Why Real Madrid or Barcelona Are Most Likely Champions League Winner

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Ibrahim Afellay of FC Barcelona (C) lifts the trophy in celebration after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

No football club has retained the Champions League since Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan won back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

In fact, no country has even managed two winners in a row since then either.

Long gone are the days when the Netherlands could produce four straight winners (70-73), followed by three successive German winners (74-76) and then six English sides lifting Europe's highest accolade in a row (77-82).

The competition seems much more balanced now, more competitive—the last four winners have all come from different countries. This, despite the fact that some of the Continent's top leagues can have up to four sides competing for the prize.

These stats, possibly promiscuously misleading, suggest that Bayern Munich—arguably the best side in Europe at the moment—are unlikely to follow up last season's Wembley final victory with similar glory in Lisbon next May under Josep Guardiola.

Alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid, the German treble winners account for six of the last eight semifinalists; the Spanish sides six of the last 12 as well. The trio will be three favorites ahead of the the 2013/14 Champions League, and if the curse of retaining the trophy remains strong, Real and Barca may be ready to swoop.

Both La Liga clubs, having reached the semifinals for the last three seasons, could fit into the wounded animal category.

Barcelona were humiliated by Bayern and will be keen to return to the top of Europe's tree. Neymar's arrival to be paired with Lionel Messi gives them one of football's most feared front lines, but a defender is still required to address the shortcomings which led to conceding seven against the Bavarians over two legs.

New manager Gerardo Martino is untested outside of South America, but his fresh point of view and desire to prove a point should carry La Blaugrana through to the latter stages at least.

Inland from Barcelona, Real Madrid look set to pose a real threat to the hegemony which Bayern are looking to establish under Guardiola—sound familiar?

Madrid are also under the guise of a new manager, except theirs has Champions League pedigree. Carlo Ancelotti twice won the tournament with AC Milan, also leading the Italians to a final and a semifinal. The 54-year-old came unstuck twice with Chelsea, both times losing to the eventual winners, and was unfortunate to see his PSG side knocked out by Barcelona in last season's quarterfinal on away goals.

Aside from Ancelotti, Los Blancos have heavily invested in their squad. The mercurial Isco has arrived from Malaga, right-back Dani Carvajal seems set to end Alvaro Arbeloa's reign in the side and Asier Illarramendi, signed from Real Sociedad, will add more than just depth in the middle of the park.

They've also retained the bulk of their squad, allowing fringe players to leave for substantial amounts of cash. And it seems they might not be done yet, with that cash possibly to be invested in Luis Suarez, as reported by The Express, or Gareth Bale, according to The Daily Mail.

Of course there's La Decima too, the sooner that 10th European title is wrapped up, the better for everyone.

Bayern will start as obvious favorites, but once you're on that pedestal you're there to be hit at. With points to prove, Barcelona and Real Madrid represent the most likely candidates to lift the Champions League in 2014.