The premier European competition is back! It’s time for the elite to prove it on the biggest stage as we prepare for the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League. With Manchester City sweeping all before them last season, could we see something similar this year, or could a new contender come to the fore and take the trophy? Only time will tell.
We sat down with our brand ambassador Ray Parlour to get his take on this season’s Champions League and how things are shaping up.
Parlour’s Champions League Favourites
Let’s start at the top. There are plenty of top-quality sides chasing the trophy. From Arsenal, City, and Liverpool, to the likes of Bayern and Barca; whose year will it be?
“I hate to be boring but it’s Man City again. They have the best squad in Europe, they know how to get the job done, and with De Bruyne back, they will take some beating. Naturally, the draw plays a big part and from the quarter-final onwards, if Man City face Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, and say Rodri or Haaland are out, then it could be different.”
Since De Bruyne’s return, City are yet to lose. The midfield maestro has not only got himself a lovely new haircut, but some time on the sidelines seems to have lit a fire within him. With Haaland, Rodri, and co., it’s no surprise they are once again favourites to win a second in two years, something only done by the elite clubs. This would cement City’s achievements amongst the pantheon of greats.
“Man City are the team to beat in this year’s competition. But Bayern Munich have a massive chance as Harry Kane is a goal machine and he can help Bayern go close this year.”
“Elsewhere, Real Madrid love this competition, and with Bellingham and Vinicius Jr in good form, they are a formidable force. They must improve defensively, but if they can, then they can do well.”
Arsenal’s Champions League Hopes
It would be rude of us to not ask Ray about his old club Arsenal. After a little wobble before the Christmas period, things looked less than rosey at the Emirates. But to their credit, this team has roared back, and now they look like a side ready to win some silverware.
“You’ve got to fancy Arsenal for something now. And it’s all about a little bit of luck along the way. I think if you’re an Arsenal fan, as I am, I would rather win the Champions League. I’m being honest because that would be the first time they’ve ever won it. So I do believe they can do it. Go on both fronts. But if I had to pick one, I’d go Champions League.”
“The Champions League is all about the draw and who you get. You want the big sides to draw each other. Like Manchester City, Bayern Munich, or someone, and then one of them gets knocked out and then you’ve got a chance.”
Arsenal face Porto in the first knockout stage. The Gunners have never lifted the famous trophy. Although they have some incredible teams around them, they stand in good stead.
“Arsenal have a big chance in the Champions League this season. Porto is a great draw for Arsenal as the Portuguese team isn’t performing as well as last year in their domestic League and the quality they have isn’t as good as Arsenal’s.”
“I see Arsenal going to Porto and getting at least a draw. I would say 1-1 could be the score in Porto with Arsenal dominating the ball and coming away with a positive result. It’s never easy, but with Saliba/Gabriel and Rice in front of them, Arsenal can stop the home side playing, and with quality up front, will score.”
Parlour’s Champions League Dark Horses
Sometimes this competition throws up surprises. You always think back to the famous Inter Milan win, or Porto knocking out Manchester United. This year is yet another chance for us to see some of the giants humbled. That’s why we love football. We asked Ray if he could see any big surprises coming in this year.
“The only team that I feel could do well is Borussia Dortmund. They have a good squad, they qualified from a very tough group, and with fantastic home support, you can never write them off. They won their group so have PSV in the next stage, who are very beatable, and then in the last 8, should they get some luck, they could cause a few big teams problems.”
So there you have it. Everything you need to know as we get ourselves prepped for the next round of the Champions League.
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