Champions League starts season with all eyes set on Real Madrid

Eribert Volaj, Sports Editor

The 63rd season of the UEFA Champions League will kick off this week, over three months after Real Madrid won their 12th title.

Real Madrid became the first team since AC Milan in 1990 to win back-to-back Champions League titles after defeating Juventus 3-1 in the final.

Led by forward Cristiano Ronaldo and featuring world-class midfielders like Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Isco, the Spanish champions will be the team to beat this season, too.

Real Madrid’s Spanish rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, are the two main contenders to dethrone the champions.

During the summer transfer window, Barcelona lost Neymar and missed out on several targets. The attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and newcomer Ousmane Dembele may prove too much for opponents to handle.

Atletico were banned from making any new signings this summer, but the team has plenty of chemistry.

Beyond the Spanish giants, the biggest contenders are Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

All three teams have been successful domestically in the past year, but have failed to replicate that success on Europe’s biggest stage.

French champions PSG may be Real Madrid’s biggest contenders after signing Brazilian star Neymar for €222 million, the most expensive transfer in history.

They bolstered their attack with 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe who is considered by many fans and experts to be the most exciting talent in world football.

PSG will face Bayern in Group B in what could be the most exciting matchup in the group stage.

The German giants have signed Colombian star James Rodriguez. They feature top players in every position, including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and forward Robert Lewandowski.

Like Atletico Madrid, Juventus have also lost in the finals in recent years.

Legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon still does not have a Champions League winners’ medal.With Argentine forwards Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain improving, he can still have a chance to win before he retires.

The English Premier League’s five teams may move far this year.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United have both improved significantly over the summer.

Both coaches are under pressure to start bringing prestigious titles to Manchester.

The Manchester teams and Liverpool have been handed favorable draws in the group stage. The same cannot be said of the London teams.

English champions Chelsea will have to get past Atletico Madrid and Italian side Roma.

Tottenham Hotspur will have it even harder. They go against reigning champions Real Madrid and German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund.

With so many teams seeking to dethrone Real Madrid, and with so many exciting matchups coming up in the group stage, the Champions League season promises to be a memorable one.

The competition will kickoff Tuesday, September 12, with the final set to be played May 12, 2018 in Kiev, Ukraine.