The Premier League might have been in full flow for several weeks now, but European football is still yet to materialise, with European clubs beginning their campaigns a few weeks after EPL sides. Thankfully, Champion’s League matches are barely two weeks away, with the first group games taking place on Tuesday the 18th of September. With qualifying all done and dusted, there are some pretty exciting fixtures to look forward to, with first matchday ties including Monaco v Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid v Roma and Liverpool v PSG.
Last years’ competition saw, surprise surprise, Real Madrid lift their third Champion’s League trophy in a row, seeing off a plucky Liverpool who enjoyed a thrilling run to into the tie in Kiev. The match featured 3 of the best players of the tournament last year, with Cristiano Ronaldo (playing his final season at Real Madrid), soon to be World Cup finalist and UEFA player of the year Luka Modric, and Premier League record breaker Mo Salah all featuring. The big question now however is who will be the ones to watch in 2018 / 19.
Cristiano Ronaldo is frequently touted as the best player in the world, but his switch to Juventus has raised questions around whether he’ll see a European trophy agaun. Juve haven’t won the Champion’s League for over 20 years now, but Ronaldo’s 100 million euro switch is just one of the strategies to change this. With Madrid in a transition period, there could be a gap for a team like Juventus, who also field world class players like Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic to take advantage of Ronaldo’s average of 13 Champion’s League goals over the last 4 seasons.
His eternal counterpart Lionel Messi on the other hand will be starting the season in a very different place. With no Champion’s League trophy in four years, a disappointing World Cup and a clear gap now opening up between him and Ronaldo, Messi really needs yet another incredible season to try and get some of the magic back. With 6 goals in last years’ campaign, there’s no doubt that Messi can do it, but the clock is certainly ticking for both him and Barcelona as he approaches his twilight years. Luckily, he has players like Phillippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic to back him, both whom are drawing plenty of attention after solid performances last year.
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Mo Salah will be out for vengeance this year after being subbed off through what looks like intentional injury by pantomime villain Sergio Ramos in the 2017 / 18 final, and his appearances for Liverpool so far point to the same-old this season. His incredible level of performance last year will be hard to match, with 10 Champion’s League goals from open play potentially difficult to achieve in a more difficult group this year.
Elsewhere, all eye are on stars who were sensational both last year and over the summer. Kylian Mbappe, fresh from winning the World Cup, will be looking for European glory along with teammate Neymar at PSG, and Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembele will be amongst the other youngsters who could see this year acting as their platform to further stardom. Hopefully, this years’ tournament will be more open with wholesale changes at Real Madrid.
Who do you think will be this years’ star player? And who will win it? Get talking in the comment section!