The Champions League is back, and we're here to assess the strengths, weaknesses and key men of the four sides we regard as the favourites to lift the most coveted prize in European club football.
Can an English side win it again? They say that it's incredibly difficult to retain the UEFA Champions League crown. Only Real Madrid has ever done it, but Liverpool will be determined to match that achievement. Here's an assessment of the favourites.
🏴 Manchester City
Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero are scoring goals for fun, ahead of the irrepressible creative quality of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. Record-signing Rodri from Atletico Madrid adds youthful bite and passing ability in the centre of midfield, liberating De Bruyne a little further forward. City can hurt you from anywhere but it's these five that will do the most damage to defences.
With ball-playing centre back Aymeric Laporte out until 2020 with a serious knee injury, there will be doubts over Nicolas Otamendi's ability to fill in alongside John Stones. City shipped three goals at Norwich, and they can't defend like that in Europe if they want to go all the way.
Kevin De Bruyne is the puppet-master of this side, creating chances from advanced and withdrawn midfield positions.
It's quite a crowded midfield area in Turin with Miralem Pjanic, Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot, Emre Can, Blaise Matuidi and vying for central roles. Juve's immense experience throughout the spine of their team will stand them in incredibly good stead, as they look to get the most out of evergreen Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now 34.
Sarri's squad is almost too big after the Italian boss failed to ship out a few wantaway stars, mainly Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala. A crowded midfield area, indicated by Emre Can's omission from their Champions League squad, shows that the squad may be a bit unbalanced. In defence, 20-year-old Matthijs De Ligt must quickly step up to the plate in the absence of injured stalwart Giorgio Chiellini. That won't be easy.
Cristiano Ronaldo now has 93 goals for Portugal and he shows no signs of letting up at club level. His hat-trick against Atletico Madrid last season will be the kind of goal-scoring antics that could elevate them to the latter stages of the Champions League again.
The attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and the newly-recruited Antoine Griezmann has plenty of goals and creativity to call upon, as well as bags of experience and quality. Frenkie de Jong's arrival in midfield also adds a dimension to their play and they should hog possession in the typical tika taka style again as they did with Xavi at the club.
Barcelona's defence has thrown away leads in the Champions League with worrying regularity in recent years. A 4-0 defeat at Anfield in the semifinals last season saw a 3-0 first-leg lead wiped out. It happened against Roma in the previous season, too.
Lionel Messi is 32 now but he's still as crucial to Barcelona's hopes as ever with goal-scoring, assist-making and general iconic presence in the side.
High-energy, aggressive pressing, two of the best fullbacks in Europe and an attacking trio that can score goals out of nowhere. Liverpool is a complete team that can match any side in Europe on a physical level.
A lack of creative attacking midfielders might cost Klopp's side if any of the strikers are ruled out for a long time, but Gini Wijnaldum's high-energy box to box style suits Liverpool just fine when Naby Keita, their best creator between midfield and attack, is out injured.
For all of Liverpool's attacking prowess, it was clean sheets that got them to the trophy last season, with shutouts against Barcelona in the semifinal second leg and Tottenham in the final. Virgil van Dijk was the cornerstone of their defensive efforts and with Firmino, Mane and Salah in attack, goals won't be a problem. Keeping them out at the other end will determine whether Klopp's side can keep hold of their crown.
The journey to Istanbul in May starts here.
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