Champions League: Top 4 Teams with a Chance to Stop Bayern Munich Next Season

Nathan JudahCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2013

Champions League: Top 4 Teams with a Chance to Stop Bayern Munich Next Season

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    With the second qualifying round of the Champions League already underway, it won't be long before the top teams take to the field with the sole intent of dethroning current champions Bayern Munich.

    Many clubs have significantly upgraded personnel during the offseason to make sure they enjoy a deep run in this season's competition.

    Looking at the main contenders, expect the EPL teams to put up a significantly better challenge than last season while the La Liga sides will almost certainly threaten.

    Here are the top four teams capable of stopping the defending champions. 

4. Manchester City

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    With the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City have taken a backseat in this season's preparations—and that could work in their favour.

    For the last three years, the focus has been on City challenging for the title and the endless amount of cash available to them.

    While that hasn't changed, the fact that Chelsea and Arsenal have received much more focus than City this summer has allowed the team to go slightly under the radar.

    If that's true for the EPL season, you can bet your money that they will receive less attention in the Champions League as well.

    That could prove very dangerous indeed, despite their poor showings over the last two seasons in the competition.

    City have a squad that can compete with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. They just need to put it together on a consistent basis.

    For the first time in four years, they have let go of more players than they have purchased.

    Playing time has been an issue for much of the talented squad, which has been a major problem in the past.

    With Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli now departed, look for a more harmonious team that could be a dark horse to make it all the way to the final.

    Sergio Aguero is arguably one of the top three strikers in the world and will be given all the chances he needs to spearhead an already potent attack. 

3. Barcelona

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    If the man in the picture above continues to improve and develop his skills, Barcelona could and should be unstoppable this season.

    The Messi/Neymar partnership has been one of the most eagerly awaited duos in football for some time.

    Whether they can instantly find an effective understanding from the outset remains to be seen.

    Normally, great players can adapt and make things work, regardless of the circumstances—that's part of what makes them so good.

    However, with the loss of Thiago Alcantara to rivals Bayern Munich and the Messi tax controversy that refuses to go away, it’s not all rosy at Barcelona.

    Exactly how much the issue will affect the striker remains to be seen, but it certainly can't be a welcome distraction, with ESPN reporting an initial court date has been set for September 17.

    Add to that a leaky, ageing defence that hasn’t been fixed in the offseason despite the fact the alarm bells are still ringing from that shocking 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern, and you have problems.

    Tito Vilanova will also hope to be there for a full season after his much-publicized medical issues last year.

    There are a lot of components that need to come together for Barca to win it all this season.

    If they do, do not bet against La Blaugrana winning the trophy for a fifth time.

2. Chelsea

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    Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea is a big reason why they will be major Champions League contenders this season.

    Love him or loathe him, you cannot argue with the 50-year-old's track record.

    A two-time winner of the competition, Mourinho inherits a squad with outstanding talent that has the ability to inflict serious damage on their rivals.

    Add to that an open checkbook courtesy of owner Roman Abramovich and you have a major threat to Bayern Munich.

    The addition of forward Andre Schurrle could prove to be one of the most shrewd signings of the summer.

    Coming in from the Bundesliga could also prove to be very productive. The former Bayer Leverkusen man will know Munich inside out, making a potential matchup in the latter stages a mouthwatering prospect.

    Chelsea have one of the best midfields in world football but much could depend on the form of Fernando Torres up top.

    However, with the BBC reporting Wayne Rooney is wanted at Stamford Bridge, don't be surprised if they make it two wins in three years if Mourinho gets his man.

1. Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid are the world’s most valuable sports franchise, according to Forbes (via USA Today), and own the world’s most valuable player.

    That makes Los Blancos a serious contender in this season's Champions League.

    Ironically, the best addition of the summer could be the hiring of manager Carlo Ancelotti.

    The departure of Mourinho will take away a certain aspect of the media circus that follows the 50-year-old around wherever he goes.

    That should help Madrid to concentrate on the matter at hand and do all their talking on the pitch.

    Ancelotti will not give the "sexy" headlines but he will be extremely astute in match preparation and analysis.

    New signings Isco, Daniel Carvajal and Asier Illarramendi will further strengthen an already loaded squad.

    If Luis Suarez can be coaxed away from Liverpool, it would make Madrid my favorites to win the Champions League this season.

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