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Chelsea, Manchester United…can any of them realistically challenge?

Bayern Munich

“Football, bloody hell.” Alex Ferguson’s famous line is befitting of most things in the game: Chelsea’s Champions League triumph, Bayern’s annihilation of Barcelona, Lionel Messi in general.

The Premier League won’t like to admit defeat, even if the game is up. But Bayern Munich’s destruction of the (former?) best team in the world wasn’t something European football was about to ignore quickly. It seems, going into next season, that the Champions League is Bayern’s to lose and absolutely no one, whether from England, Spain or Italy, is about to stop them.

It’s also funny that this huge shift of power (cue Sky Sports) has pushed Chelsea’s victory in the Champions League to the recesses of the mind, almost as if that unbelievable night in Munich was an age ago.

And it’s not that the Premier League is particularly weak at the moment. Is Jose Mourinho not one of the top two or three managers in Europe? Look at the impact he made at Real Madrid in the Champions League. Sure, there are no trophies for reaching the semifinals, but it’s far, far better than what the club did in the years prior to his arrival.

More so, the spending capabilities of Manchester City, and their appointment of a manager who’s a bit good in Europe compared to his predecessor, makes them a good shout. Arsenal are always in there, and their summer spending should make them a decent threat too.

But no club in England quite has it from top to bottom in the way Bayern does. And that “it factor” wasn’t lost on Barcelona, either. The Catalans had the quality in abundance to triumph convincingly over Manchester United, both in Rome and in London. And the thing about the Champions League is that when there isn’t an obvious winner – a team who have that otherworldly aura like Pep’s Barcelona or this current Bayern – it just comes down to whoever has luck riding beside them for the whole journey.

Inter Milan of 2009-10 were a fantastic team, and maybe in hindsight they were always going to win the European Cup. The Barcelona of that year had something of a hangover from the prior season, despite picking up the La Liga title again, while the Bayern who Inter met in the final at the Bernabeu were a far cry from this current monster.

Then there’s Chelsea’s win and that thing about lady luck attaching herself to a club when there is no obvious winner. Real Madrid had quite clearly exhausted all their efforts in wrestling the La Liga title away from Barcelona; Bayern Munich didn’t have the attention to detail as they did last season, notably with Jupp Heynckes adjusting his managerial approach and creating a greater sense of belief among the entire squad; Barcelona, well as good as they can be, games like the semifinal at the Camp Nou are one of those inexplicable occurrences in sport.

Even the Premier League’s flag bearer in Manchester United haven’t come close in a few years to putting together a team that can legitimately challenge the best in Europe. That isn’t likely to change this season either, as David Moyes will head into his maiden season in the Champions League proper and is almost guaranteed to come unstuck at some stage.

In every case with the three teams who are in the hat for the group stages plus Arsenal, who have to navigate the qualifying round, there is a clear weakness that prevents an obvious charge against the power from Bavaria. The fact that Bayern have changed managers along with many other clubs around Europe is trivial at best. I know, and I’d hope the sensible ones understand that preseason games are as meaningless as anything you can get, but Bayern don’t look jaded, ill-equipped or lacking in focus and intensity. If they continue on in the same manner then they’re still the team that only lost three domestic games in the whole of last season.

Can any of the Premier League’s best match Bayern Munich in the Champions League?

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Article title: Chelsea, Manchester United…can any of them realistically challenge?

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