What good are we, on this platform, if we don’t allow ourselves the chance to be very, very wrong now and again?
While the start of the Premier League season is certainly what drives us forward, this weekend’s opening of both the Bundesliga and La Liga has us even more fired up for the season ahead.
It got us thinking about those Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the winter and spring, and that late May date in Istanbul; Who is going to claim the UEFA Champions League?
Much like our 50 Fearful Predictions for the Premier League season — one’s been proven wrong, another on the path to right — we’re going to go out on a ledge regarding the strength of the big boys’ campaigns for the glory in Turkey.
It’s not all about squad depth in these competitions thanks to the ability of superstars to take over the show, but it sure does matter a great deal (Look at what Liverpool did to Barcelona last season, which was certainly not about the individual talents you’d choose from between the two sides).
Things may change over the next two weeks with the transfer window still open outside of England, but hey, that only means we could look even sillier come May.
Let’s give it a go.
Bonus 1: Red Bull Salzburg — I’m going to be honest, the Austrians should be below about 5-10 more teams after selling Hannes Wolf and Munas Dabbur but I had to include the lone club in the tournament with an American boss. Good luck, Jesse Marsch.
Bonus 2: Ajax — It would be stunning if Ajax overcame selling Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, and who knows how many other top talents, but they were semi-finalists last year so they get a mention.
Tier 6 — Not quite there
Whether they sold too bright of a star or too many of them, these teams will need to overcome significant wattage issues.
20. Bayer Leverkusen
16. RB Leipzig
Tier 5 — Not Quite Upper Echelon, But Dangerous
You wouldn’t want to draw a single one of these teams in a knockout round, but also wouldn’t bet on them outlasting a series of giants to reach Istanbul.
12. Borussia Dortmund
Tier 4 — Tier 5, But Managed by Royalty
Ancelotti. Conte. Simeone. Capable of anything.
10. Inter Milan
9. Atletico Madrid
Tier 3 — The Suitably Haunted
Mental hurdles are real.
Every one of these teams probably has better top-to-bottom depth in talent than the clubs we’ve ranked above them, but has faltered in big ways and carries ghosts. Barcelona and Juventus, for example, have the two best players in the world but have puked on the big stage for consecutive seasons.
PSG and Man City are waiting for their breakthrough, and Bayern has won eight-straight Bundesliga crowns but also counts itself losers of four semifinals in five seasons (all to Spanish sides).
8. Bayern Munich
7. Paris Saint-Germain
4. Manchester City
Tier 2 — See Tier 3, Only With Less Haunting
And in this case, maybe a little less depth.
Tier 1 — Champs
The Reds won it all last year and the entire club seems to celebrate this competition more than the league. I’ll be honest with you: If you took the entire Liverpool team and trotted it out in different jerseys, I’d say they need a place around No. 9. But this is Liverpool and the European Cup.
Not to mention this tournament crowns winners off of much smaller sample sizes (See Liverpool’s 2017-18 final run, aside from the walloping of Man City). And Real under Zidane has the fire power and history to show up and show out.
2. Real Madrid