Predicting the winning team at the start of a season can be extremely challenging. In certain domestic leagues, the result can sometimes be a formality based on the strength of the champions compared to the rest of the league – think of Juventus in Serie A and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga for the last few years.
However, predicting the winners of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) is a different proposition altogether.
Briefly.co.za takes a look at some of the best teams who haven’t been able to take that final step to Champions League glory.
Arsenal 2003/ 2004
Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles was arguably the strongest English Premier League (EPL) side ever.
Unbeaten in the league and playing some of the most beautiful football ever seen, the Gunners were the favourites to win the Champions League during the 2003/ 2004 campaign.
Many pundits argue that European pedigree plays a crucial role in Champions League success and that seemed to hold true as Arsenal unbelievably blew their chances.
After struggling in the group stage, they eventually qualified but lost to Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
Chelsea 2004/ 2005
The Chelsea side from this season was 1 of the most dominant in the EPL ever.
Jose Mourinho guided his team to a host of records during the term, including the highest points haul (95) and fewest goals conceded (15).
Many people therefore tipped them as favourites for the UCL but they continuously came up against top quality opposition.
They bravely navigated their way past Barcelona and Bayern Munich but met their match against Liverpool in the semi-final.
Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ saw the Reds beating the Blues. It still haunts Mourinho to this day.
Juventus 1996 – 1999
Many believe the Old Lady have a European curse of some sort.
Their unfortunate losses in 3 finals during this millennium have been well documented.
However, their luckless run prior to the turn of the century was even more surprising.
During the period between 1996 and 1999, Juve boasted the best team in Italy at a time when Italian football was at its peak.
The Milan clubs were the glamour boys of Europe boasting some of the finest talents in the world.
Juventus combined a brilliant coach in Marcello Lippi with world-class players such as, Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Didier Deschamps and Christian Vieri.
During the 1997 final, they were hot favourites to brush aside a plucky Dortmund side but the Germans prevailed and caused one of the biggest UCL upsets ever.
Juve were undone again in the final the following year as they lost to Real Madrid.
Incredibly, the star-studded team blew another chance for European glory the year after in 1999 when they were beaten by the treble-winning Manchester United team.
Barcelona 1993 – 1996
Johan Cruyff is known as one of the legends of the game.
A player with unbelievable pedigree, he achieved even greater acclaim as a coach for his forward-thinking philosophies.
He is largely credited with transforming Barcelona into a global super power and for instilling the rich, attractive brand of football.
His team were fondly known as the ‘Dream Team’ as they dominated La Liga on 4 consecutive occasions between 1991 to 1994.
Boasting the likes of Romario, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov, the Catalans were primed for European success as well.
Incredibly, Cruyff’s great team just couldn’t cut the mustard in the UCL.
Although they won the European Cup during the 1991/ 1992 campaign, they weren’t able to replicate that success in the newly branded tournament format.
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