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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

PSG are obsessed with Champions League success

Liverpool strong contenders for European glory

Kylian Mbappe and PSG teammates celebrate a Champions League goal
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Paris St-Germain Thomas Tuchel
The Champions League remains an obsession for Paris St-Germain and Thomas Tuchel is the latest manager charged with bringing European glory to the Qatari-backed dominant French title winners.

Last term's exit at the hands of Real Madrid was the sixth successive season when PSG failed to go beyond the quarter-finals and financial the fair play restrictions following last summer's world-record signing of Neymar are beginning to take a grip.

Kylian Mbappe's loan deal from Monaco was made permanent and the teenage superstar lining up alongside Neymar and Edinson Cavani in a mouthwatering front three suggests PSG are primed in the final third to have a serious crack at winning the Champions League.

The doubt regards the suitability of other areas of the squad and a strange transfer policy saw Gigi Buffon, Thilo Kehrer, Eric Choupo-Moting and Juan Bernat arrive, none of whom arguably improve PSG's best starting 11.

Tuchel has tinkered tactically early in his tenure and whether he can find the right balance will determine PSG's fate.


Napoli Carlo Ancelotti
No team will consider themselves more unfortunate than Napoli to have ended last season without a trophy after they finished second in Serie A with 91 points - the most ever accumulated by non-champions.

Napoli's irritation at always just missing out under coach Maurizio Sarri saw limelight-grabbing film-producer chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis make a change. Carlo Ancelotti is the Hollywood arrival charged with taking the Partenopei to the next level.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times but still has much to prove after being bombed out by Bayern Munich with some suggesting the 59-year-old is past his best.

Sarri's silky football will be almost impossible to replicate, particularly as playmaker Jorginho followed his boss to Chelsea, while first-choice keeper Pepe Reina also looks as if he will prove difficult to replace, at least in the short term.

Napoli may struggle to get out of a difficult group, although that should not be a huge surprise as they have only the fifth biggest wage bill in Serie A of just €94m.

Liverpool Jurgen Klopp
Jose Mourinho declared Arsene Wenger a "specialist in failure" and maybe Jurgen Klopp could be known as a specialist in losing finals.

Klopp went so close to bringing a sixth European Cup to Liverpool last season but instead it became a sixth straight final loss for the German, who was the ringmaster of a thrilling show as his front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah helped to rack up a competition-record goal tally of 47.

Ultimately, however, Klopp's faith in inconsistent goalkeeper Loris Karius proved to be costly as the calamity cat produced two howlers in the final to hand Real Madrid the trophy.

Klopp is not aiming to make the same mistake again and Liverpool have signed excellently this summer, upgrading Karius for Brazil's number one Alisson, and improving the midfield significantly thanks to the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita.

Sooner rather than later Klopp is going to bring some silverware to Anfield and Liverpool are Champions League contenders.

Red Star Belgrade Vladan Milojevic
Champions of Europe in 1991, Red Star Belgrade have not played in the premier club competition since unsuccessfully trying to retain the trophy in the following season which was the last before the Champions League era.

Therefore it was no surprise that qualifying was such a big deal for the Serbian champions, who took 10,000 supporters to Salzburg to witness a remarkable turnaround from 2-0 down as Red Star came through on away goals to jubilant scenes in the away end.

Red Star have quite rightly been given little chance of progressing but that is hardly the point given that Vladan Milojevic's outfit started their European campaign before the World Cup finished.

Spartaks, Suduva, Spartak Trnava and, more impressively Europa League semi-finalists Salzburg, have been overcome and the finances generated combined through player sales have enabled Red Star to bring in Marko Marin and re-sign Ghanaian goal machine Richmond Boakye, who notched 27 times in 30 league matches before an ill-fated move to China.

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Sooner rather than later Klopp is going to bring some silverware to Anfield
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