I can still tell you where I was on a fateful day in May 2012. I remember 2008 and 2009 as well but those are painful memories and I would much rather relive the good than the bad.
May 19, 2012, I was in my friend’s apartment who was out of town for a wedding let me borrow his place. I wanted to watch it alone, no one to interrupt me, away from the chaos that was graduation from college. Hell I had dinner plans with close friends and their family for 6:30pm which if it went to penalties was cutting it close. I still look back at my doubt of Di Mateo starting Ryan Bertrand over Fernando Torres (I felt he always worked for the team, even in a bad day). I brought three different kits with me (ended up switching at half time) I was that superstitious. That Drogba goal, Cech’s save in extra time, and all those penalties and it still gives me goosebumps. My mom called me once the game was over, I was shaking almost crying and asked for a specific graduation present.
These are the feelings that a fan when their club wins the league. Did I feel for the Bayern fans, somewhat since I knew those feelings too (2008). I’ve been there for World Series victory’s (Game 4, 1999) and that is something special as well but this was an emotional response that I had yet to feel watching sports.
This is what the Champions League brings. The hopes and dreams of the elites, and underdogs as well. Ajax with their youth movement, Athletic Bilbao getting to the knockouts are just some of the storylines that have happened since then and while it feels at times predictable one does never know where the results will fall.
Am I hopeful that Chelsea’s youth movement under Frank Lampard makes a deep run, bringing experience and excitement for these 20/21 year old up and coming stars. In reality I am worried about the defensive side of the matches without Rudiger and Kantè. They should progress to the knockout rounds, maybe even the last 8. But I am trying to be a realist and understand that if there are going to be growing pains, especially on the road.
Overall Thoughts on This Years Edition
Has the talent and added depth in the summer window, but the biggest question is going to be on the touchline. Sarri only has only trophy to his name, last years Europa League. He also can be very stiff with both his tactics and selection. If he chooses to rotate his squad and develop something outside of Sarriball there is a high chance they could have a very deep run.
As the defending champions have high expectations for this season. Klopp has finally gotten his hands on the big eared trophy and with the similar roster to last season, there is no reason that they should make a push. My main question is will they focus on the EPL title over another European Crown as their fan base craves that 19th domestic title.
Zidane got the finances and new players he asked for during the summer window. Now it comes down to how tactically sound a manager he actually is. Personally, I felt he took over a team with the talent to win the Champions League and helped to get the players minds focused on that outcome. He is the questions mark, and how he answers the challenges faced before him and this club will only go as far as he can take them.
Can the show up on the biggest stage this year? That is the question on everyone’s minds after watching them give up big leads in the knockout stages the past two seasons. They certainly added more firepower up front with bringing in Griezmann, the question is can the defense hold, and that is just going to be a wait and see game.
Similar to Barca, the question is can they win the big one this time round. The roster has the talent and pedigree to compete with anyone in Europe. That combined with Guardiola’s experience as both a player and manager winning this competition should continue to bold well. Guardiola will also be on a mission he can win the Champions League without Barcelona and Messi.
This is the trophy they have been chasing ever since the money came into the club. Their attacking talent is there, even without Neymar at his best. Combined with a solid enough defensive squad and goalkeeper who has won this competition they should be looking to go on a long run into the knockouts. Again it seems they falter later in the knockouts with the most memorable one being the Barcelona comeback.
You can never count out the Bavarian giants. They always seem to find their way to the quarter finals of he knockouts. The experience from back to front is impressive and even with the losses of Robbin and Ribery there is no drop off in any replacements. They are a well drilled, well oiled machine with a proven goal scorer, what you need in the knockouts.
They are the second most interesting team in my opinion this year. While they lost Griezmann, bringing in Jao Felix more than makes up for it, so offensively they should be solid. They typically have one of the best defensive sides in Europe behind Diego Someone’s set up. Diego Costa May have a short fuse and most people have him, unless he is in your colors but can produce the goods, so can they make another long run?
Last year they surprised a lot of people with a very good young core of talent. Loosing two main cogs to the big clubs is always a tough ask but their academy has the depth to fill rolls and continue their success. Replication will be the ask but I have doubts they will reach the semi final again.
Last years runners up are an interesting watch. Their summer was filled with doubts in terms of manager and main playmaker. The summer window has closed and they spent and brought in some new talent and kept the main pieces. Will their be motivation to reach the step, I have doubts but they should make the knockouts.
Rest of the Lot
Every year, one team seems to come out of nowhere to make a surprise run to at least the knockouts. This year hopefully one of the “smaller” clubs can have some fun and do some damage.
I think this year will be back to the big boys with no true group of death meaning you could see a lot of the favorites through to the knockout rounds. Should make for a fun season. Maybe I’ll try to make predictions once the knockouts begin.