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Will Man City retain the UCL and could Arsenal be the dark horse this season?

We look at whether Manchester City can retain the Champions League trophy and if Arsenal could be the dark horses to win it this season.

UEFA coefficients: England's chances of a fifth Champions League place in jeopardy as United & Newcastle flop

Following Sheikh Mansoor’s Manchester City takeover, the Citizens quickly managed to become one of the powerhouses in the English top-flight. However, they were struggling to find success in European competition.

So, Man City opted to appoint Pep Guardiola as their new manager with the ambition of winning the Champions League. However, the Spaniard struggled to help the Citizens achieve their European objectives before eventually winning the competition last term.

In addition, they won the Premier League title and the FA Cup last season so they became the only second English team to win the treble last season after Manchester United – who achieved that feat back in 1999. Man City even won the Club World Cup last year.

Man City’s story of this season

Guardiola’s side started the campaign promisingly, winning the first six consecutive games in the league. However, the Citizens struggled right before their Club World Cup assignment last month, though they have started to look at their best once again in recent weeks.

They are currently second in the table with 43 points from 20 games, sitting only two points behind the league leader Liverpool. So, the early signs suggest that Man City would be able to mount a title charge this term as well.

They have already won three consecutive league titles and Guardiola’s side will be looking to make it four in a row this season – which will be a record in the English top-flight.

In the Champions League, Man City sailed past the group stage round – which contained RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys, winning all six games.

Man City have been drawn to play against FC Copenhagen in the round of 16 stage of this competition and it’s highly unlikely that the Danish side will be able to beat the reigning European Champions in this tie. Although they have managed to secure their place in the knockout stage from a difficult group, beating Manchester United in the process.

So, it is likely that Man City will be able to secure their place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League this term.

The other Champions League ties are –

  • FC Porto vs Arsenal
  • Napoli vs Barcelona
  • PSG vs Real Sociedad
  • Inter Milan vs Atletico Madrid
  • PSV Eindhoven vs Borussia Dortmund
  • Lazio vs Bayern Munich
  • RB Leipzig vs Real Madrid

The last-16 ties will be played in February and March, and fans can already buy Champions League tickets for the games as they are on sale now. There are some mouthwatering ties to look forward to and it’s promising to be another exciting knockout round in the Champions League.

Can City retain the UCL?

Man City usually make slow starts to every season and they get better as the season progresses. Things look pretty similar in this campaign as well.

The Citizens have struggled with injury problems but they are starting to get the full-fit squad back. Man City have the firepower to win the Champions League this season and if they can find their best form then it will be hard for any team to stop them from achieving that.

Other potential contenders to win the UCL this season

Real Madrid are the most successful team in this competition and they are among the favourites to win the Champions League every season. They have enjoyed a stellar start in La Liga this campaign and also displayed promising performances in the group stage of this tournament. So, they are currently one of the favourites to win the Champions League this campaign.

Bayern Munich are another team who are always deemed as the favourite to win this competition. However, following Harry Kane’s addition, their chances of winning the Champions League have now increased this season.

Teams to keep an eye on

Barcelona and PSG are also expected to go all the way in every competition in which they participate. But, neither of those teams have had a great start to this season.

Although PSG are currently at the top of the Ligue 1 table, they haven’t been able to perform at their best in the first half of this season. So, Luis Enrique’s side aren’t likely to be able to win this tournament this campaign.

On the other hand, Barcelona have been struggling in recent times and their misery has now increased after being thrashed by Real Madrid 4-1 in the Spanish Super Cup final. So, the Blaugrana aren’t expected to win Europe’s elite club competition this season but if that were to happen then it would be a surprise.

Inter Milan surprisingly went all the way to the final of the Champions League last season. They have enjoyed a bright first half of this campaign, sitting at the top of the Serie A table. So, they have been showing signs that they could go deep into this competition this season as well, however, they have been drawn to play against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16.

Los Rojiblancos are a hard team to beat and if the Nerazzurri can manage to do that then they could go deep into this competition this campaign once again.

Napoli are the Italian champions and they displayed impressive performances under Luciano Spaletti’s guidance last term. However, the Azzurri opted to part ways with the Italian boss at the end of last season and they haven’t been able to replicate the last season’s performance this campaign. So, it doesn’t look likely that they can win this competition this season.

Can Arsenal be the dark horse?

Despite enjoying a stellar campaign, Arsenal couldn’t win the Premier League title last term. So, the Gunners opted to splash the cash last summer to bridge the gap with Man City and challenge on all fronts this season.

Arsenal even started the season promisingly and found themselves at the top of the league for a brief period. They enjoyed a promising group stage in the Champions League as well. However, having struggled to perform at their best in recent weeks, they have lost ground in the title race, sitting five points behind the league leader Liverpool.

So, although Arsenal have the firepower to enjoy a good run in the Champions League this term, they can’t go deep into this competition if they continue to display underwhelming performances like they have done in recent games.

Therefore, Arsenal need to improve their on-field displays as quickly as possible. They have been drawn to play against FC Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League and it’s expected that they will be able to overcome the Portuguese side’s challenge and reach the next round.

It has been suggested that Mikel Arteta wants to strengthen the squad in January to achieve the Gunners’ lofty ambitions this season. However, the North London club’s winter budget has reportedly been restricted due to FFP regulations so the Spaniard may have to continue with the current squad for the second half of this campaign.

So, it is going to be interesting to see how Arsenal’s season eventually unfolds over the coming months.

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