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UEFA Champions League 2016 Very Early Predictions, Preview, Picks

UEFA Champions League 2016 Very Early Predictions, Preview, Picks

While FC Barcelona bask in the glory of their fourth UEFA Champions League triumph in just under a decade, their rivals are already busy plotting their downfall. The rest of Europe’s elite have some three months to regroup before the group stages of the 2015-2016 Champions League season begin in September.

There’s quite some time to go before then, with blockbuster summer transfers bound to make some waves across the continent. But at this present time, let’s take an early look at how some of the major contenders stack up for next year’s Champions League.

While you wait for the upcoming season of Europe’s premier club competition, don’t miss our continuing coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

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UEFA Champions League 2016 Very Early Preview

Barcelona will be hard-pressed to defend their title

Barca have not one, but two rather substantial obstacles standing in the way of yet another Champions League trophy.

[sc:Soccer240banner ]The first is history. In the 23 years since the European Cup’s rebranding and reformatting into the Champions League, no team has ever successfully defended the cup. Not even the great Pep Guardiola-led Barca sides, who won two trophies in three years, couldn’t do it. As it turns out, it’s really hard to defend the title when you have to face the best of the best every year.

And as if repeating wasn’t hard enough, Barca also have a second major hurdle to overcome, which is their current transfer ban. Brought about by Barca’s breach of FIFA’s rules regarding the transfer of players under the age of 18, the Spanish champs are barred from signing any new players until January 2016 at the earliest.

That could put them at a disadvantage during the summer, which is the time when the big stars usually move. Barca’s inactivity opens the door for their main rivals – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, etc. – to get stronger and catch up with the Catalans.

But Barca’s current squad already looked head and shoulders better than the competition this year, thanks in large part to the three-headed monster that is Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. History and transfer ban be damned, having those three together is more than enough to make Barca the favorite once again.

Think history will be made next year? Create a betting account now and put some money down on one of the premier club sides in all of Europe.

Bayern Munich are still one of the best

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Bayern Munich caught the injury bug at exactly the wrong time last season. Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, and David Alaba all fell just as the Bavarians needed them most. As such, a shorthanded Bayern was rather comfortably dispatched by Barca in the semis.

Who knows, maybe a fully fit Bayern side also might have fallen to Barca eventually. But it’s also very possible that a full strength Bayern might have been the only team in Europe capable of going toe-to-toe with the Catalans over two legs.

Pep Guardiola’s side is definitely good enough as currently constructed to remain in the mix once again next season. A little better injury luck, coupled with a few much-needed signings, and they could just be able to overtake the champs as the front-runners for the cup.

Juventus could come back stronger

The losing finalists are wasting no time in their attempts to strengthen their squad for another run at the cup. They’ve already signed the next young, up-and-coming Argentinian star in Paulo Dybala, as well as World Cup winner Sami Khedira to bolster their ranks.

However, those two might not actually add depth to the squad. Instead, they might be insurance in case Juve’s two best outfield players decide to leave. There have been major question marks surrounding the futures of both Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez, with several rumors linking them away from Italy.

If those rumors are in fact true, then Juve would take a significant step back regardless of the addition of Dybala and Khedira. But if they can hold on to one (or both) of their big stars, then Juve suddenly has a squad that can challenge Barca and Bayern in terms of both depth and quality.

English teams still a step behind

Don’t hold your breath waiting for an English revival this year; it’s probably not coming. The Premier League clubs are still a step or three behind the best in Europe at the moment, as evidenced by their disappointing showing in last year’s competition.

Champions Chelsea have the best chance to make some noise, but their other three representatives aren’t looking too sharp. Manchester City seem to be allergic to Champions League success. Ditto with Arsenal, who lost to lowly Monaco in the round of 16.

Manchester United’s passage into the group stage isn’t even a lock at this point, as they can still draw a tough assignment like Sporting, Lazio or Fenerbahce in the Champions League playoff. Things could yet change drastically for the Red Devils if they splurge in the transfer market as expected. But as of right now, United – and the English as a whole – are looking far from Champions League contenders.

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Brad
Written by Brad

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