We’re on the eve of the new football season for teams across Europe. Already. How did that come around so fast?
The summer break, heavily truncated by the FIFA World Cup, is already all but over, with Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco contesting the Trophees des Champions on Saturday and Chelsea playing Manchester City in the Community Shield on Sunday.
From there, the football will begin flowing thick and fast; the Premier League and Ligue 1 will start the following weekend, then La Liga and Serie A will follow the weekend after that.
Here Bleacher Report picks out 10 teams you simply have to find time to watch this season. It ranges from reigning champions to newly promoted sides, featuring narratives that are set to intrigue or squads that could do something special.
1 of 10
Even if you’re more Team Messi than Team Ronaldo, you won’t be able to help but tune in to see the beginning of this new chapter for Cristiano Ronaldo.
His circa £105 million transfer sent shock waves through the footballing world. Rumours that were easily dismissed at first rapidly spiralled into something real.
On the eve of the World Cup semi-finals, CR7 was announced as The Old Lady’s newest charge. Jaws dropped everywhere.
Ronaldo’s arrival, plus the signings of Joao Cancelo and Leonardo Bonucci’s return, which Juve confirmed on Thursday, puts the Italian champions squarely in the frame to win the UEFA Champions League in 2019…and gives the Portuguese forward a chance to secure four titles in a row.
2 of 10
Arguably just as interesting as a Cristiano Ronaldo-powered Juventus is a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid. How will they tackle the issue of his departure? How will this remoulded Blancos side look? Who will step up for new manager Julen Lopetegui and fill the void?
It could be Gareth Bale’s time to shine; it might be the trigger Karim Benzema needs to score more goals; it might require £200 million of investment; heck, it could even pave the way for Vinicius Junior to prove his £39.6 million transfer fee right!
Questions, questions, questions. Real Madrid promise to be a dramatic ride this term.
3 of 10
Staying in La Liga, and it’s hard not to notice Atletico Madrid have had quite the transfer window. With Real Madrid weaker post-Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona recovering from the loss of Andres Iniesta, the 10-1 odds for an Atleti title win, per Oddschecker, seem pretty attractive.
This could easily be the most potent, exciting Colchoneros side we’ve seen in some time. With the wings retooled thanks to Gelson Martins and Thomas Lemar, plus Antoine Griezmann retained and the back five as solid as ever, they feel a complete side and as strong as they have been in years.
4 of 10
Jurgen Klopp’s put himself under the microscope with his decision to spend big this summer. Now he must show why he did it, and the only way to do so is to challenge for the Premier League title.
It’s crucial to note the Reds have signed excellent players—three of whom are among the best in their respective positions. This is no Everton-style splurge on Gylfi Sigurdsson or Richarlison; it’s three world-class signings who improve the starting XI by a distance.
The group needs to come together swiftly and show its best early. No one is expecting Manchester City to do anything other than continue winning games every week, so Liverpool must do the same. No slip-ups allowed.
5 of 10
Flitting back over to Italy and keeping with the theme of incredible transfer windows, Inter Milan have emerged as the most likely side to challenge Juventus for the Serie A title this season.
Excellent additions in defence, midfield and attack have padded out Luciano Spalletti’s squad and improved its quality. They qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the 2017-18 campaign, allowing them to attract top talent, and they have used that pull effectively.
Will a Spalletti-Radja Nainggolan reunion bring the best out of the latter? Will Lautaro Martinez bring even more out of Mauro Icardi? Does the club finally have a full-back pairing it can depend on? The answer to all three of these questions feels like yes, and that sets them up for a tremendous campaign.
6 of 10
If Napoli’s performances over the previous two or three seasons are anything to go by—and Empoli’s before that—then Chelsea are must-watch material now they’ve hired Maurizio Sarri as manager.
The Italian coach’s teams produce beautiful, quick, passing football. He moulds players, unlocking abilities they never knew they had.
Bringing Jorginho over from Napoli in tandem with Sarri was a smart move by the Blues; in doing so, they installed arguably the most important piece the manager requires: the signal-controlling central midfielder.
Chelsea will be an intriguing watch early because we will see who gets Sarri’s system and who doesn’t. There will be a combination of wondrous passages of play and costly errors.
As the players find their groove and acclimatise, we can expect football ecstasy on a weekly basis. Why wouldn’t you tune in for that?
7 of 10
Since Quique Setien was appointed as manager of Real Betis in 2017, they have been a superb watch.
Not only that, but they have tied great football with big results, beating Sevilla and Real Madrid away from home last season en route to sixth. That earned them UEFA Europa League football for 2017-18.
The summer’s brought more change than Setien would likely have wished for; usual starters Antonio Adan, Fabian Ruiz and Riza Durmisi have departed, necessitating six signings that include Portugal international William Carvalho and Japan hero Takashi Inui. But no matter who plays for them, Setien’s presence guarantees good football.
How they tackle multiple competitions will be interesting.
8 of 10
Fulham provided the slickest, most aesthetically pleasing dose of football available in the Championship last season. How that translates to the Premier League is an intriguing proposition.
Among their ranks, they have some superb players, including 18-year-old Ryan Sessegnon—the first player from outside the top tier to be shortlisted for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
His growth, along with the fortunes of transfer coups Jean Michael Seri and Aleksandar Mitrovic and how the club’s football template holds up against better opposition, will be well worth watching.
9 of 10
Whenever you watch Lyon, you are likely to be watching at least five players whose futures lie at the top level. They are a production machine when it comes to talent.
This season, there’s a deluxe array of young stars from OL to keep tabs on, including but not limited to Houssem Aouar, Tanguy Ndombele, Martin Terrier and Ferland Mendy. All four have top shelf-potential.
There are also some more established players who are still trying to carve out their own path to the summit, such as Memphis Depay and Bertrand Traore. Oh, and World Cup-winner Nabil Fekir is the captain.
Opting to watch Lyon is a little hipster, but doing so arms you with knowledge of probable Real Madrid and Barcelona targets in the years to come.
10 of 10
Just how effective is a Jorge Mendes-led transfer window in the Premier League? We are about to find out.
Common consensus places Wolverhampton Wanderers as top-half contenders despite the fact they have only just returned to English football’s top flight.
Their transfer work has been incredibly strong, and their on-paper squad is far superior to many who retained their spots in the division last season. They have made a series of loans permanent, including Diogo Jota’s and Willy Boly’s, and they’ve added Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and Jonny to that haul.
Wolves were widely perceived to be a Premier League-quality team playing in the Championship last season. Now that they are even better, expectations have soared.