The world’s premier club competition dazzles every season and always delivers moments that leave you in awe of the iconic clubs creating unmissable moments.
Real Madrid, a club obsessed with European domination since the inception of the tournament, have now collected 13 European Cups, lifting a whopping four of the last five.
Meanwhile, their fierce rivals Barcelona have quietly won seven of the last 10 La Liga campaigns and are well on their way to another triumphant domestic campaign. However, make no mistake, watching Los Blancos parade their European prize every summer is taking its toll and now leaves Barca yearning to get their hands on it.
Trailing Real by eight Champions League successes, this season could be Barca’s chance to reduce the chasm. Ernesto Valverde’s Camp Nou side finished top of their qualifying group unbeaten and are well placed to progress deep into the competition.
The Catalan’s are controlling the game inside the opposition’s half, forcing their opponents into errors under the immense pressure of defending inside your own box generates. Not only this, but with Ousmane Dembele deployed on either wing, the lightning quick Frenchman can catch teams on the break, with his teammates finishing very strongly this season from both possession rich, passing moves and counterattacking situations.
Barcelona are currently 4/1 when you bet on Champions League winner on Betfair, but being second favourites doesn’t tell the whole story. Valverde’s men are defending poorly, so badly they had to hasten the signing of 19-year-old Jean-Clair Todibo from this coming summer to January.
All season long, have struggled to defend quick counterattacks from becoming goal-scoring chances. Not only this, but they have been weak in defending against sides that utilize width, worrying signs for tight Champions League clashes to come.
The absence of Samuel Umtiti is being greatly felt. A rock at the back last season, making 40 appearances in all competitions last season, he’s made it out onto the field eight times this term and is out indefinitely.
Looking strong in La Liga, the Blaugrana still have the time to work things out through playing games and are expected to push past Lyon in the first knockout games, nonetheless. But, defensive frailties need to be addressed to truly release the extraordinary talents of their attacking unit.
What will be particularly concerning is how Barca are allowing even the weakest teams to create chances against them, relying on poor finishing by their opponents to bail them out. Transfer these chances to the Champions League and elite teams will punish this sloppiness.
Barcelona have set their sights firmly on lifting the European Cup after years of Real Madrid domination. Valverde is under pressure to deliver success in the competition, regardless of what they achieve domestically.
After ploughing hundreds of millions into the side in recent terms and burdened with the largest wage bill in Europe, now is the time they must deliver on the biggest stage of them all.