Barcelona have been tipped to win next season’s Champions League by more than 70,000 football fans in a recent GMF poll.
A massive 225,000 football supporters voted for who they think will emerge victorious as European champions next season, and 32% of voters picked Barcelona as the most likely winners.
Their El Clasico rivals, Real Madrid, received the next highest share of the vote, with 28%, but 8,000 more fans think Lionel Messi and co will be too strong for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Reigning champions Chelsea and Premier League runners-up Manchester United have the best chance of the four English teams, according to the poll, while the league champions, Manchester City, haven’t got a hope, with just 1% of supporters backing Roberto Mancini to guide City to their first Champions League trophy.
The Premier League champions certainly have the squad to win the continental competition, with Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez among Europe’s best strikers. But their lack of discipline and European experience counted against them last season, and may do again during the next campaign.
Mancini’s side crashed out in the group stages last season, with one particularly miserable night in Munich responsible for Carlos Tevez’s five month exclusion from the City squad. Mancini will be hopeful of more successful – and less stressful – campaign this time around, although the fans are doubtful.
While City were hit by misfortune and misery, Roberto Di Matteo’s side shocked Europe with a stunning run to the final, but football supporters aren’t holding their breath for a repeat. The departure of Didier Drogba – last season’s talisman – hasn’t helped their cause but a flurry of transfer activity means pre-season hopes are high at Stamford Bridge.
If Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin all settle quickly, Chelsea will have a young, vibrant and skilful side capable of challenging the contintent’s best. An improved Premier League performance will be the priority, but don’t count Chelsea out of staging a heroic defence of their Champions League crown.
Manchester United – like their City rivals – endured a torrid time in Europe last season. The signing of Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa for £17m was an astute piece of business, and Lucas Moura – who is reportedly undergoing a medical at United – would be a fantastic acquisition.
Like Chelsea, United seem to be putting together a youthful team full of talent, but a lack of experience could be their downfall next year. And just 12% of fans see them getting the better of Real Madrid and Barcelona next season.
2012/13 may come too soon then for this crop of players, but Manchester United have the squad in place to remain competitive in the Champions League for years to come. Sir Alex Ferguson is the world's best a building new teams, and has the pieces in place for another great United side.
Perhaps surprisingly, Arsenal received a much higher share of the vote than Manchester City. Just over 7% of fans think the Gunners will win their first Champions League next season, which after a turbulent season last year seems a bit optimistic.
But Arsenal fans have every reason to be cheery. The signings of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud bring welcome experience and class, while deals for Santi Cazorla and Nuri Sahin are thought to be close to completion.
If Robin van Persie can be convinced to stay, and there are rumours that he is reconsidering his exit, Arsene Wenger can justifiably point to this summer as being one of his best yet.
Away from England and Spain, Bayern Munich and Juventus look like the strongest contenders. But with just 2% and 1% of the vote respectively, football supporters can’t see either of these teams winning the tournament, and it's hard to disagree with them.
Instead, fans think it will come down to the old Spanish foes, the El Clasico pairing of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Even aside from Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi, this matchup is one of the best in the world and either side would be a worthy winner.
And supporters expect these two La Liga giants to be far too strong for the rest of the competition next season. But question marks hang over the two teams – Barcelona have a new coach and Madrid haven’t reached a final since 2002.
Still, they remain the teams to beat. It should be a thrilling competition.
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