The Champions League season last season ended in dramatic fashion, with Real Madrid just pipping Liverpool in the final to lift their 14th European crown. Only a few months later and the 2022/23 Champions League season has already seen a few early qualification stages as teams try to book a spot in the competition to come.
The upcoming campaign is expected to be a nail-biting affair because of the quality of teams on display. While much of the spotlight will be on last season’s finalists and the likes of PSG, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and “elite teams” as such, the Champions League has proven to be an unpredictable one in recent years.
Over the last few seasons, there have been one or two under-the-radar, relatively “small” sides pulling off upsets or going deep into the knockout stages. Last season, it was Villarreal who wrote the ultimate underdog story, knocking out Bayern Munich and Juventus to reach the semifinals.
There is a strong possibility that such an “underdog” team will rise up and be this season’s surprise packages. Here are 3 teams that could be poised to do just that.
Tottenham Hotspur can pull off major shocks in Champions League
Now, Tottenham Hotspur are in no way a “minnow,” but they remain underdogs when it comes to a competition like the Champions League. Spurs enjoyed a dream run in the competition back in the 2018/19 season, getting all the way to the final. Next season, they aim to repeat that miracle.
Antonio Conte is still looking for success in Europe, but if able to get Spurs into the last stages of the competition, that itself would be a great achievement. Spurs have made some solid summer signings (Yves Bissouma, Richarlison, Ivan Perisic) that will strengthen an already-strong squad and help fix issues of concern.
Knowing Conte’s disciplinary attitude and impressive tactics, Tottenham can trouble the major sides. As long as their “world-class” attacking players like Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min perform in the clutch, Spurs can pull off some upsets and reach the semifinals or even the finals of the Champions League.
Sevilla: latest La Liga underdogs to excel in Champions League?
Sevilla have earned themselves a bit of a reputation for being the “kings of the Europa League,” having won the competition four times in the last decade. However, Julen Lopetegui’s side will now aim to get rid of the “B-show dominators” tag to prove themselves in the biggest European competition.
Sevilla actually has a solid, balanced team that can play with any big team on their day. Lopetegui is a smart, cunning manager who has turned “Los Rojiblancos” into a well-drilled unit that was actually in the La Liga title race for most of last season. The likes of Papu Gomez, Lucas Ocampos and Youssef En-Nesyri are in their prime and talented enough to oust top level opposition.
Lopetegui must simply make sure his team remains defensively sturdy – last season Sevilla boasted the best defensive record in La Liga. If able to do so and he gets the best out of his attacking talents, Sevilla can pull off a surprise underdog story and go deep into the competition.
Bayer Leverkusen can be Champions League dark horses
Bayer Leverkusen definitely punched above its weight in the Bundesliga last season, finishing third and contending for quite a while. They produced some really entertaining stuff, scoring 80 goals in 34 games and coming up with some stellar performances.
They were very disciplined last season with a potent attacking line. Indeed, they have the likes of Euro 2020 golden boot winner Patrik Schick, blistering French winger Moussa Diaby and young German sensation Florian Wirtz in a dynamic, unpredictable attacking line.
If things click for them and Gerard Seoane keeps them level-headed against intimidating opposition, the young Bayer side can roll through some opponents and go quite deep into the competition.