UCL: 5 Legitimate Non-Barcelona Contenders
While many people throughout Europe have already come to the conclusion that Barcelona will indeed repeat as European Champions, the fact of the matter is that the Champions League season is still young. There is still a lot of football left to be played before the 2012 finals in Munich. The following is a list of five teams that have a legitimate shot of stealing Barcelona’s thunder, and taking home the Champions League Trophy.
Josef Heynckes and his Bayern Munich side have been in blistering form this season. They’ve taken 19 points from eight games, and sit atop the German Bundesliga. They have an incredible return of 21 goals scored, with just one conceded.
In their Champions League group they recently disposed, quite easily, of Manchester City. Munich have a great history in the competition as well. Their four European Championships puts them level with Barcelona and Ajax in a tie for third most of all time. With the final match of this year's competition being held in Munich, one would be foolish not to consider the German powerhouse a genuine contender.
AC Milan, who have already taken points away from Barcelona in a thrilling 2-2 draw at the San Siro this year, have the attacking talent to go far in this competition.
Alexandre Pato and Zlatan Ibrahimović have been known to chip in with a couple of goals here and there, and the two strikers form a top-class partnership for their club. While injuries have plagued the Italian giants of late, which is a key reason for their poor domestic form, a fit AC Milan squad is a top European side with the necessary skills to compete amongst Europe’s elite.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri will certainly be hoping for Champions League success this season, and his AC Milan side will be one team that all clubs, including Barcelona, will hope to avoid.
Chelsea are a side, with no definitive style, trying to find their football. Newly appointed manager André Villas-Boas is still trying to figure out how to get the best out of a squad that is full of quality players.
While some say that meeting Roman Abramovich’s high European standards is the Portuguese tactian’s most difficult task, one must keep in mind that Fernando Torres still plays for Chelsea. That, in itself, is an entirely different slideshow.
However, even with the dreadfully out of form Spanish striker, the blues still possess Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge and a wealth of midfield talent. With the quality and experience available to Villas-Boas, he shouldn’t struggle to find a way to advance this Chelsea team deep into the competition.
Real Madrid have a squad of galacticos, and it’s only fitting that a squad of galacticos, are managed by the galactico of the managerial world. José Mourinho is now in his second year with the Spanish giants. A squad that boasts such incredible names as Iker Casillas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Özil and Ángel di María is destined for a European run.
Currently sitting third in La Liga, Madrid currently top their Champions League group after winning their first two matches without conceding a goal. It is also important to remember that the last man to successfully defeat Barcelona in a Champions League tie was José Mourinho, when his Inter side successfully knocked out Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2010’s semifinals. That Inter team went on to beat Bayern Munich in the finals and claim the club's first European trophy since 1965. Mourinho is the Barca-killer, and don’t be surprised if his Real Madrid side, go for the trophy this campaign.
Manchester United have one of the best up-and-coming squad’s in Europe, which is a scary thought considering that last year they won the Premier League, and lost in the Champions League final to Barcelona.
Tom Cleverly, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones are just a few players that have come into amazing form for United this year. While the club does sit third in their group at the moment, don’t expect Sir Alex Ferguson’s boys to bow out of Champions League early. This is a squad that has as much experienced talent as it does young talent. Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Nemanja Vidić know what it takes to win the Champions League, and seeing them do so, would not be a surprise in the least.