REAL MADRID HAVE DOMINATED THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THE LAST FEW YEARS BUT, OLI COATES WRITES, THERE COULD BE A SHOCK WINNER THIS YEAR…
Although the Champions League has been dominated by European powerhouses in recent years, the next surprise package is only ever around the corner. From Jose Mourinho’s Porto in 2004, to the same manager’s unlikely triumph with Inter six years later and Chelsea’s success against Bayern
Munich in the German giants’ own backyard in 2012, this competition’s had its fair share of underdogs.
Leading the pack this season is a Borussia Dortmund side who spent Christmas top of the Bundesliga tree. Die Schwarzgelben only lost away at Atletico Madrid in the group stages, which came after Lucien Favre’s dynamic side had dismantled their Spanish opposition 4-0 on home soil. With Marco Reus fit and firing, Paco Alcacer’s goals seeing his loan move from Barcelona made permanent in November, and English youngster
Jadon Sancho setting tongues wagging, Dortmund could spring plenty of surprises this season.
Despite his successes in previous years, it’s virtually impossible to see Jose Mourinho inspiring his Manchester United side to glory this term. The Portuguese still has the ability to produce tactically astute performances, particularly away from home, but the Red Devils have lost their sparkle. The opposite is true for Ajax. With exciting youngsters like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, Erik ten Hag’s side are developing in the image of the great Ajax teams of yesteryear.
It’s tough to see them going all the way, but they won’t be an easy opponent for any of the big guns. With teams like Ajax, Dortmund, Tottenham and Porto looking like they can give most teams a run for their money, the knockouts are set to be as intriguing as ever.