Although they crashed out in surprising fashion to Roma last season, Barcelona look set to be the team to beat in this season’s UEFA Champions League. Ernesto Valverde’s league champions are finally ready to transfer their league form to Europe’s grandest stage.
Here’s why Barcelona are the team to beat in the UCL 2017/18.
Messi out for revenge
For the first time in over a decade, Lionel Messi was not shortlisted in the top 3 of FIFA’s world player awards. The 31-year-old is now not only being written off by the fans, but he’s also being written off by the footballing public too. According to many, Lionel Messi is the greatest player to ever live but now that phrase is being branded about in the past tense.
Even during the summer, the Argentinean captain was ridiculed and lambasted for his country’s failure to progress to the latter stages of the tournament. There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. You’d be a fool to rule out Messi as his influence over his team is unparalleled in today’s age. When he’s on form, Barcelona is on form.
Madrid toothless without Ronaldo
It takes a special team to win the UCL three times in a row, that greatness is highlighted even more when you consider the fact they’ve won it four times in the past five years. Regardless of league form, Real Madrid has proven themselves to be the greatest team of the modern era. Having great players like Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo helps but having the greatest in Cristiano Ronaldo is what made the difference.
Just to show the 33-year-old’s influence, Ronaldo is the UCL’s all-time top scorer, having netted 120 times in the tournament. Such a strike rate cannot be replicated or replaced and Real’s decision not to sign another star forward will cost them dearly. It seems as if the club’s higher-ups have placed all their hopes on Gareth Bale, but the Welshman’s injury record may prove to be fatal.
Real Madrid won’t win the UCL this season as they don’t have their crown jewel in Cristiano Ronaldo. The 33-year-old carried Madrid on his back for several seasons and only now will his influence truly be understood. Instead, the Portuguese will be taking his elite big match performances to Juventus, instantly making them one of the favourites. However, the Portugal international is still adjusting to the difference in playing style with his new team so Barcelona will have an edge over them.
It’s time. After spending the majority of last season in the physio room, Ousmane Dembélé is here and he’s here to stay. The Frenchman has started this season on fire, scoring three goals in seven La Liga games. Dembélé looks set to finally fill the void that Neymar left behind last summer.
With Luis Suarez faltering and declining, the contributions of Dembélé will be vital to Barca’s progression in the UCL. On his day, the French youngster is one of the best in the world and him in a supporting role to Lionel Messi is a title-winning combination.