2018/19 Champions League preview: Real Madrid turnover, Juventus intent
The 2018/19 campaign may be a watershed for UEFA. Signs portend the dawn of a new era. The continental federation awarded Luka Modric its best player award, recently. FIFA may follow suit, bestowing the Ballon d'Or on a player not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time in a decade.
The Portuguese goal machine made a significant change himself, moving from Real Madrid to Juventus. He needed time to open his Serie A scoring account before finally delivering a brace this weekend in a 2-1 victory over Sassuolo, finding his stroke just in time for the Champions League.
His departure leaves a void in La Liga filled by three questions.
- Can Real Madrid continue to dominate Europe without him?
- While Messi has the Primera Division to himself, will he produce as abundantly without his rival spurring him on?
- Will people be as impressed if he does?
First, it's difficult to see Real Madrid carrying on and winning a fourth consecutive Champions League without Ronaldo and manager Zinedine Zidane, who departed earlier in the summer. That said, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio are flourishing now that the squad isn't always looking to feed CR7. Julen Lopetegui lacks Zizou's gravitas but is nevertheless a capable tactician.
Second, Messi will produce. Ffs, ask Huesca how foolish that question is.
Third, whether neutrals will be impressed if Barcelona runs away with La Liga is debatable. The best Bond movies are the ones with great villains, aren't they? never mind that Javier Bardem is an avid Barcelona supporter.
I'd offer clearer answers, but I had waffles for breakfast.
Another question will be asked in Italy. Does Ronaldo's arrival herald Juventus' return to Europe's peak? It just might.
Here's a look at all eight groups in the competition and what to expect from each in the group stages.