Champions League Preview – The Dark Horses

According the bookies, the side picking up the title of kings of Europe is likely to come from one of the following; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Here we identify four sides who will carry visions of upsetting the apple cart.


Beaten by eventual champions Munich last term, Juve will be hopeful of reaching the closing stages and beyond this term. Despite retaining the Serie A crown last season there was a feeling that the Old Lady lacked a genuine goalscorer – their highest scorer hit just ten goals, despite them finishing as the joint second highest scorers of the division.

Aware of their striking problems, Antonio Conte has added Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, two players who have over the years more than proved themselves as goal-scorers. The Argentine in particular has the ability to be a twenty goal a season man and if Conte can succeed where Roberto Mancini failed in getting him playing at his peak, then their striker issues should fade.

Juve possess quite possibly the strongest backline in European football, whilst their midfield is packed with talent galore – with Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and the ever improving Paul Pogba some of the standout names they can call on in this area. Given they have such strong resources everywhere besides the forward positions, If Tevez or Llorente can recreate their best form in Turin then Juventus look well set to mount a serious push towards Europe’s biggest prize.


It might be a little disrespectful to class PSG in this group, but nevertheless there are few rating their chances along the big English and Spanish sides.

There are, of course, reasons for that and in many ways the argument towards PSG challenging is not quite as lucid as it would be for say Juventus or Dortmund – with the exit of Carlo Ancelotti likely to severely hit their chances. Laurent Blanc does not generate the same authority, with his indifferent recent results highlighting why some have questioned his appointment.

That said, any side containing the talent the Parisians can call on should not be dismissed – few teams can boast the firepower that Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic provide. Take into account the clear quality they have throughout the rest of the side and it’s hard not to view PSG as potential winners.

Borussia Dortmund

Despite being runners up in 2012 and surprisingly retaining the squad that got them that far, not many people are talking about Dortmund as possible winners.

It was expected that much of their successful squad of recent years would move on this summer, yet the likes of Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundagon and Marco Rues have all been retained. Further to that their commander in chief Jurgen Klopp also remains in the club – continuity which could a real advantage given that of the favourites mentioned above all have experienced a change of manager.

If that was not enough to thrust Dortmund into the reckoning then the signings of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should do. The former was the stand out player of Ligue 1 last season and the early indications are that adjusting to German life has not proved a problem, whilst the latter is a real coup given that several top clubs in Europe have been chasing him. Both of these players should add an extra goal threat to Dortmund – and add these improvements to an already excellent squad and they look genuine contenders again.


Whilst the other sides mentioned here can only be very loosely classed as dark horses, Napoli are probably the darkest of outside horses.

That said, they are a side that nobody will relish the prospect of facing, whilst in Rafael Benitez they have appointed a manager with an impressive track record in European competition. Edinson Cavani may have moved on, and although Napoli were always unlikely to replace their favourite son, the signing of Gonzalo Higuin is a good of a replacement that they could have hoped for.

Besides the departure of the Uruguayan, the core of the squad that finished second in Serie A remain including the influential and underrated Marek Hamsik. Along with this Benetiz has also added a greater depth to the squad, including Dries Mertens and Pepe Reina.

It would be foolish to suggest Napoli should be amongst the fancied sides to lift the crown, nevertheless they are certainly a side to keep an eye on.