Chelsea were not considered genuine favourites last season yet shocked everyone by claiming the trophy. So which five teams have emerged as the outsiders for this years competition?
Last year Chelsea won the competition while considered ‘dark horses’ and this year there are several teams who have already emerged as potentially leading a shock campaign in Europe. While Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all been considered favourites from the start which five have made our list of the Champions League’s dark horses.
At the start of the competition they would have been classed as dark horses but now they are certainly not. The Bundesliga champions have some of the most impassioned fans in Europe and have torn apart Real Madrid and Manchester City already in the competition.
Sir Alex Ferguson put Dortmund in the bracket of favourites along with Barcelona and Real Madrid so if the United manager holds fear from the German outfit all managers in Europe should do.
Already qualified for the next stage and once again the dip into the South American market has been highly productive for Dragoes. They lost Hulk, Pereira and Guarin in the summer but the likes of Rodriguez, Martinez and Moutinho make the Portuguese champions serious contenders.
Perhaps the surprise package of the competition so far especially as this summer it seemed as if the world was falling apart around Manuel Pellegrini’s side. With finances failing and star players leaving it seemed staying afloat was their main concern let alone shocking everyone in the Champions League. Unbeaten from the first four games players such as Camacho, Monreal, Caballero, Eliseu and particulary Isco have come to the fore.
Pellegrini led an unfancied Villarreal side to the semi-final in 04-05 and the Chilean looks to be leading a similar renaissance with The Anchovies.
One of the most free-flowing and exciting to watch teams in Europe Shakhtar Donetsk are more than holding their own in a group containing reigning champions Chelsea and Serie A winners Juventus. Mircea Lucescu has continued to develop a side that plays delightful football with full-backs flying forward and centre backs splitting out wide. Fernandinho is the pendulum in the side with Willian, Srna, Mkhitaryan and Luiz Adriano all pivotal in a team that sometimes makes football look like basketball with their end-to-end style.
They haven’t lost a game in almost a year and are currently 100% in the Ukrainian League; plus no team fancies the away tie at the Donbass Arena.
One weak link is their keeper Pyatov. While comfortable with the ball at his feet with his hands he often seems flappy and inconsistent but apart from that they seem the complete team who should not be underestimated.
It pains me to say this as more a follower of the blue side of Glasgow but Celtic have to be considered in the section of dark horses after their heroics against Barcelona both home and away. If the two games formed a two-legged tie the aggregate score would have been 3-3. They have several players of real quality in Victor Wanyama, Mikael Lustig and Efe Ambrose while Fraser Forster looks a class goalkeeper.
They still have the tricky task of outmanoeuvring Spartak Moscow in the race for qualification but after beating Barca the Scottish side will hold no fear.
Who do you think are this seasons Champions League dark horses?
image: © wuestenigel