Another campaign of Europe’s finest club competition awaits. This year’s edition of the Champions League has eight Uruguayan participants. We take a look at Uruguay’s representatives and their chances of bringing home the trophy.
The runner-ups of last year are the only Champions League team with multiple Uruguayans in their squad. The familiar faces of Diego Godín and Josema Giménez will be hoping to finally win the trophy after Diego Simeone’s man have been a defeated finalist twice in the last three years. Next to Uruguay’s centre-back pairing, Atléti have another Uruguayan in 17-year-old Nicolás Schiappacasse. The youngster — signed by Los Colchoneros when he was 15 — joined Atlético this summer. Although he impressed for his former club River Plate, it’s unlikely that he will be making many minutes in this year’s Champions League.
VERDICT: Atlético Madrid will undoubtedly go far, but won’t make the final again. The semi-finals is where they will be eliminated.
The champions of 2014/2015 are — just like every campaign — among the favourites. Last year, Luis Suárez’ Barcelona was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Godín and Giménez’ Atléti. So the 5-time Champions League winners will be keen to make amends and bring the trophy back to the Camp Nou. With some summer signings, Luis Enrique has added depth to his squad. It’s something Barca were lacking last year and eventually resulted in some tiredness. If tired legs were the result of last year’s knock-out? Probably not. It did, however, have its effect.
VERDICT: Barcelona is the nailed-on frontrunner to win the competition. I even bank on them to do the treble.
The president of PSG — mister Nasser Al-Khelaifi — has one goal; win the Champions League. The highest achievement till now was reaching the quarter-finals. The departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic hasn’t particularly made Al-Khelaifi’s goals more achievable, but a new-look PSG might surprise some. With Edinson Cavani in the No9 position and Lucas and Di Maria playing from the wings, mobility is a given. In the first few games of the season, the current team is surrounded by doubts. However, these doubts might be taken away quickly because PSG’s current set-up has the potential to become unstoppable.
VERDICT: PSG’s Champions League campaign will depend on whether Unai Emery’s team will fulfill their potential or not. If they do, I expect them to make the semi-finals.
PSV — the only Dutch team in the competition — have a future star in their ranks with former Nacional player Gastón Pereiro. Pereiro, Luuk de Jong and Luciano Narsingh complete a front line packed with pace, power and elegance. In general, PSV have a well balanced team with quality in every position.
VERDICT: In spite of having a good squad, the Boeren will be knocked-out in the group stages. Atlético and Bayern München will have the edge.
After five difficult years in England, Sebastián Coates looks to have finally found a home in Portugal. Coates has proven to be a key player in his short stay at the club as he was a vital part of a team that went close to their first league title in 14 years. This season, Sporting will try to continue where they left off last year, and go far in the Champions League. New players like Joel Campbell — on loan from Arsenal — and Lazar Markovic — on loan from Liverpool — can be of big help.
VERDICT: Sporting will have high hopes for the upcoming Champions League campaign, but face a tough test with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in their group. The Europa League is where they will play for after the winter break.
The last of eight Uruguayans is record international Maxi Pereira. The right back will miss Porto’s first few games, though, as he is out with an injury — picked up in the Champions League play-off game vs. AS Roma. When Pereira comes back from injury and makes an appearance, it will be his 80th in Europe. An accomplishment worthy of praise.
VERDICT: I expect Porto to advance to the last sixteen. Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen should give no difficulties. The battle for the No1 spot will be with English champions Leicester City.
Written by David Kraakman.