Football is the most loved sport after cricket in India. What makes this sport interesting and demanding is the fact that to enjoy the sport anywhere outside, you just need the passion and heart and not special equipment unlike many other sports.
Don’t get disheartened if you can’t play because you can always sit in front of your idiot box and can feel lively by just watching. This is easy and possible as football is being telecast almost through the entire year, every year, due to so many leagues, championships, cups and what not.
Because of this, you are able to stay in touch with your favorite teams, players, leagues, cups etc. That being said, UEFA Champions League is around and is making fans go crazy. The Group Stage is over and the Knockout phase has already started. So, in this piece of article, I would talk exclusively about UCL- one of the biggest event in football lineup.
HISTORY AND FORMAT
Founded in 1955 (1992 in its current format), it is an annual continental club football competition organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The pre-1992 competition was initially a straight knockout tournament open only to the champion club of each country. During the 1990s, the format was expanded incorporating a round robin group stage and more teams.
The UCL always starts in mid-July after leagues have ended in the month of May to decide who is going to qualify for the group stages and for further rounds. In its current format, 32 teams are drawn into 8 groups of 4 teams each which play each other in a double round robin system. The 8 winners and 8 runners-up proceed to the knockout phase that culminates with the final match in May.
TEAMS TO WATCH OUT
* REAL MADRID
Real Madrid is the most successful club in the competition’s history, having won the tournament 10 times, including its first 5 seasons. With a lineup capable enough to beat any goddamn team, the beasts are ready to humiliate teams this year too. They are also the defending champions and they will do anything to win this. They already have started by beating Schalke 04 by 2 goals to none in the first leg of the knockout phase. Mind it.
Players to look out for: Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema
* BAYERN MUNICH
This German side is a total package. They could be sent to prison for raping other football teams on the pitch with their monstrous lineup filled with supernatural powers. They thrashed AS Roma 7-1 in the group stage. Can you make out what I’m trying to say? They won the UCL in 2013. They are too strong to win it back.
Players to look out for: Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Xabi Alonso, Mario Götze, Franck Ribéry.
* MANCHESTER CITY
The most loved club in EPL is Manchester United. No doubt about it. But Manchester City is not far away from that kind of support and love. Though the current champions of Barclays Premier League haven’t won a UCL title yet, they’ll try to win it this time with the consistency they are known for.
Players to look out for: Sergio Agero, Frank Lampard, David Silva, Vincent Kompany.
With 4 UCL title wins and ending up as runners-up 3 times, they are not a joke and should be taken seriously when counting the contenders for the UCL winner. Not
just because this team involves Lionel Messi but because they are a well, balanced side capable of turning things upside down.
Players to look out for: Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luiz Suárez, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta.
Sitting at the top of the league table is every clubs’ dream. This English club is a giant. Though with only 1 UCL title win, this team aims for big every time it steps on to the pitch. With José Mourinho, one of the great managers, as their manager, it seems they are going to surprise everyone this time.
Players to look out for: Cesc Fàbregas, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, John Terry
* ATLÉTICO MADRID
By winning the LIGA BBVA title in 2013/14 season, they stole my heart and became my favorite. With the right amount of passion, talent and skillful players, this team is what I would be looking out for in this tournament.
Players to look out for: Fernando Torres, Mario Mandzukić, Koke, Antoine Griezmann, Gabi.
MATCHES TO LOOK OUT FOR
PSG Vs Chelsea 1st Leg score: 1-1 2nd Leg on March 11
Schalke Vs Real Madrid 1st Leg score: 0-2 2nd Leg on March 10
Manchester City Vs Barcelona 1st Leg on Feb 24 2nd Leg on March 18
Dortmund Vs Juventus 1st Leg on Feb 24 2nd Leg on March 18
All timings according to CET.
-By Aayush Gupta
Image Source: Google Images