Sergio Aguero: Hot topics ahead of the Champions League Group Stage
Sergio Aguero - September 2, 2022
Sergio Aguero, scorer of 41 Champions League goals, caught up with Stake.com on the hot topics ahead of the kick-off of Europe’s premier club competition.
When you see the strength of the sides involved, is the Champions League now harder than it has ever been to win?
The Champions League is always very tough. And every year the teams sign new players to be more competitive.
However, it will depend on how each one arrives at the key moment. Let's not forget, moreover, that this will be a very different edition from other years.
The World Cup will be during the season, and it will be necessary to see how the teams with a large number of players in the national teams after their participation in Qatar have will be reassembled.
That will surely influence. In this sense, it can be said that this will be one of the most different Champions Leagues that have ever been played.
The power of the Premier League is something spoken about often, especially in England. But English sides have only won twice in the last ten years - what does that say?
In England, local competitions are considered more important than the Champions League.
That is their culture. But they never stop competing.
What happens is that in their leagues they may be having a big tournament, which is played over several months and they may have a drop and then recover.
But when the Champions League arrives you can't make mistakes.
There is no time to correct them. It has been seen in the last edition how PSG and City were superior during almost all the matches and then in a few minutes everything can collapse.
They are different competitions and consistency from minute one to the end is the key.
As a player, you will have experienced the challenge of being involved in a tough fight to win the Premier League and then have to compete in the latter stages of the Champions League. Does that have an impact on English teams?
It's what I said before. In other leagues there are teams that sometimes choose to put their potential in the Champions League and leave key players on the bench in their leagues to keep them fresh for European competition.
In the Premier League that hardly happens.
Let’s look at the holders, Real Madrid, first. Does the sale of Casimero to Manchester United make them a weaker side this time round?
I do not think so. He is a very important player who has integrated a great midfield together with Modric and Kroos.
But it looks like, so far, in the league they have found in Tchouameni and other players a very promising young replacement.
A team does not depend on a single player.
I think that Ancelotti, a coach who has already shown his ability, will find a way not to see the team in a lower level.
Vinicius Jr was a key player for Real, although Benzema stole the headlines with his goals. Do you think Vinicius gets the respect his game deserves outside of Madrid and Brazil?
I think so.
He has been a starter at Real Madrid for several years and in the last year he has been decisive.
And making a great attacking duo together with Benzema.
He is a player who has already performed at the highest level. There is no doubt about it.
They face Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk in their group, and interestingly also Celtic.
We all know that Celtic is very strong at home and with a large fan base that will surely make the team even stronger...
But Leipzig will also have that support.
The one who will feel this lack will surely be Shakhtar, who will have to play in Poland because of the war, although they have told me that there are many refugees there who will go to support the team.
Liverpool have been in three finals in the last six years - have they become the real team to fear in Europe now?
Liverpool is one of the candidates. They have already proven their worth in Europe.
But as I said, everything will depend on how the teams arrive.
At this start of the season, Klopp's men have had significant losses due to injuries.
But it is a solid team that knows what it is playing very well.
Group C looks stacked, with Bayern, Barcelona and Inter Milan. Which of those big three teams do you feel is most in danger of not qualifying?
It's hard to tell but I think Barcelona and Bayern are the ones with the best chance of going through to the next round.
Inter have a great attack with Lautaro and the return of Lukaku and they will be a tough rival but I think they are one step below.
Is this the worst possible draw for Barcelona, given their problems of recent months? Can they afford to not make it through the group stage?
I think they will go to the next round. It won't be easy but they will make it.
From what has been seen so far, Xavi has managed to assemble the group very well and plays attacking football, due to the many variants that he now has in attack, which is giving him results.
It has thrown up the interesting prospect of Robert Lewandowski facing Bayern, who will be desperate to put one over their former teammate. How do you see that shaping up?
These are things that happen in football.
And the focus is always on when something like this happens: that a player who was a figure has to face his former team with another club.
And more someone like Lewandowski who was an idol at Bayern.
But when it comes to playing the game, the player focuses on winning with the team that hired him.
It has always been that way and will continue to be.
How far can Barca go? What do they have to do to match and overcome the likes of Bayern, City, Liverpool and PSG?
Barcelona is a great in Europe.
It has the weight of its history and now it has also managed to recompose itself with a great squad and a technical director who is from the house and who knows what the culture of the institution is.
And you can compete on an equal footing with anyone.
Chelsea have drawn Milan, along with Salzburg and Zagreb. Which club do you feel is the strongest between Chelsea and Milan this season?
Milan has managed to resurface. It is a team with a lot of history but I think they still need to show consistency and that they will stay in the elite for a longer time.
For me, Chelsea today is above the Italian team.
Chelsea look weaker than two years ago when they won, can they win the Champions League without a recognised striker in their side?
don't think Chelsea will look any weaker this year.
Yes, it is true that they have undergone change, especially in defence, but very important players have arrived and it is only a matter of getting to know each other better on the field and I think Tuchel will be working on that.
Koulibaly, Cucurella, Fofana, they are all great players. And he's also brought in Sterling, who is a great offensive card.
What do you make of Man City’s group with Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund and Copenhagen?
I always say that there are no easy rivals in the Champions League.
You don't have to be over confident and you have to take all the games very seriously.
Firstly, City looks very solid and although it is true that Sevilla did not start the season well, they are strong at home and will want to return to the path of last year's triumphs.
Dortmund are one of the best teams in Germany and that is saying a lot.
Copenhagen may seem like the weakest rival but as I said there are no easy teams in the Champions League.
Like Lewandowski, Erling Haaland faces his former club immediately. Do you expect Haaland to show he is the best striker in the world now he is in a side like City?
Haaland has been consistent on every team he's played for.
He has a very important average goals per game and he is proving it now at City as well.
He makes me very happy that he is converting because he provides what the team needs, which is goals.
And if that happens, City will have more chances to go as far as possible.
When you look at Tottenham, do you see a club with the capability to challenge to win the tournament?
With Pochettino, Tottenham already had a great performance in the Champions League.
And now with Conte, a coach with a lot of experience, they are managing to be a very solid team.
He knows how he wants to play and his counterattack can be lethal.
He has added to Kane and Son with Richarlison and two wingers who are very good assistants like Kulusevski and Perisic. It will be a very difficult rival for any team.
From all the groups, which of the big names in Europe do you see struggling to make it through? Are there chances for surprises anywhere?
There are always some surprises but I think it will finally be decided between the usual candidates.
City, Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Liverpool... I think the champion will be among these teams.
And we will have to see how Atleti arrives.
Cholo always has an ace up his sleeve and makes his team very competitive.
Finally, Lionel Messi - are we about to see one last impact on the Champions League stage? Is he geared up to link up with Neymar and Mbappe to deliver glory for PSG?
The team Leo is on will always be a candidate.
Leo has that winning mentality that he needs in any team with an aspiration to achieve everything.
We know the competitive spirit of him.
And even more so if he is with great players like Mbappé and Neymar.
And PSG have already gained a lot of experience in Europe.