Ranking the Top 10 Contenders for Champions League Glory
We are already in our third group stage matchday in the Champions League and there are already some fascinating stories taking shape.
In England, we saw Carlos Tevez get benched after refusing to warm up against Bayern Munich in Manchester City's last Champions League match; while Manchester United have only gained two points in two matches.
We have seen Bayern Munich extend their amazing streak of not conceding a goal since August continue, and the likes of Inter Milan fall to a club in Tranzonspor who only got into the Champions League after Fenerbache were removed from the tournament due to a match-fixing scandal.
Now the Champions League final may still be over seven months away, but it never is too early to wonder who will be playing in Munich on May 19.
There are many contenders to reach the final, but here are the ten sides most likely to taste Champions League glory this year.
10. Shakhtar Donetsk
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Now they might be on the bottom of the table for Group G, but Shakhtar Donetsk are a potent side that can come back from their weak start at any time.
Shakhtar will need to capitalize on the opportunity that they have tomorrow in the Donbass Arena against a potent Zenit St. Petersburg side.
If Shakhtar can recapture the form that allowed them to win a group that contained Arsenal last year, as they went onto reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League, they certainly will be a side that can handle anyone in their path.
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Now Arsenal have been extremely disappointing in the Premier League this season after losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri over the summer. But that has not stopped the Gunners in the Champions League.
Arsenal have earned four points so far in the group stage and have continued to look stronger.
Considering their failure of a season in the Premier League, Arsenal will probably focus on the Champions League as their primary goal for this season.
Considering the talent that is on Arsenal's squad they could quite easily get deep in the tournament if they can get a more favorable draw than Barcelona in the knockout stage.
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Lyon have continued to be a strong side in the Champions League over the past few years and that has not changed this season. Lyon are in a tough group with Real Madrid and Ajax, but they have been impressive so far with four points in two matches before facing Real Madrid in Spain tonight.
Only two years ago, Lyon were able to reach the semifinal of the Champions League and they had reached the quarterfinals in the competition several times before that.
Considering the strength of their squad, it should not surprise anyone if Lyon once again have a great run in the Champions League.
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One of top Serie A clubs in the table and a very potent side in their return to Champions League football, Napoli currently find themselves in second place in a tough Group A.
Napoli's biggest problem has to be the fact that they are in such a tough group. When you have Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Villarreal, it always will be hard to advance. Because of this group's strength, Napoli could easily not advance onto the knockout stage.
But assuming that Napoli will make it into the round of 16, they will be a hard side to beat at any stage.
6. AC Milan
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AC Milan have been unimpressive in Serie A this season, but the Rossoneri have been plagued with injuries throughout their lineup.
But Milan do have one advantage over Napoli when it comes to the Champions League, and that is the clubs that are in their respective tables. Milan do have Barcelona, but they have two other sides that they should be able to easily handle. Meanwhile, Napoli have three tough sides that are standing in their way of reaching the knockout stage.
Considering Milan's illustrious history in the Champions League and with many players that are looking for Champions League glory, Milan are certainly a club that can go deep in the tournament.
Assuming that their injured players come back and perform their best, they should advance far in the knockout stage in 2012.
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Chelsea may have not tasted any success in the Champions League, but they certainly can do so this season.
With the squad that they have and with a manager in Andre Villas-Boas who knows how to win matches, Chelsea can absolutely be one of the sides playing in the final come May.
In the group stage, Chelsea have been impressive considering clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen and Valencia are facing them, and they should only get better as the season progresses.
4. Manchester United
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Last year's runner-up and a Champions League finalist in three of the last four years, Manchester United absolutely are a side that will advance deep into the tournament.
United's form has dipped as of late in both the Premier League and in the Champions League, where the Red Devils have earned two draws in two matches.
However, United's form will get better as it usually does as the season moves, and it shouldn't be a surprise if they are in the final.
3. Real Madrid
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Real Madrid finally got out of the round of 16 after spending several seasons getting stuck there, but were stopped in the semifinal.
Madrid have continued with their great form from a season ago in this year's group stage, winning twice already and have not yet reached their full footballing ability.
Come May, Madrid will in all likelihood be at least in the semifinal of the Champions League and certainly are capable of winning the whole thing if they keep up their great form.
2. Bayern Munich
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What can't we say about Bayern Munich? They have been absolutely spectacular so far this year and the fact that they haven't conceded a goal since August is nothing short of amazing.
Most of Bayern's squad played in the final just two years ago in Madrid, and have only continued to grow into one of the best sides in Europe.
Despite the extra motivation to do well in the final because it will be at the Allianz Arena, Bayern's incredible form will be tough to top by anyone this season assuming that it still is present once late May comes.
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They are the best side in the world and no one can say that anyone is better than Barcelona at this point of the season.
Barcelona of course won the Champions League last year and the level of football that they are playing right now is legendary.
It is pretty obvious that Barcelona will advance deep in the Champions League and they will probably at the very least be in the final. Assuming that Barcelona are playing at the level that we know they can play, it shouldn't surprise anyone that they repeat as champions of Europe.
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