The Champions League is back - here's what (we think) will happen

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Joey Barton cannot see Arsenal making the top four of the Premier League this season, attributing his reasoning to three factors - the strain of playing in the Europa League, the heavy criticism of Arsene Wenger and their defensive problems. They should probably be shorter than [5.4] on the Exchange. Chelsea are used to competing in the Champions League.

Victor Wanyama should relish the midfield battles against Real and fellow contenders Borussia Dortmund - who boast Africa's finest player today in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - but Spurs' squad could be stretched elsewhere. Last season was a freak season.

The Champions League returns in earnest this week as the group stage commences with no fewer than six British clubs involved. But are we underrating Barcelona?

It remains to be seen, for example, whether Franco-Cameroonian Georges-Kevin N'Koudou offers enough quality in wide areas off the bench to help Mauricio Pochettino's side break down stubborn defences. Portuguese Benfica are a consistent performer in the second tier of Europe's elite.

"Mourinho and [Pep] Guardiola know what it is to rule in Europe and I am expecting big things from them this season", he wrote.

Gone was the never say die attitude that had seen the Reds come so close to the title they craved.

The addition of two players who were so influential for the Monaco team that beat them, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva, is a significant reason.

Carlo Ancelotti has an extraordinary record in the Champions League.

For that, you have to look at the new wave of talent and there is plenty of it. If RB Leipzig are to make a stab at progression in their first Champions League foray, 26-year-old Forsberg is the man to make it happen.

Cristiano Ronaldo - who is currently serving a five-match ban for pushing a match official in the Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona - will take up the armband duties when Ramos is unavailable. He was the first manager to lead a Belarusian team into the group stages of the competition.

As for the English contingent, well, we have five to choose from. The attention was justified, of course, but the lack of interest in Emil Forsberg over the summer certainly raised eyebrows. Still, Napoli were one of the more difficult opponents for City.

The pair sit in the top two positions in the all-time Champions League goal scoring list with Ronaldo (105) ahead of Messi (94). Tottenham will be hoping for better results in their temporary home at the Wembley Stadium. His good form attracted interest from Sporting CP, who spent just shy of £9m to bring him to Portugal. Leicester City admirably made the last eight last season, in their first attempt at the competition, Manchester City the last four in the previous campaign but they have been out-riders as the world's richest league has been impoverished on the field.

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