Real Madrid cemented its status as the world’s best soccer team by annihilating Juventus in the Champions League final earlier this month. It was the first time a team had ever successfully defended the prestigious competition and followed on from a comfortable victory in the FIFA Club World Cup final. Fans were stunned to learn that Cristiano Ronaldo is intent on leaving the Bernabeu this summer in response to his treatment from Spanish tax officials, but it is likely they will keep hold of their star man by throwing more cash his way. With Ronaldo leading the line, Real Madrid has a superb team, with Sergio Ramos a defensive titan and Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos forming a wonderful midfield. It will be difficult for any team to stop them making it three Champions League titles in a row next season.
Bookmakers have already released odds on next season’s competition: Sports Interaction will have odds, review them first, and you will see that Real Madrid is the favorite along with Spanish rivals Barcelona and German powerhouse Bayern Munich. Bayern was the only team to come close to beating Real last season in the Champions League, and the Germans will still feel very aggrieved at the manner of their defeat, which came courtesy of some very dubious offside decisions and a red card that never should have been given. Bayern have lost a few stars to retirement and need to splash the cash to ensure they remain a threat at the highest level, but it is likely that they will. Barcelona will also regroup in the summer after losing to Juventus in the quarter-finals and finishing three points behind Real in the Spanish league. They need a stronger midfield and more pace out wide, so you can expect them to invest heavily to supplement a team already blessed with the technical skills of Leo Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. These three are rightly seen as the favorites, but right now Real Madrid look to have the strongest and most balanced side.
It is also worth looking further down the field for a longer shot though. It is unlikely to be Juventus, who will never have a better chance than the 2017 final. They looked good at half-time but were blown away by Real in the second half and ended up losing 4-1. That is twice in three years that Juventus have been comfortably beaten in the final by a Spanish giant, and the magnificent Juve backline is now starting to show its age. The same can also be said of Atletico Madrid, a dogged and exceptionally disciplined side, but one that consistently falls short against city rivals Real in the Champions League and will be further hampered by a transfer ban.
The other Italian teams are not good enough, the French teams do not seem to have what it takes to kick on and threaten the biggest sides on the continent, perhaps as their domestic league is not competitive enough, and the same can be said about various national champions, from Portugal to Turkey to the Netherlands. The only group that looks capable of challenging the three European super-teams, the Real-Barca-Bayern axis, is the English clubs. The Premiership will have five representatives in next season’s competition after Man Utd earned a place by winning the Europa League, joining Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City and Liverpool. Of that group, it might be a bit soon for a superb but inexperienced Tottenham team, while Liverpool lack the defensive nous. But Man City could be a team to watch if they continue spending astronomical sums.
They need a better defense, as they were killed by Monaco last season, but it also requires a change in approach from Pep Guardiola. Whether or not he is capable of that is another matter. It might be shrewder to back Man Utd or Chelsea. Jose Mourinho is a superb manager in knockout competitions and will spend a fortune this summer bolstering his side for an assault on a tournament he has already won twice. Chelsea meanwhile won the Premiership at a canter and will also spend heavily this summer. Do not be surprised if the Premiership elite are mixing it with Real and Barcelona in the latter stages of next season’s Champions League, and the odds are far more attractive on them.