2019 UEFA Champions League Preliminary Round Action

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UEFA Champions League

Ben Polikoff, Maroon-News Staff

As the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign begins, there are many storylines to look forward to. Can Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona get over the hump and bring home their first Champions League title since 2015? Can Pep Guardiola finally lead Manchester City to their first European trophy? Will Liverpool repeat? All of these questions will be answered as the Champions League progresses.

The Champions League features Europe’s best, so isolating the top pick is a difficult task. In my opinion, its hard to look past Manchester City. 

Manchester City has an incredible amount of squad depth that should allow them to simultaneously put full effort into both the Premier League and Champions League. Their attack is ruthless; there is no denying the amount of goals they can score. 

The real question concerns their defense. The injury to Aymeric Laporte seems to be more significant than originally expected, as he will be out until the turn of the new year. 

For City to win, Coach Guardiola must be flexible with his rotation and style of play. Manchester City plays a very particular style of eye-catching soccer. 

When they are tested in this tournament, presumably in the knockout stage later in the season, it will be interesting to see if the stereotypical stubbornness comes into play or if Guardiola will adjust and change his style. 

Another favorite, in my opinion, is Bayern Munich. Bayern is a much changed team as they have incorporated players like Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry and Phillipe Coutinho into their starting lineup. 

They looked like a well-oiled machine against last years Champions League runner-up Tottenham when they won 7-2 on October 1. 

The question for them will be if they  can get results on the road in the later rounds. Time and time again, we see Bayern Munich dominate at the Allianz Arena, go on the road and struggle through adversity. Bayern will need to find mental toughness to progress to the later rounds. 

Possible sleepers? One team that has really caught my eye is Chelsea FC. 

In typical Chelsea fashion, the club hired a new manager this year, bringing back old star Frank Lampard. Though he is inexperienced, this was still a good hire for Chelsea; there will be chemistry between Lampard and the board due to Lampard’s past relationship with the club. Chelsea are in the process of leading a youth movement in which the large majority of their players came through their academy. 

Some standout players include: goal-scoring sensation forward Tammy Abraham, midfield specialist Mason Mount and upcoming defensive specialist Fikayo Tomori. Chelsea have nothing to lose this season; expectations are relatively low. 

This is why I think they have a chance to be successful in the Champions League. Though overmatched in quality, Chelsea have nothing to lose in this competition. Because of this, I think they won’t be afraid when they come up against some of the bigger clubs. 

Overall, the Champions League competition will be enticing and will definitely entertain fans around the globe. 

It should be interesting to see if there are any upsets or if we see the usual European bluebloods back in the final rounds again.