The UEFA Champions League is back!
And it would be an understatement to say things have changed since we last watched some UEFA Champions League football…
– Cristiano Ronaldo has left Juventus for Man Utd.
– Lionel Messi has left Barcelona for PSG.
– Carlo Ancelotti and Max Allegri returned to Real Madrid and Juventus respectively.
So with all these big changes over the summer, we at 90min thought it’d be a good idea let you all know how good the 32 new-look Champions League teams are ahead of the competition kick off on Tuesday:
32. Sheriff Tiraspol
Sheriff may have best badge in the competition (it’s literally a sheriff’s badge), but they are the first Moldovan team to ever even qualify for the competition too – so don’t expect too much from them.
31. Young Boys
BSC Young Boys are currently fourth in the Swiss Super League, having only won two of their first five games this season.
That won’t cut it among Europe’s top brass.
30. Malmo FF
The team that knocked Stevie Gerrard’s Rangers out of the competition in the qualifying rounds, Malmo clearly have a bit about them – but definitely not enough to trouble either Juventus or Chelsea in Group H.
29. Club Brugge
Club Brugge proved themselves to be tricky customers during their last two Champions League campaigns – finishing third in their group on both occasions and even drawing 2-2 with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A third-place finish is probably the best they can hope for this season too as they are in a group with Man City and PSG…*gulp*.
28. Shakhtar Donetsk
It’s a miracle!
Shakhtar Donetsk have not been drawn in Man City’s group this season!
27. Dynamo Kyiv
So why are Dynamo Kyiv one spot ahead of fellow Ukrainian team Shakhtar?
Well, it’s pretty simple: Dynamo Kyiv are one spot ahead of Shakhtar in the domestic league and have scored 22 goals in seven games, conceding two.
Besiktas have dominated Turkish football in recent seasons but haven’t really impressed on the European stage.
They’ll be hoping to change that this season with the additions of Miralem Pjanic and Michy Batshuayi to their squad.
25. Red Bull Salzburg
Red Bull Salzburg seem to always have the ‘next big thing’ on their books.
The current ‘next big thing’ they have is Karim Adeyemi, who’s been linked with Liverpool in recent weeks, is a FM legend (in my Wolves save at least), and is sure to star in this season’s Champions League.
24. VfL Wolfsburg
VfL Wolfsburg have quietly been quite good over the last three seasons, and after their fourth-place finish in Bundesliga last campaign, they’ll get to chance to show Europe how good they are in the Champions League.
Die Wolfes will be going into the group stages as (surprisingly) one of the form teams in Europe, having won four BuLi games on the bounce to top the table.
23. Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit have one of the nicest kits in Europe, and a pretty good team too.
Granted their captain is Dejan Lovren – who is notably quite bad – but the likes of Malcom, Serder Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba will cause their group stage opponents some problems this autumn.
Ajax were lucky enough to be drawn in one of the ‘looks like a Europa League group’ groups this season, and will likely progress to the round of 16 because of that.
Will they go much further? It’s unlikely.
On paper, Benfica have a very, very, very good team.
And while they didn’t really show it last season, they look primed to do so in 2021/22.
Quarter-finalists in two of the last three seasons, this Porto team has some Champions League pedigree and are not to be taken lightly by anyone – especially not Juventus.
19. LOSC Lille
Yep, LOSC Lille really did win Ligue 1 last season.
That really happened.
And due to this they’re in the Champions League, and have a real chance of making the round of 16 because they’re in one of the two ‘looks like a Europa League group’ groups.
18. Sporting CP
Sporting CP are one of those ‘greater than the some of their parts because they’re so well coached’ teams, and they’re likely to spring a few surprises in the knockout rounds.
17. RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig confirmed themselves to be a selling club rather than a contender this summer by shipping Marcel Sabitzer off to Bayern Munich, but there’s still plenty of talent in their squad and they can still cause the bigger boys some problems.
Yeah, Atalanta are still the most exciting team to watch in Europe.
Yeah, they are still making shrewd signings in the transfer window (like Teun Koopmeiners).
And yeah, they will be a handful in the Champions League again this season.
15. AC Milan
It was bit weird that AC Milan were in pot four of the UEFA Champions League group stage draw, wasn’t it?
Anyways, after quite a few years out in the wilderness Milan are back among the big boys. With Stefano Pioli at the helm and the likes of Sandro Tonali and Simon Kjaer on the books, they might do quite well in Europe’s top competition this year.
Last season’s Europa League winners are tricky well-drilled customers, and they’ll be eyeing a decent wee run in the UCL.
They’re more than capable too, evidenced by them taking champions of Europe Chelsea all the way in the UEFA Super Cup in August.
13. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund have Erling Haaland.
Erling Haaland has scored 24 goals in 20 European games.
So yes, BVB will do quite well in the Champions League.
Well, it’s fair to say it was an interesting summer for Barcelona.
They sold Lionel Messi, they signed *checks notes* Luuk de Jong…among others…
This is the worst Barcelona team in decades, but they should still at least be good enough to make the round of 16 – even with a Newcastle United flop leading the line.
Much like Barcelona, Juventus had an interesting summer.
They did also sell their main man – Cristiano Ronaldo – but unlike Barca, that sale may be a blessing in disguise (here’s why).
Now, without Ronaldo and with Max Allegri at the helm, La Vecchia Signora might not totally embarrass themselves in the Champions League in 2021/22 – which would be progress.
As well as being one of the main contenders for the La Liga title, Sevilla should be expected to do quite well in the Champions League.
And even if they flatter to deceive, they have Papu Gomez so they’ll at least still be quite fun to watch.
Inter may have sold their best player and let arguably the best manager in the world leave the club, but they’re – somehow – still quite good.
They’ve been extremely impressive in their first few Serie A games, and haven’t really missed a beat with new man Simone Inzaghi at the helm. Nice one.
8. Real Madrid
Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti is back at Real Madrid.
And despite a lack of big boy signings in the summer (namely not signing Kylian Mbappe), we’re not going to bet against the Real Madrid and the Carlo Ancelotti going far in this season’s tournament.
After a pretty meh 2020/21 season, Liverpool have their main man Virgil van Dijk in their backline again and look set to be a force in both the Champions League and the Premier League – largely because Mo Salah can’t stop scoring.
6. Manchester United
– Bruno Fernandes.
– Jadon Sancho.
– Paul Pogba.
– Raphael Varane.
– Cristiano Ronaldo.
There’s five reasons why Man Utd are so high on this list.
5. Atletico Madrid
Surely Diego Simeone must see this season as his chance to finally win the UEFA Champions League.
He’s come close twice before, and now with the strongest team he’s ever assembled he’ll be aiming to finally win it.
Winning back-to-back UEFA Champions Leagues is basically impossible.
One team has done it in the competition’s recent history.
However, very few Champions League winners have improved as much in the summer after winning the trophy than Chelsea have.
They signed one of the three best strikers in the world. That’s a big boy move.
3. Manchester City
You may be looking at this and thinking: ‘how are Man City only third?! This is an outrage!’
Well it’s not.
What is an outrage is Man City’s inability to sign a striker, and that’s what holds them back from being the outright favourites to win the competition.
2. Bayern Munich
Now onto a team who doesn’t need a striker: Bayern Munich.
They have the best striker in the world in Robert Lewandowski.
He’s scored at least 40 goals in each of his last six seasons in Bavaria.
That, combined with the rest of the squad being full of Champions League winners, makes Bayern a pretty damn good football team.
1. Paris Saint-Germain
Look, signing Lionel Messi makes you the favourites to win the Champions League.
Even if you just had Messi you’d probably be favourites.
But PSG also have Gianluigi Donnarumma, Kylian Mbappe, Marco Verratti, Neymar and Achraf Hakimi – no team in Europe can compete with that on paper.
We’ll see how it plays out on the pitch very soon.