It takes a lot to win the UEFA Champions League. You need good players, a good manager, depth, and a good deal of luck along the way. There’s all kinds of luck involved. The luck of the bounce of the ball, injury luck, suspension luck, and of course the luck of the draw.
We’ve now narrowed down the competition to the final four teams: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus. This is just the second time that all four semi-finalists have previously won the tournament, combining for 21 wins between the four of them. With the draw being completed Friday morning, we finally can make some
accurate predictions as to who will win this thing.
Let’s break down all four teams and their chances of winning.
Real Madrid may have all the star power but for my money Bayern Munich have the best team left in the tournament with the most chemistry and arguably the best manager. The draw wasn’t kind to them as they’ll have to face a very strong Barcelona side in a matchup that secretly everyone was hoping would be the final, but Bayern does also posses Barca’s former manager Pep Guardiola who should know the tricks to stopping his former club.
This isn’t your older brother’s Barcelona anymore. Gone are the days where that midfield of Xavi, Iniesta, and Segio Busquets would pass you to death. Don’t get me wrong, that midfield is still more talented then pretty much everyone else in the world, but Barcelona is now led by the absolutely terrifying three-headed attack of Leo Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez. This allows Barcelona’s midfield to play much more defensively, as their three forward players can get the job done on their own. Barca may not posses the ball as much as they used to, but they are still every bit as good as they were when they won the tournament twice in three years.
Last year’s champions certainly have the most, and most expensive, stars left the in the tournament. Unfortunately that doesn’t always translate to wins. While they are only two points behind Barcelona in La Liga, their on-field play has been lacking something recently.
The Spanish giants struggled in the quarterfinals, though that can be attributed to Atletico Madrid having their number this season as well as injuries. But when they are at full health there’s still a massive cloud hanging over this team in regards to winger Gareth Bale and whether or not he should be in the team. These are the kinds of things that happen to big clubs and can be a distraction that hurts the team in the business end of the season. There’s a reason no team has won the Champions League two years in a row, and it’s a rare thing for a club to even make the final in back to back years.
This is the team that everyone wanted to face because this is the team that hasn’t been a European power over the past five years. This is also the team that EVERYONE is overlooking. Juventus haven’t really been in the picture for the past decade, and they haven’t won the Champions League since 1996, but this is not a team that should be overlooked. Juventus’ team has a great combination of experienced players (Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez, Patrice Evra), world class players (Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba), and young up and coming stars (Alvaro Morata). If there’s a way to stop Real Madrid it’s to play an organized, defensive, and boring game; and who better to do that then an Italian team?
You can look at these matchups on paper all you want, but when it comes time to play the games form often becomes a very big factor. The other factor is what is going on in each team’s domestic league.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently battling it out at the top of La Liga. The clubs are separated by just two points, making every league match a must-win. On the other hand, Bayern Munich and Juventus have already ran away with the Bundesliga and Serie A respectively. The question is which is better for progressing in the Champions League, being challenged domestically or having the ability to rest your players for the midweek European fixture.
There is certainly something to be said about must-win games domestically helping you in Europe. While Barcelona were able to walk over La Liga in 2011, they were still being pushed until the very end by Real Madrid. In 2010, Inter Milan were pushed until the very end of their season by Roma. Last season, Real were involved in a three way title race right up until the very end of the season.
On the flip side, Bayern Munich was by far the best team in the competition last season. But having wrapped up the Bundesliga in late March, the team didn’t have any other competitive games beside the Champions League. They suffered a dip in form and were bounced in the semis. Sure in 2011 and 2013 Barcelona and Bayern Munich ran away with their domestic leagues and still won the Champions League, but that seems to be much more rare.
Bayern Munich has the team, ability, and manager to knock off Barcelona. On the side, I think too many people are sleeping on Juventus. They have the ability to shut Real down and have a strong attack that will be able to grab enough goals to steal the tie and set up a very intriguing final vs. Bayern Munich.
Unfortunately due to the whole form and being challenged at home argument I just made, it looks like were headed for an ‘El Classico’ final, in which case, Barcelona will be your 2015 European Champions.