Although we have been enjoying our European league football for about a month now, the real season does not get going until the major players start plying their trade in the Champions League. Until we start hearing about teams that we cannot pronounce and have never heard of before playing Europe’s elite, until coaches start complaining about their travels, and until we have to sit through a million Heineken commercials, then the season has not truly started.
With the first fixtures in this year’s Champions League, even with teams like Arsenal and Barcelona still to play, the favorites seem destined to own this year’s Champions League. Without an away draw for Juventus, the easy-pick favorites were 6-0. Not only were they walking away with wins, the favorites were always winning by (at least) two.
Real Madrid, many CL followers quick pick favorite to win the competition (have these people not been watching the CL the past few years?), dominated a team that gave them a little bit of trouble in the knockout stages last year. Going away to Gala is always a tough ask and Madrid absolutely dominated. CR7 bagged a CL hat-trick and Madrid fans will be excited to see their main threat getting hot with just the first CL fixture.
Big spenders Manchester City looked less likely to get knocked out of the group stage this year as it truly looks like Bayern Munich will be the only team that can take points away from the Citizens. The other oil-rich club, Paris Saint-Germain, seem likely to cruise into the knockout stage as they are the deepest and, easily, the most talented in Group C.
Manchester United look like they might be getting back to “the way things were” as they won over Bayer 04 Leverkusen. They will regret allowing two goals at home, but having Wayne Rooney back in scoring form and Moyes winning fixtures will give the Red Devils hope that this season will not be a throwaway.
For me, Bayern Munich (the defending champions) and their win proves to me that they are still my early favorite. Their fixture against Manchester City will be a great measuring stick and seeing how Barcelona fares against Ajax will also add some intrigue, but Munich are still the easy favorite. Until someone knocks them off their perch, then they deserve to be up on top.
The Champions League always makes the fall feel right. Although this year may not be the best to have hope for a dark horse winner (can you still consider BVB a dark horse?), there will definitely be some marquee fixtures. Make sure that you start paying attention early so that you can make your friends feel inferior when you start spouting everything you know about the CL.