The Champions League may be over following Bayern Munich's win over PSG in Sunday's final, but the next edition is already underway with qualifying. Twenty-six out of the 32 group stage teams are already known, with qualification coming from domestic leagues and continental champs. The group stage will officially begin in October, with giants of Europe set to battle it out again for the biggest prize in world club soccer.
Before the we even get to the group stage draw on Oct. 1, here is how every group stage participant stacks up.
The champs. Strongest team in Europe and as dominant as any. Became first club to finish UCL with a perfect record. Favorites next season.
The talent is there to win the tournament next season, but the finishing will have to be sharper. What will Mauro Icardi's role be?
|3.||Liverpool||--||They'll be hungry for continental success again after their shock round of 16 exit to Atletico Madrid. They could boost an already stacked squad.|
UCL or bust yet again for Pep Guardiola's side. Further investment in defense may be needed to have another chance.
Los Blancos will surely add some fire power to this squad, and they'll be a contender as usual when that happens.
This squad is loaded and only getting better. Keeping Jadon Sancho means they could have a deep run ala RB Leipzig.
This squad is aging, and the window is closing. Andrea Pirlo is in as manager to take this team to glory. Must improve defensively.
The Blues have had the best offseason of any team in Europe. It might be too early to call them contenders, but they are capable of a semifinal run ... if they get a goalkeeper.
More questions than answers at this point for Ronald Koeman's side.? ? How different will this team look?
The Red Devils are an interesting team if they can boost their squad. As it stands, they are probably just a round of 16 team at most.
After a magical run to the semifinals, they'll be hungry as ever to repeat it. They are going to need a star striker to have that happen.
Los Colchoneros are always a strong UCL team built to make a run. But the below-average attack needs a jolt of something.
Inter may have a new coach come next season, and if it is Massimo Allegri, watch out. The quality is there to get very far, as long as they get out of their own way.
The team that captivated hearts in their first edition of the tournament. Many big European sides will target their players. If they hold on, they can do it again.
The giant French club is back in UCL, and it just feels right. Andre Villas-Boas' team has serious quality and the cohesion to make noise.
This isn't the Ajax of two season's ago, but there is some special talent in this side. Replacing Hakim Ziyech might be impossible though.
Europa League champs who already qualified through La Liga. They aren't a contender, but they can get through the group stage.
A high-scoring, fun team to watch who are deservedly back in the competition. If Ciro Immobile keeps up his fantastic form, they'll have a shot of advancing.
Portuguese champs with a fantastic defense. Agustin Marchesin is a top goalkeeper who can make the difference in a competition like this.
Gladbach are a strong team with some serious talent, and Yann Sommer is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the world. They have quarterfinal potential.
Russia's top team have a bunch of South American talent that you've just got to watch. Combined with the striker partnership of Artem Dzyuba and Sardar Azmoun, they are dangerous.
A huge drop off from Zenit, but Lokomotiv are competitive. A team perfectly fit to drop into Europa League and make a run.
They have European experience, went from 10th place in Ligue 1 to third and show a unity unlike other teams. Keep an eye on them.
The Turkish champs didn't show well in the Europa League when it mattered most, but with Demba Ba turning back the clock, they could surprise in the group stage.
Europa League semifinalists that just didn't show up when it mattered most. Loaded with Brazilian talent, they can get out of the group stage if they can keep their top players.
It will always be hard for a team like Club Brugge, but Simon Mignolet has experience in this competition and the leadership to help the young guys around him. Expected to exit in the group stage.