype, but are also good enough to contend for the title.
After Porto's 2004 triumph in the final against Monaco, this might possibly be the year where another small team/team from a small league, takes the trophy.
Here are five teams who can shock football fans in this year's Champions League.
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Now that the team has further gelled, they will be an even more fearsome unit, especially with the addition of Gokhan Inler to their midfield.
They might be in Pot 4 for the draw, but they're a team everyone will want to avoid. Napoli have the potential to go very, very far in the competition. On their day, they can beat anyone and could potentially be the best Italian team in this year's competition—although Inter and AC Milan can also go far.
Strongest XI: De Sanctis; Aronica, Cannavaro, Campanaro; Maggio, Inler, Hamsik, Dossena, Gargano; Lavezzi and Cavani
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There are more than two teams in Spain. Valencia might not be able to compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid in a 38-game league, but they can beat anyone over two legs.
Their team was already good last season and it has become even better despite Juan Mata's exit. The additions of Diego Alves, Pablo Piatti and Sergio Canales, among others, will take the team to the next level.
Led by an excellent manager in Unai Emery, Valencia can go further than they did last year (first knockout stage); they most definitely have the quality to beat anyone in this competition.
Strongest XI: Diego Alves; Miguel, Ricardo Costa, Adil Rami, Jordi Alba; Ever Banega, Tino Costa/Memet Topal, Sergio Canales; Pablo Piatti, Pablo Hernandez and Soldado/Aduriz
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Shakhtar are a fantastic and ever-improving team. Last season, they reached the quarterfinals, only falling to eventual champions FC Barcelona, and they'll try to go even further this time.
Shakhtar have a very deep squad, full of talented Brazilians, and are one of the best teams in Europe. The only reason why they are "unfancied" is because they compete in a relatively small league.
The Ukrainians are a side everyone will want to avoid in this year's Champions League.
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It seems hard to believe that the Bundesliga champions are an unfancied team, but the truth is, few tip them to go deep in the competition. Dortmund might have lost Nuri Sahin, but they have a very exciting young team who can beat anyone.
The team might not be mature enough yet to go all the way but they have every chance to go far, even if they are in Pot 4 for the group stage draw.
Mario Goetze is the star of an excellent team, who has every chance to be one of the dominant sides in Europe over the next few years. This core might be the one to bring Dortmund another Champions League trophy (even if not this year), after their golden period in the late '90s.
Strongest XI: Wiedenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Mats Hummels, Schmelzer; Bender, Gundogan, Mario Goetze, Kagawa, Grosskrewutz and Lucas Barios
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Despite being a Pot 1 team, Porto doesn't get as much recognition as they should for being one of Europe's best teams. The Portuguese giants are the defending Europa League champions and a usual fguest in the latter stages of the Champions League.
Their current team is the best they've had in years and they definitely have a chance to repeat their 2004 triumph—though it will obviously not be easy.
With the likes of Moutinho, Guarin, James Rodriguez and Hulk, among others, it'd be a surprise if Porto didn't reach at least the quarterfinals of this competition. They might have lost Falcao, but they kept their biggest star Hulk (and replaced Falcao very decently with Juan Iturbe and Kleber).
This will surely be Hulk's last season at Porto, who are likely to sell him next season for an even bigger fee than Falcao. Hulk is a world-class forward who promises to shine in this year's Champions League and lead Porto to an excellent campaign.
Strongest XI: Helton; Sapunaru, Otamendi, Rolando, Fucile; Souza, João Moutinho, Freddy Guarin; James Rodriguez, Kleber and Hulk
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