Another season of exciting Champions League football begins, where Europe’s elite clubs battle it out on the big stage, all with an eye on the ultimate prize.
However, this year could well be different.
Not only are the big clubs proving to be unpredictable once again, but Manchester City, under Pep Guardiola, are beginning to look like at team that could be a real threat in this competition.
Still, what will be most different about this year is the fact that Leicester City, shock Premier League Champions last season, have the opportunity to defy the odds and re-write any previous rules once again.
In a reasonably accessible group, the Foxes could surprise everyone again.
Back in the Premier League, it seems as if many opponents have worked them out, they’ve cracked their daring code. But it could be very different against European opposition.
Against Club Brugge, Kobenhavn and Porto, Ranieri’s men will try to surprise opponents that are all beatable, and if they can get through the group, they relish being against the odds, so anything is possible.
Will opponents no exactly what they are facing aswell as Premier League teams do? Will they be complacent? We don’t know, but if so, that would really work in Vardy and co.’s favour.
Moving on to the other groups, group A features both PSG and Arsenal, in what could be a mouth-watering clash, whilst Basel and Ludogorets will have a tough task on their hands if they are to progress.
PSG have had their eyes on winning this competition for a long time, and will accept nothing less than the semi-finals from new boss Unai Emery after years of domestic success accompanied by European failure.
Last season, despite a clean sweep of the French Super Cup, French League Cup, French Cup and Ligue 1, Luarent Blanc was still axed after falling to Manchester City in the quarter finals of this competition.
As for Arsenal, they will once again have to battle against a European heavyweight in their group.
This time out, they will hope to win the group to avoid a team like Barcelona (who they faced last season) in the round of 16, but with the French champions about, they could struggle.
Still, if they do manage to achieve top spot, anything is possible – in what could be Arsene Wenger’s farewell season, Champions League success would be perfect.
Napoli and Benfica will be favourites in group B whilst Manchester City find themselves up against Barcelona in group C, with Pep Guardiola facing his former club.
Last time Pep took on his old side, a Leo Messi inspired Barca brushed them aside 3-0 in the first leg, and despite Pep’s Bayern managing to win 3-2 in the return leg, the Spaniard had been defeated.
This time, with a strong squad of competitive talent at his disposal, he could get revenge, especially after City’s dazzling start to the season has got the entire half of Manchester on his side.
As for Barca themselves, a deeper squad could take them past last season’s quarter final stage as they fell to eventual finalists Atletico Madrid, and the ‘Azulgranas’ will of course be main challengers once again.
With group D boasting both Atletico and Bayern, aswell as group A containing both PSG and Arsenal, group C containing both Barcelona and Manchester City and group F containing Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, there is a possibility for some epic clashes in the round of 16 stage, where big teams could be eliminated, possibly paving the way for teams like Leicester to once again do the impossible.
Spurs have a winnable group, but are unlikely to reach the latter stages of the tournament – they’re not quite at that level yet.
It wouldn’t be surprising for them to keep progressing until they meet one of the big teams, (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico etc.) they will just have to hope that the draw is kind to the them, should they get through their group.
Champions Real Madrid should be favourites for group F, whilst Borussia Dortmund should follow them in second place.
After a great start to his managerial career, this year we will really see what Zinedine Zidane is made of – but we wouldn’t dare try to predict Real Madrid of course.
Finally, group H features Juventus, Lyon, Sevilla and Dinamo Zagreb, with Juventus as clear favourites leading Lyon and Sevilla to battle it out for second, whilst Dinamo Zagreb will probably be happy with third if they can scrape it, as that would mean Europa League knockout stage qualification.
So, will Real Madrid win again, or will Barca take their trophy back? Will Bayern claim the title, or can PSG finally crack Europe? Or, will Leicester prove us all wrong again?