The Ligue des champions is anything but predictable. The past four seasons have given us four different winners, while nine different teams have contested the last six finals. But as European football continues to shake on its axis due to a combination of financial mismanagement and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, that could be about to change.
Not sure? Well, here's a prediction: it will be reduced to a private battle between Paris Saint Germain and first league clubs this season, and in the short and medium term. Bayern Munich I might have something to say about it, but this summer's transfer market has shown us where the money is: wherever the money goes, the big trophies usually follow.
The most prominent actors are also part of this equation, which is why Lionel Messi et Cristiano Ronaldo improved their own Champions League chances this summer with transfers to PSG and Manchester United respectively. Messi (four) and Ronaldo (five) have won nine Champions Leagues between them, so don't be surprised if either of them wins another this season.
However, all is not pessimistic. Less than six months after Europe's elite clubs attempted to form a breakaway Super League that would spell the end of the Champions League as we know it, football's most prestigious club competition is back on the road towards the final in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May begins.
There has undoubtedly been an acceleration of a power shift towards PSG and the Premier League powers - Man United, Manchester City, Chelsea et Liverpool. For five consecutive seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the Champions League was won by either Barcelona ou Real Madrid. Atletico Madrid also played two finals around this time.
more The league has not been represented in any of the last three finals, which have marked a clear move towards an increasingly dominant Premier League. Two of those finals were won by English teams, with Liverpool and Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City being the losing finalists in Premier League affairs. The exception was Bayern's 2019-2020 victory over PSG in Lisbon, which gave us another indicator of the direction in which the wind was starting to blow in European football.
As the biggest clubs start their Champions League journey this week, it looks like you can pretty much forget about a Spanish or Italian side that have won the competition this season. Barcelona and Real are both lost in a period of transition, with huge payrolls at Camp Nou and the Bernabeu draining their resources. Barcelona's debt now stands at € 1,35 billion, eventually forcing them to accept defeat in their attempts to keep Messi at the club. Although Real declared cash reserves of € 122m in June, they are halfway through a € 700m redevelopment of the Bernabeu, and efforts to cut their annual payroll by € 400m. 'euros led to the departure of Sergio Ramos et Raphaël Varane.
Real spent € 30m on the Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and signed David Alaba from Bayern for free, while Barca's entries have been of the sort Sergio Agüero et Memphis Depay on free transfers, with Messi, Antoine Griezmann (Atletico, ready) and Miralem Pjanic (Besiktas, ready) among those who leave.
Neither Barcelona nor Real appear to compete with PSG or the Premier League giants this season, and while Atletico are still a consistent force in the Champions League, they also lack the capacity to go so far. 'at the end. Diego Simeone's side are unlikely to change that this time around.
Steve Nicol takes a look at Liverpool's Champions League squad, which also includes Atletico Madrid, Porto and Milan.
It's a similar story in Italy. Juventus, having lost the finals in 2015 and 2017, just snuck into this season's competition with a fourth place finish in Serie A, and they transferred Ronaldo to United in a bid to reduce their financial commitments. And the champions Inter are highly unlikely to repeat their 2010 Champions League victory, having lost coach Antonio Conte and top scorer. Romelu Lukaku since obtaining the Scudetto last season.
2020 Champions League winners Bayern add RB Leipzig Dayot Upamecano et Marcel Sabitzer to their squad, as well as the hiring of Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann to replace Hansi Flick. But the big question mark over the German champions is whether their longtime, but aging stars can make it through the Champions League again.
Manuel Neuer (35) Thomas Müller (32) et Robert Lewandowski (33) remain the pillars of Bayern, alongside young players including Joshua Kimmich, Alphonse davies et Leon Goretzka, yet this summer has seen Bayern lose pace against PSG and English teams.
Premier League champions City may have missed the signing Harry Kane and Ronaldo to replace Aguero, but they nevertheless strengthened with £ 100million England Midfielder Jack Grealish de Aston Villa. Pep Guardiola's side reached last season's final playing without a recognized center-forward for much of the campaign. power to their team with the signing of Lukaku for £ 97,5million.
Liverpool lost their midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum to PSG and signed Ibrahima Konate of Leipzig, but although the ins and outs have been minimal, Jurgen Klopp's side continue to have one of the best attacking units in Europe, and they have a defender Virgil van Dijk fit and play again after the cruciate ligament injury layoff from last season. The Liverpool team and their European pedigree make them contenders for victory in the Champions League.
And while United are yet to win a trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, their summer recruiting of Ronaldo, Varane and Jadon Sancho got them into the conversation about potential winners. With the keeper David de Géa and midfielder Paul Pogba starting the season in impressive form, United also have the credentials to see it through.
But as the Champions League is about to start, the favorites are undoubtedly PSG. Coach Mauricio Pochettino saw his squad bolstered by the signings of Messi, Ramos and Wijnaldum - each a former Champions League winner - as well as Nuno mendes, Danilo Pereira, Gianluigi Donnarumma et Achraf Hakimi, another man with a Champions League victory to his credit with Real Madrid in 2018.
With all this stellar talent added to an already world-class team - Neymar et Kylian Mbappé also remain at Parc des Princes - it seems the only side that can stop PSG from winning the Champions League this season is themselves.
PSG have a tough squad alongside City and Leipzig - Club Brugge are also in Group A - but they have grown into a team of all talent and experience this summer.
Spain and Italy heavyweights won't be able to stop PSG, so it's down to the Premier League quartet to prevent the European Cup from making it to Paris for the premiere times. And that doesn't just apply to this season. It is a reality that we may have to get used to over the next few years, if not longer.
This article appeared first (in English) on http://espn.com/soccer/uefa-champions-league/story/4474100/why-psg-and-premier-league-clubs-are-set-to-dominate -the-champions-league