During his recent unveiling to the press, Carlo Ancelotti was told in clear terms by Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, that the pursuit of La Decima is the primary aim of Real Madrid.
Ancelotti acknowledged this and promised his commitment to the cause. But going into the new season, it will be as difficult as Jose Mourinho found it in his three years at the Bernabeu for Madrid under Ancelotti to deliver the Champions League crown for the tenth time.
Here are four reasons why.
1. Bayern under Guardiola
Bayern Munich are the current holders of the Champions League trophy, and they won it in stunning fashion last season, thrashing Real Madrid’s arch-rivals Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate along the way.
Now they have made the former coach of the Catalan outfit, Pep Guardiola, their manager for the incoming campaign. Guardiola was successful in the Champions League during his time with Barcelona, winning it twice.
His pedigree goes before him, and with the likes of Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and the ‘Marios’ - Mandzukic, Gomez and Gotze in his squad, Bayern remain the team to beat in next season's competition.
Guardiola is a proven coach and Bayern are a proven side. They can go all the way.
2. Barcelona have Neymar
The Confederations Cup has given Neymar the perfect opportunity to prove he is capable of individual brilliance. And he has done just that, dazzling spectators with skills and delightful goals.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has been so pleased that he commented that Barcelona fans must be smacking their lips at the prospect of Neymar strutting his stuff at the Camp Nou come next season. And he is right.
With Neymar alongside the ever-brilliant Lionel Messi and Pedro/Sanchez in attack, any of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta pulling strings in midfield, one can only salivate at the outcome of such combination. And Barcelona have a point to prove in Europe; they want to show they are still a dominant force on the continent after last season’s humiliation.
Despite Tito Vilanova’s unstable health condition and the problematic back-line (which efforts are being made to improve), Madrid will have a fierce antagonist in Barcelona next season.
3. Chelsea’s reunion with Mourinho
Following an acrimonious departure from the Spanish capital, Mourinho knows the world expects him to show once again that he is still the Special One.
And what better place to prove it than on Europe’s biggest stage?
Having being re-appointed by Chelsea, Mourinho will surely love to upstage Madrid and Ancelotti in the race for the Champions League crown come the 2013/14 season.
Chelsea will also be extra motivated to build on their Champions League crown from two seasons ago, and their most recent success in the Europa League.
Ancelotti and his squad will face a familiar foe in Mourinho, a man who tried unsuccessfully to land Madrid the long-awaited La Decima in three controversial seasons.
Expect Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne, Victor Moses and Edinson Cavani - if Chelsea successfully sign him - to be a major European threat next season.
4. Manchester City, Juventus and Dortmund to prove a point
Manchester City want to make amends for their last two disastrous outings in Europe’s elite competition. With Manuel Pellegrini as manager, and a great squad of players (with additions on the way), they have a good chance of doing that - and Madrid will have to watch out.
Juventus will want to build on last season’s performance in the competition and it will be a mistake to overlook them.
Dortmund are a wounded lion – they lost the Bundesliga crown to Bayern, the Champions League final to Bayern, they lost Mario Gotze to Bayern and Robert Lewandoski may leave – to Bayern. Next season will be one for revenge.
With PSG, Manchester United and a host of other underdogs in the mix, Ancelotti and Madrid may have to wait another season at least to get their dream La Decima.
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