Barca target back-to-back Champions League titles
LONDON, Sep 11 (Reuters) Barcelona aim to become the first club for 17 years to be crowned European champions in successive seasons when the Champions League campaign reaches its climax in Athens next May.
The last team to win back-to-back European titles were AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, but Barcelona look equipped to succeed where so many others have failed over the years since then.
Big-spending Chelsea, 1999 champions Manchester United, 2005 winners Liverpool and last season's beaten finalists Arsenal lead England's assault on the crown.
Real Madrid, looking for a 10th European Cup success, would love nothing more than to succeed their Spanish arch-rivals Barcelona as Champions League winners.
Juventus, demoted from Serie A as a result of a match-fixing scandal after winning the Italian title last season, are ineligible this term.
AC Milan are thus likely to lead Italy's challenge although Inter Milan, Italian champions following a court ruling, have the potential to become European champions for the first time since 1965.
FRENCH HOPES There is also some optimism in France that the country which helped launch the tournament in the mid-1950s might actually win it for only the second time.
Olympique Lyon, who have won the French title for the last five seasons, have reached the quarter-finals for the last three seasons and proved when they beat Real Madrid in the opening phase that they have the capacity to beat the biggest clubs.
Despite their good showing in the World Cup, Germany's clubs might struggle to make an impact.
Bayern Munich president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says that despite his team's history, fantastic new ground and dominance of German soccer, they can no longer compete with the richer clubs in Europe and he does not expect them to win the trophy.
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