UEFA Champions League Top 5 Predictions
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League––an annual soccer competition for top-division European clubs––may have started late this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is bringing the entertainment and thrills the tournament promises each year.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League––an annual soccer competition for top-division European clubs––may have started late this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is bringing the entertainment and thrills the tournament promises each year. Matchday 2 results have showcased the particular unpredictability of this year’s competition. Here are the five teams that have the best shot at clinching the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League title.
5. Atalanta B.C.
Gasperini’s Atalanta had a great start to its Champions League campaign following a 4-0 victory against Danish club FC Midtjylland. When challenged by the four-time Champions League winners AFC Ajax, Atalanta kept its composure with a 2-2 draw. In both matchups, Colombian striker Duván Zapata impressed fans after netting the opening goal against Midtjylland and scoring two crucial goals against Ajax. Adapting to a 3-4-2-1 formation, the players seem to have found a balance when switching from attack to defense, doing it more effectively than in seasons past. Atalanta also continues to win games due to their counter-attacking abilities. For instance, Atalanta’s second goal––the equalizer against Ajax––was made possible by Mario Pašalić’s quick-paced dribble down the middle, opening space for Zapata to run behind the defenders and position himself for a shooting opportunity.
However, Atalanta could improve its number of wins if the team cut down on the countless second-ball chances it gives away. Their occasional communication issues in the defensive line allow opponents to take another shot at goal after the initial save, as demonstrated when Lassina Traorè tapped in the second goal for Ajax because Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello and midfielder Remo Freuler were unaware of each other’s position and failed to clear the ball in time. Nevertheless, if Atalanta continues to play with counterattacking precision and speedy offense-to-defense transitions, the Italian side has a bright future ahead of itself.
4. Chelsea F.C.
The Blues’ start to the Champions League has been solid and foreshadows success down the road. After signing former Ajax superstar Hakim Ziyech, midfielder Kai Havertz, striker Timo Werner, left-back Ben Chilwell, and most recently Edouard Mendy from Stade Rennes FC, the team has proven to be both stout in defense and deadly on offense. The most recent 4-0 win against Krasnodar is a testament to Chelsea’s ability to maintain an organized defense line and utilize the wingers to threaten the opposition. Moreover, Manager Frank Lampard’s well-planned substitutions ensure that a high level of intensity remains on the pitch and allows the team to explore different combinations of players––both young and experienced––for upcoming games.
orners or precise counter-attacks remains an issue that Chelsea must address. Often, an opposing striker quickly slips into the six-yard box when a corner kick is taken without Chelsea defenders attacking the ball for a clearance, such as against Krasnodar. Though the victory was well-deserved, there were occasions throughout the game that revealed those defensive set-piece weaknesses. Krasnodar’s Yury Gazinsky could have easily scored when Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rüdiger made man-marking blunders, meaning they did not track the midfielder well enough on corners. Lampard’s Chelsea currently sits on the top of Group E; the 2012 Champions League winners have enough talent on its roster to beat the best in business.
3. Manchester City F.C.
While Manchester City got off to a rough start in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s squad has looked impeccable in the Champions League. Viewers should look out for Spaniard Ferran Torres, who is on his way to becoming a world-class player, to complement the main strikers, Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling, in Guardiola’s preferred formation. In the match against Porto, which was his debut on the European stage, Torres received a beautiful pass from midfielder Phil Foden and miraculously curled the ball into the back of the net––City’s third of the night. After his inclusion in the starting lineup against Olympique de Marseille, Torres went on to score the opening goal. Moreover, Kevin De Bruyne and Sterling remain one of the deadliest duos on the pitch. During a 3-0 sweep against André Villas-Boas’ Marseille, De Bruyne constantly played sharp through-balls down the right-hand side to Sterling, demolishing Marseille’s defense. Needless to say, the 90 minutes was a nightmare for Marseille defenders Hiroki Sakai and Jordan Amavi, as Sterling neatly tucked in the third goal for Manchester City, while De Bruyne recorded his second assist for the 2021 Champions League. For the four-time Premier League winners, maintaining a high level of intensity and testing tactics with different players are of utmost importance for the remaining four group stage matches. If the club stays vigilant, its dream of being crowned European Champions may come true.
2. Paris Saint-Germain
Reaching its first-ever Champions League Final last year, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) is back, hungrier than ever before. PSG has dominated the French soccer league (Ligue 1) for almost a decade, and with Brazilian star Neymar Jr. and French golden boy Kylian Mbappe in the squad, PSG has the necessary figures to turn its domestic dominance into European supremacy. PSG’s silverware cabinet already hosts trophies such as the Coupe de la Ligue, Coupe de France, and the French Supercup, yet it aches for a Champions League, motivating PSG to achieve its ultimate goal.
In Ligue 1, as per usual, the French powerhouse sits on the top of the table, winning the past seven of its league matches. Although PSG started this season’s Champions League campaign with a loss to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, the team bounced back on Matchday 2 with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Istanbul Basaksehir. Ángel Di María and Moise Kean are other players to keep a close eye on: Kean’s physicality drives PSG’s attacks, and Di María’s dangerous left-foot is always an option when in doubt.
1. FC Bayern Munich
There is really not much to say about Bayern Munich other than the club is bound to win its seventh Champions League trophy. The defending champion has started its Champions League campaign from where it left off last season. With a 4-0 victory against Atlético Madrid and a 2-1 win against FC Lokomotiv Moscow, the Bavarian giants have now gone 13 consecutive games unbeaten in the competition. Since manager Hansi Flick’s appointment last year, the team has won its second treble (winning the 2020 UEFA Champions League, Bundesliga, and DFB-Pokal Cup) and has implemented “gegenpressing”––a strategy to press its opponents aggressively––and quick-paced passing; this transformation in Bayern Munich’s playing style has made it almost unbeatable.
These five teams are already heading down the road for European glory. Only time will tell which club dominates European soccer. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.