To the avid football lover, weekdays aren’t just about Mondays through Fridays, but the opportunity to watch Europe’s premier competitions, regardless of the team you support. The UEFA Champions League (UCL) is the cream of all club competitions and only behind the FIFA World Cup amongst all football tournaments in terms of prestige and popularity.
The less fancied UEFA Europa League (UEL) has also gained traction over the last few years, thanks to the participation of more big clubs who failed to qualify for the UCL and an opportunity for the winner of the tournament to qualify for the Champions League. With teams like Barcelona, Juventus, and Atletico Madrid all eliminated from the UCL, the list of favorites to win the tournament has shortened itself. While AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, and Tottenham Hotspur have ensured that the remaining big teams in the Europa League get a somewhat free run at the title, thanks to their disappointing elimination. So come along now, let’s see if we can predict which team will take home these two trophies.
UEFA Champions League Favorites
The great Sir Alex Ferguson once said the defending champions of any competition are always the favorites to win it again. The great Scot might be right as Bayern Munich have continued from where they stopped at the end of the last season, getting through the group stages and to the quarterfinals with relative ease. The German champions had a near-perfect record in the group stages, before easing past Lazio 6-2 on aggregate in the second round to set up a showdown against Paris Saint-Germain who they defeated in last year’s final.
The oddsmakers favorite to win this season’s Champions League, City is currently flying in the Premier League and Europe. Pep Guardiola’s men are top of the English Premier League, have secured a place in the semifinals of the FA Cup, and took the chance and won their first trophy of the season when they faced Spurs in the Carabao Cup in April at Wembley. The Manchester club has arguably the strongest squad in the UCL this season, and with players like Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero coming into full fitness, the Citizens could win it all this season.
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Liverpool might be struggling to buy a win on home soil in the Premier League, but the Reds have a squad of players and a manager capable of winning in Europe. The 2018/19 UCL champions face a daunting task against Real Madrid, with the winner facing either Porto or Chelsea. Winning the UCL might be Liverpool’s best chance of getting back into the competition as they currently sit in seventh place in the Premier League. As you may have heard, Liverpool has been facing some internal problems related to the conflict between Salah and Mane but took a big step forward as a team last season. The question is it was enough to keep the squad strong throughout this season. The background to the conflict and all details can be found here (Arabic only).
UEFA Europa League Favorites
After getting past Olympiakos. Arteta and his troops go up against the less fancied, Slavia Praha in the quarterfinals. With Manchester United, Ajax, and AS Roma the only perennial top teams left in the Europa League, the gunners might have a shot of going further than they did in 2019 where they lost in the final to Chelsea.
Finalists in 2017, Ajax must get past AS Roma if they’re going to win the Europa League this season. The Dutch club is currently on course to win the Eredivisie with relative ease, which should allow them to focus on the Europa League. Erik Ten Haag’s side got to the semis of the Champions League in 2019 and will be hoping to go one step further in the sister competition this season. Arsenal has never won the UEFA Europa League nor its predecessor -the UEFA Cup- in their illustrious history, so winning it would not guarantee the North-London club a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stages but cement Mikel Arteta’s position as manager of the club.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men fell at the semifinal stage of the competition last season after a 2-1 loss to Sevilla and will be hoping to repeat the success of the club under Jose Mourinho in 2017 where they defeated Ajax 2-0 in the final. Manchester United are out of the running for the Premier League trophy and have been eliminated from all other cup competitions, so the only chance of Ole winning his first silverware as manager of the club is in the Europa League which should justify the rumored contract extension the Norwegian is in line to sign. Anything other than a trophy in Ole’s almost three years at the helms would be considered a failure by many Old Trafford faithful.