Champions League 2014-15: The view from the continent

Champions League 2014-15: The view from the continent

16/09/2014 at 00:02Updated

With the 2014-15 Champions League kicking off this week, we polled our team of football experts across the continent to get their take on who they think will win.

GERMANY - Daniel Rathjen

Who will win the Champions League?

Barcelona. The attacking line with Messi, Suarez and Neymar - in addition to Xavi and Iniesta, of course - is frightening. The team is more balanced than last year. They all want to prove that they can win the title again.

Which team will be the surprise package?

Bayer Leverkusen. You may giggle a bit when you've read these lines, but Roger Schmidt's team's start in the Bundesliga has been very successful. In Calhanoglu they have an extraordinary player with fantastic shooting skills and with his invigorating, offensive style he could lead a dash into the semi-finals.

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

AS Roma. Their name is big, the problems they will face in the duels with Man City and Bayern will be bigger.

How many teams from your country will reach the last 16?

Four. We are self-confident in the country of the world champions.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

It will be exciting to see how Real Madrid will perform with their new stars James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos. Hopefully they'll build on their performances at the World Cup. If so, we will enjoy great passes and spectacular goals.

Who will be the star of the show?

Diego Costa. He is the real striker that Mourinho has been missing so far. He harmonises with Fabregas as well. He will benefit from the assists and be the top-scorer in the Champions League by the end.

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ITALY - Luca Stacul

Who will win the Champions League?

Barcelona. Of the top favourites, the Catalan side seems to be the hungriest one, as it’s time for Suarez and Neymar to prove themselves on the European stage. They will need time to find the right chemistry, but they’ll be ready for the crucial part of the competition.

Which team will be the surprise package?

We hope for AS Roma (reaching the last-16 would be a surprise considering the group they have) and Juventus (who would bet on La Vecchia Signora in the semifinals?) but it’s really difficult to think about a “real” surprise: money is the king in European football - and money is highly predictable.

Roma players after beating Fiorentina 

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

Benfica could be in danger: Group C with Leverkusen, Monaco and Zenit seems pretty balanced.

How many teams from your country will reach the last 16?

One. Juventus are strong enough to get there, while AS Roma have been unlucky at the draw: it will be very hard for the Giallorossi against Bayern and Man City.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

Luis Suarez. He already played the competition with Ajax, but now it’s time to demonstrate he’s become a superstar. He will start slowly because of the ban, but he will be there once the goals really matter.

Who will be the star of the show?

Messi and Ronaldo. Who else?

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PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic

SPAIN - Jorge Ordas

Who will win the Champions League?

The big question, because the current champions, Real Madrid, have yet to put in a good performance this season. Barcelona and Bayern have to recover after a painful Champions League in 2013/14. Chelsea are also up with the favourites. As for last season's finalists, Atletico Madrid? Repeating the ‘Cinderella story’ would be very difficult - but with Simeone at the helm, who knows?

Which team will be the surprise package?

After 20 years of failing to get to the semi-finals, this could be PSG's year - and Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be the player who'll get them deep into the tournament.

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

We're not expecting big surprises in the group stage. The only one could be in the Bayern Munich/Manchester City/AS Roma group, where only two of them can be in the last 16.

How many teams from your country will reach the last 16?

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico are favourites in their groups despite their difficult opponents (PSG, Liverpool, Juventus…). Athletic Bilbao have an ‘easy’ group, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to have all four Spanish teams in the last 16.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

Two players: Franck Ribery and Diego Costa. The French player could be the difference between a big year for Bayern Munich and their best year ever. As for Costa, after an amazing season with Atletico Mourinho has landed a great striker - and a player who is simply unstoppable.

Who will be the star of the show?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will be the stars in the Champions League dance once more.

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Chelsea's Diego Costa has started the season in terrific form

RUSSIA - Igor Zelenitsyn

Who will win the Champions League?

Chelsea. They have a dream team without weak spots (at least, it seems so at the moment) and one of the best coaches in Europe (if not the best of those who are in the Champions League this season).

Which team will be the surprise package?

Zenit. They started really well in the Russian league and they have a real team without conflicts for the first time in a long period.

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

AS Romasince FC Bayern Munich and Manchester City are stronger. And Benfica, since Zenit and Leverkusen will be faster.

How many teams from your country will reach the last 16?

One, since it's almost impossible for CSKA to go through in a group containing Bayern, Man City and Roma.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

Francesco Totti and Steven Gerrard. They might not be breaking new ground this season, playing both in domestic and in European competition; but it will be just a beautiful story to see them in the Champions League once again.

Who will be the star of the show?

Diego Costa. It's time for the world's most hated footballer to jump to another level.

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FRANCE - Vincent Brevin

Who will win the Champions League?

Chelsea. I feel they have the most complete team this season, and José Mourinho remains a tactical beast in Champions League football.

Which team will be the surprise package?

Athletic Bilbao players celebrate beating Napoli to reach the group stage

Athletic Bilbao:Their group is definitely not the hardest to go through, and that's a well balanced team, very talented. They proved it in the playoff against a struggling Napoli side. I've also been impressed by FC Porto, but they are used to reach the 2nd round, so it wouldn't be that surprising.

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

AS Roma. One big will go out in Group E with Bayern and Man City, and both teams have a more experienced squad and better individualities than the Italian side.

How many teams from your country will reach the last 16?

One. PSG basically kept a great squad despite FFP sanctions and they proved in the last two seasons that they belong in the top eight in Europe. Monaco are struggling under a new coach and they don't have a European-level team since they lost James and Falcao.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

Cesc Fabregas. José Mourinho uses him the best way at Chelsea, he's already back at a top class level in Premier League, and I'm looking forward to see the same in Europe.

Who will be the star of the show?

Messi-Neymar-Suarez. A three-head star which could be impossible to stop.

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ENGLAND - Alex Chick

Who will win the Champions League?

Bayern Munich. Real, Barcelona and Manchester United might have spent the summer buying attackers, but Bayern’s strength in depth is absolutely incredible – and unparalleled anywhere in Europe.

Who will be the surprise package?

Athletic Bilbao. The Basques landed in the ‘Group of Life’ with a Porto side lacking the quality of old, a Shakhtar Donetsk side playing their home games in Lviv, and perennial proppers-up of tables BATE Borisov. So while you naturally fear Athletic’s squad will buckle under the strain of European football, the path is clear for them to top the group and land a winnable last-16 fixture.

Which big club will go out at the group stage?

Manchester City – again. The skewing of qualifying towards national champions, while admirable in intention, has weakened the group stage such that big guns have got to be either unlucky or incompetent to fall at the first hurdle. City have landed themselves a tough draw - yet again - and while they should still progress along with Bayern, Roma present a serious challenge to their ambitions.

How many English clubs will reach the last 16?

Three.

Which player are you most looking forward to seeing?

This is meant to be the part where we go on about some 19-year-old regista at Maribor. But if the answer to this question isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic, you just don’t know how to have fun.

Who will be the star of the show?

Mario Goetze.Bayern’s squad is so packed with talent it’s nigh-on impossible to know who to choose – but Goetze has started all three of Bayern’s Bundesliga games so far and the early signs are that he’s set to build on his World Cup-winning goal.

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