Europe's big clubs that have major task at hand to challenge the elite
The landscape of European football has undergone a sea change in recent times. Leagues across the continent have witnessed the emergence of a new ruling elite. At a time when Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea have won laurels, other formidable teams have seen a slump in form and stature.
In the present scenario, where influx of money has seen newer clubs come into the limelight, its shortage has also hurt some former European elites. Spanish and English football has ruled the game consistently and Italian football on the other hand has seen a downfall. In Bundesliga and Ligue 1, the authority of one-club monopoly has seeped in to rule the game. Such changes in European football have been alarming.
Some of Europe's biggest clubs have taken a major hit this season and they have a lot of catching up to do in order to achieve lost glory. Here are some of Europe's big guns that have a major task at hand to challenge the elite.
Liverpool (England): The English giants had a brilliant season last term that saw them back in the UEFA Champions League after years of absence. Though the 2013-14 season ended without a trophy for the Reds, their runners-up finish in the Premier league was a shot in the arm. But a return to the biggest tournament in European football for the five-time European champions, culminated with disappointment.
Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage. A top-half finish in the EPL without European qualification is possible once again and their quest for the domestic title isn't likely to succeed. The 2004-05 UCL winners have looked a mere shadow of themselves from last season.
Liverpool's failure in holding on to Luis Suarez was the first nail in the coffin. A major transfer failing that focused on quantity and future, rather than quality, hurt them further.
Liverpool's loss against Real Madrid in the UCL showed why they were way behind in challenging for European honours yet again. Sale of key players over the years and the inability to repeat the success after Rafael Benitez's exit has hurt the Anfield team. Only a single trophy win in the last eight years has put the Reds in a position of discomfort.
No matter what awaits them, the building process has begun under Brendan Rodgers and he is one manager they need to hold on to, in order to get back to where they possibly belong.
Borussia Dortmund (Germany): The Jurgen Klopp-managed side won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but have fizzled out since then. Their main rivals Bayern Munich have once again dominated German football. Dortmund finished second last season, 19 points behind Bayern. They lie in the relegation zone so far this season.
There is a shock in Ruhr Valley where the 'Yellow Brigade' are fighting desperately for survival. European football qualification is all but gone for Dortmund and once again, the club is feared to be relegated back to the German second tier. Their performances have been woeful and losses have piled up one after the other to hand Klopp a serious task to take upon.
Dortmund face a major challenge in Germany to get back to the summit with the financial powerhouse Bayern Munich threatening to rule Bundesliga for upcoming years. Dortmund was on the road to become a 'big' club in European football as they challenged for the Champions
League title in 2013. But their current scenario puts them in a situation where they will find it difficult to stay among the best. Dortmund need to win the Champions League this term in order to be in the competition next season. After being pitted against Juventus in the Round of 16 draw, Dortmund will have to repeat their 2012-13 feat to go far. With Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid in devastating form, Dortmund lie way behind to mount a serious challenge.
Klopp will definitely try to come back fresh after the winter break and hope to stay afloat in the Bundesliga, but it will be a mountain to climb and overcome Bayern and others, domestically and in Europe.
AC Milan and Inter Milan (Italy): There was a period when Italian football challenged the continent's best and the Milan teams won laurels. But gone are the days of glory when AC Milan and Inter Milan were major forces in Europe.
The Milan clubs are currently in a sorry state of affairs resulting from a fall on and off the field. Due to monetary crisis, sale of top class players, repeated managerial changes and an unstable atmosphere, both Milan giants have entered a phase of downfall.
The rise of Juventus in Italy has taken centre-stage. This was a rare season in Europe where both the Milan clubs failed to qualify for the Champions League. Their current scenario presents a familiar tale like last season, as they look destined to miss out on Europe's coveted competition once again. Investment is the need of the hour for AC Milan, just like Inter, which was bought by billionaire businessman Erik Thorir.
Both clubs have sold their best players and have failed to replace them suitably due to monetary crisis. They have in fact invested in players that are in the twilight of their careers. Even their academies are failing to produce players with talent to challenge in the Serie A and European competitions.
The Milan giants have won the Scudetto 36 times and the Champions League 10 times between themselves. Inter won the Serie A honours five times in a row between 2005-06 to 2009-10, whereas AC Milan bagged the 2010-11 title. But plenty of water seems to have flown under the bridge since then, with rivals Juventus dominating the league by winning three back-to-back titles.
As things stand, it appears that both the Milan giants will miss out on European qualification this term as well. From this point on, they have to tread to long road back to recovery.
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