Every year in the Uefa Champions League, there are unexpected teams that mount a challenge on the European title.
These unfavoured teams emerge from the group stages to progress into the latter stages of the competition such as Monaco in 2004, Bayern Munich in 2010 and Borussia Dortmund in 2012.
Occasionally, teams such as Porto in 2004, Liverpool in 2005 and even Inter Milan in 2010 have even beaten the odds and managed to obtain the European Crown.
GMS has selected 4 unfavoured and realistic teams (sorry fans of FC Copenhagen, Viktoria Plzen and Austrian Wien) from the 2013/2014 Champions League that could progress into the latter stages of the tournament and even appear in the Estádio da Luz, Lisbon on the 24th May 2014.
Napoli’s debut season in the Champions League in 2011/2012 resulted in the Azzurri emerging from that year’s group of death and destroying Chelsea in the first leg of second round before their eventual elimination in the second leg from a Di Matteo inspired Chelsea.
Since then, Napoli have sold their two best players, Edison Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris Saint Germain for a combined £76 million and removed Walter Mazzarri who lead Napoli to victory in the 2011-12 Coppa Italia.
The club have appointed an experience European manger in Rafael Benitez who has won the Uefa Cup with Valencia in 2004, the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 as well as the Uefa Europa League with Chelsea in 2013.
So far, Benitez has guided Napoli to an unbeaten start in Serie A, with their most recent victory coming against a lacklustre AC Milan at the San Siro. Whilst in the Champions League, Napoli opened their campaign with a superb defeat of last year’s runners up Borussia Dortmund in the opening match of Group F.
Despite the loss of Cavani and Lavezzi, the core squad players: Paolo Cannavaro, Gokhan Inler, Goran Pandev, Marek Hamsik, Christain Maggio, Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami all remain.
Moreover, the financial stimulus provided by the Cavani transfer has allowed Benitez to introduce experienced players as well as emerging talent to the squad, such as Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens.
What is more, the acquisition of Jose Reina on loan from Liverpool has dramatically improved an already sturdy defence.
If they emerge from a tough group with Arsenal, Marsielle and Borussia Dortmund, Napoli would gain a lot of confidence and any team would certainly be wary of them.
Since 2009, Atletico have won the Europa League and Uefa Super Cup twice under two managers and the Copa del Rey.
In spite of their success, Atletico have still not been seen as providing a challenge to Europe due in part to the two superpowers of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
This being said, Atletico Madrid have started to become more established in domestic competition.
The recent Spanish Super Cup showdown against Barcelona, in which the Catalan side won on away goals, indicates that Aletico’s standard has improved.
Diego Simeone's side have made an unbeaten start to the season with five wins out of five, which has propelled them to the top of La Liga, level with Barcelona.
The success of Atletico can be accredited to a mature squad that has an abundant of European and international appearances.
Players such as Diego Godin, Tiago Mendes, Raul Garcia and Arda Turan have become the foundation of the team.
In addition, goals from Diego Costa have become a staple in Atletico success.
Moreover, the sale of Radamel Falcao to Monaco for £53 million has allowed Simeone to reinvest in his squad.
Atletico have bought recognized talent such as David Villa, as well players for the future in the shape of Toby Alderweireld, Léo Baptistão and Josuha Guilavogui.
Atletico are in competitive group, including the likes of Porto and Zenit St Petersburg.
Yet, the quality of their squad could project them through the group stages and into the latter stages.
Manchester City and the Champions League has not been a good combination... so far.
The Sky Blues have enjoyed a mixed start to the Premier League season, but the thrashing of Manchester United in the Manchester derby could assist their European Campaign.
Unlike their previous European adventures, City has a manager with a proven record in European competition.
Manuel Pellegrini has had previous success in the Champions league with Villarreal and Malaga in which he reached the semi finals in 2006 and the quarter finals in 2013.
What’s also different to City’s Europe hopes, apart from not being in this year’s group of death, has been the removal of troubled players like Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.
Both players off field issues have blighted City’s chances and have often resulted in City heading into a games underprepared and distracted.
The possession of high quality “team” players such as Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Alvaro Negredo will assist City against more talented teams.
These signings and the style of football in which Pellegrini has employeed indicate that City will perform better in Europe than they will in the Premier League.
The first challenge that will signify if City’s European fortunes have altered is the visit of Bayern Munich on the 1st October.
If City win the match, watch out for Manchester City to start its assault on the Champions League.
Paris St Germain
How can you leave out the high spending Paris Club?
The Parc des Princes club has recently seen an influx of top class footballer’s courtesy of the Qatar investment authority that owns Paris St Germain (PSG).
The presences of quality everywhere in the PSG team from defence to attack make PSG a sensible outside bet to win the Champions league.
Arguably, they possess the strongest striker partnership on paper, with Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edison Cavani, and a balanced selection of midfielders that can turn from attack to defence in the flick of an eye.
The defence is vastly experienced, with Thiago Silva and Alex providing a firm foundation.
During last year’s Champions league, PSG were close to knocking out the pre tournament favourites Barcelona.
PSG will negotiate the group stage and should progress.
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