This year’s Champions League will have a different complexion following Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-profile move to Juventus.
Ronaldo has helped Real Madrid lift the most coveted trophy in club football four times in the past five years, but his departure from the Spanish side, along with manager Zinedine Zidane, means this year’s competition is one of the hardest to call in recent seasons.
Beaten finalist in 2015 and 2017, Italian champion Juventus will be hopeful that Ronaldo, the Champions League’s all-time top goal scorer, can fire the Bianconeri to a first European Cup since 1996.
“He’ll do what he’s been doing for the last 10 years, he’ll bring goals to Juventus and I fancy Juventus to win the Champions League this year solely for the fact Cristiano has gone there,” English striker Wayne Rooney, a former teammate of Ronaldo at Manchester United, Europe’s top five nations do, however, each possess a side capable of toppling Ronaldo and Juventus. As with previous editions, Manchester City, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are being mentioned among the favorites.
German champion Bayern Munich, the last non-Spanish Champions League winner in 2013, was unlucky to fall short against Real Madrid in last year’s semifinals. Niko Kovac has replaced Jupp Heynckes at the club’s helm.
Atletico Madrid is also expected to shine after winning the Europa League last season — Europe’s second-tier club competition — and overcoming rival Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.
Barcelona has fallen at the quarterfinals in the past three seasons; Ernesto Valverde’s side will hope to avoid Roma — its nemesis last year — in the group stages.
Who plays who?
Below the competition’s heavyweights in pot two are sides capable of topping any Champions League pool.
Tottenham did just that last year, defeating Real Madrid at Wembley in the process, while Roma reached the semifinals after mounting a stunning comeback against Barcelona.
Manchester United may be a side in disarray having already suffered two Premier League defeats, but Jose Mourinho’s star-studded side will still hope to go further than the last 16 stage than they managed last season after being surprisingly knocked out by Sevilla.