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The Contenders- Battle for the Glory

Players celebrate the European Cup

Real Madrid

Real Madrid are the perennial favorites to be champions. Last year, the league title was lost, but an even greater title, that of European Champions, was gained. The winning squad has changed little. Notable new additions are Portugese sensation Edgar, ceded as a free transfer from Benfica; and Ivan Campo, Spanish international bought from Valencia. The "old" players will continue to star for the team- Hierro is key as the central defender; Roberto Carlos' speed an important part of the counter; Raul will continue to be a creative scorer and idol, and Redondo will once again shine as the brain of the midfield. Not to mention other international suprestars- Karambeu, Mijatovic, Suker, Savio, Panucci, Sanchis, and youngsters from the youth teams. Real can win it all in 1998-1999.

 

Players celebrate the European SuperCup

 

Barcelona

Perhaps Barcelona's greatest enemy will be herself in this upcoming season. As a new generation of multi-cultural players come in, they must learn to play well as a team. They certainly have the players to win big in Europe and at home. Luis Enrique is the great star, who shines among the foreigners. Rivaldo is his partner of destruction in the midfield. Luis Figo will continue to be a motor of the team. Sergi will be key in the midfield. Other champiosnhip- capable players are Cocu and Zenden- the new signings; Anderson- who needs to step up and fill in Ronaldo's shoes; Celades- who needs to become the brain in the abscence of Guardiola. Barcelona is a contender anywhere on the planet, Luis Van Gaal's men may be the team to watch in 98-99.

 

Kiko, Juninho, Vieri- triangle of terror

Atletico Madrid

Atleti suprised Spain by taking the double in 95-96, and Sacchi's players look very capable of doing it again. A 4-0 crushing of super-powers Chelsea in the preseason showed the vast possibilities. It is a team packed with stars, that sould be a favorite to win the UEFA Cup, and is certainly a contender in Spain. This year- the magic of Juninho and Kiko will supply Vieri the same way that made the Italian striker top scorer in 97-98 with 23 goals, the pichichi. Italians mark the defense, with Stefano Torrisi and Serena. On the right back is Aguilera, unquestionable starter, insuperable on his flank. The midfield is one of dreams- Jugovic, Mena, Juninho, Bejbl, Valeron, and the forwards are top-class- Kiko, Vieri, and revelation Jose Mari. Atletico is truly a giant of world football, and they certainly will seek to prove it.

 

Athletic Bilbao

The Basques are back, and this year they also have to worry about the Champions' League. The key this year will be the consistency that the team has shown recently. They must concentrate carefully on the Spanish League, while performing to the maximun in Europe. It will be much tougher this year for them to earn a spot in the Champions' League. The stars of this team are defenders Alkorta and Rios; midfielders Alkiza, Ezquerro and Julen Guerrero; and forwards Joseba Etxeberria and Ismael Urzaiz. A notable aspect of the team is that they are ALL from the Basque country in Spain, not a single player is a foreigner or non-Basque. The only non-Spaniard to play on the team in its history was Lizarazu, a French Basque of Spanish descent. The squad always carries this great Basque, not Spanish, pride into battle.

UEFA Cup

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