Europe’s most interesting clubs to watch this season .
Leverkusen – Bayer Leverkusen will certainly be a team to watch this season because of their change of management. Over the summer, the team hired Roger Schmidt to replace Sami Hyypia . Roger Schmidt is seen as arguably one of the best young coaches in the game already because of his exploits with Austrian team Red Bull Salzburg. Tactically , he prefers to play an intensive pressing game accompanied with quick attacking transitions. Additionally , the club has bolstered their squad with a few new additions such as Josip Drmic ( formerly of Nuremberg) and Hakan Calhanoglu (formerly of Schalke) . These signings are the most notable because these players performed extremely well last season. Leverkusen are playing today for their place in the Champions League if anyone is interested in watching them. I can guarantee you that as this team continues to grow and learn under Schmidt , they will be a forced to be reckoned with; Dortmund are one of the first teams who have become aware of this.
Red Bull Salzburg- I just had to mention this team. With the departure of their former manager Schmidt , everyone is eager to see if this team can replicate their exploits of last season . They have been able to retain most of their players that were integral to the system and so we might still be able to see aspects of their style . Additionally , Ralf Ragnick who is their sporting director, instilled his vision and structure into the club from the moment he was hired . This essentially means that he is a strong advocate of pressing and it is evident through all levels of RB Salzburg football club. So in essence , we should not worry about the style of Salzburg changing too much because of the departure of their former manager. Also , today, Salzburg will look to qualify for the Champions League if anyone is interested in watching this club.
Liverpool – With the departure of their talisman and the aesthetic football they played last season, Liverpool must be a team to watch this season. The departure of Luis Suarez is a big loss for Liverpool but Liverpool have bolstered their squad quite nicely. They now have more team depth which will help them throughout the season in the respective competitions they have to participate it . This is especially important because this season will be more arduous and tedious for them since they now have Champions League games to play. However, it is not like this team has never played in the Champions League before. My concerns for this team are if they will be able to replicate their performances from last season and if this team is experienced enough to win games in the Champions League. This summer, Liverpool have signed the likes of : Lallana , Lambert, Origi (headed back on loan to Lille) , Can, Manquillo, Moreno , Lovren and Balotelli . This team has become even more interesting because they have acquired Mario Balotelli . It will be interesting to see if he has matured and how he will perform for Liverpool.
FC Porto - I honestly think FC Porto are a connoisseur of the transfer market. The way they consistently acquire talented players on the cheap and sell them for very large profits , arouses me greatly. One club that I know who are not suffering or complying to player value inflation is Porto . They handle their transfers so effectively and sensibly. I wish bigger clubs would replicate such a modus operandi. Additionally, they also have an effective youth system that allows them to produce players that are able to play for the first team. In this summer transfer window, they have been able to acquire many talents such as Adrian, Evandro , Brahimi , Aboubakar, Tello and Bruno Martins Indi. Although they have lost the likes of Managala and Fernando who were integral to their past teams, they have reinvested the remuneration wisely. Their manager seems to have like young players and so has vested his trust and faith in young players such as Ruben Neves and Oliver Torres by giving them game time early in the season. The transfers that have been made, have definitely supplemented the team and you can expect to see Porto perform well domestically and intercontinentally .
Real Madrid – They will be an interesting team to watch because they will look to defend their Champions League and also seek to perform domestically. Moreover, the acquisitions of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez have also made them a team to watch because it is yet to seen whether they have disrupted or at least distorted the tactical aspects of this team. The midfield balance will surely need to be fixed with the loss of Di Maria and because of his departure , the whole scheme of things might change. Believe it or not ,he was the switch that made the light bulb bright ; he was the lynchpin of the system and when a team has such a monumental departure , things will need to be shifted and changed.
Barcelona – I honestly liked their transfer market activities this summer. They have finally solved their centre back crisis and bolstered their weakest positional area , they have brought fresh legs to the midfield and a player who adds a different dimension to their game in Rakitic and also have made one of the biggest signings of the summer with the acquisition of Luis Suarez . Luis Suarez will also add another dimension to their attack which I thought had lost its sharpness/effectiveness over the last two years. The transfer embargo has certainly made them spend this sort of money this window and it has also made them a team to watch for next season also . It will be interesting to see if Barcelona or Real will be able to steal the title from the the mighty and fortitudinous Atletico Madrid.
Juventus - I think this will be an interesting team to watch solely because of their managerial change. Allegri has been introduced without a full preseason and so he may be at a disadvantage. It will be hard for him to replicate the exploits of Conte at Juve because tactically , there is a great distinction between the two. Even from a man- management perspective , there is a great discrepancy . They have made a few acquisitions but none as notable as other clubs. However, Morata is a good acquisition and he has plenty of potential and Patrice Evra is highly experienced. We will see if Juventus can retain their Scudetto crown and actually perform well in Europe this season.
Roma - Roma are quite similar to Liverpool in the ways that they have both placed second in their respective leagues and are now in the Champions League for the first time in a while . Additionally , both teams played aesthetically pleasing football in the process of their exploits. They have added depth to their squad also for the extended season they will play. Although they are performing in the Champions League, Roma will look to capitalize on Juventus’ transitional period and Napoli’s inconsistency in the league. I especially like their reinforcements because they are a hybrid of experienced players in addition to young players with potential . Of course many are waiting to see if Liverpool and Roma will suffer a negative fate and regress in their domestic leagues because of more commitments.
Inter – I have mentioned Inter because I believe they can make an interesting push for a CL spot this year even though they have the likes of Udinese and Fiorentina to compete against. Honestly , they really haven’t spent much money this summer but they have acquired some interesting players on loans such as M’Vila and Osvaldo . I must admit that I have not seen them play a preseason game this summer but even so, most of the times , these games don’t give a fair insight on what will transpire in the forthcoming season.
Lazio - This team has been mentioned not because of their transfer exploits but because of the smorgasbord of young players that might possibly have a wonderful season for this club. We might see the promotion of Cataldi, Elez and Minala in the first team this season. These youngsters have performed very well for the primavera side and might just get their chance to perform on the grander stage. Keita is already in the First Team set up and will be an exciting player to watch like last season. Lazio underperformed last season and honestly , I can only see them marginally improving this season. However, they do have interesting and talented players like Klose, Candreva and Anderson .
Atletico Madrid – Many thought that after such an unbelievable season and early transfer departures that Atelti would regress. However, they have not shown any signs so far of the regression that we thought we would see. They have already beaten Real Madrid to lift the Super Copa and looked quite impressive despite not looking fully gelled. The transfers they have made as a result of their departures have also been nothing short of brilliant and coherent with the acquisition of pressing machine Mario Mandzukic , young and talented winger Griezmann and talented striker Raul Jimenez . The only issue I thought that they would have is the lack of options and depth in the centre midfield if anyone gets injured; neither Tiago nor Gabi are getting younger and it may be a problem if any of those two get injured despite the presence of Suarez and Koke. Additionally, they are one of the most interesting teams because they arguably have one of the best coaches in the world in Diego Simeone. He has been nothing but amazing for this club . Players and others talk about the “12th man “ but I sincerely believe there are 13 for Atletico; he manages the game and watches game as if he is playing alongside his team. His ability to organize his team so well tactically and motivate them is unrivaled and preeminent.
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