DARK HORSES

Soccer 360 - - Champs League -

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.

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