Question: Can Barcelona's empire be toppled?
Answer: Depends. Do Messi, Xavi and Iniesta stay healthy? If yes, then probably no. Simplistic answer I understand, but it's pretty clear that the only team that can stop Barcelona is Barcelona. My man-crush on Jose Mourinho is no secret if you read my stuff at all, but I'm ready to admit that not even the Special One has the antidote for Guardiola's guard. Who will ever forget the four matches in four weeks epic finish to the 2010-2011 season between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Madrid managed the Copa del Rey, but that felt gift-wrapped. I concede that if Barca had wanted the Copa, it would have been there for the taking. Instead, it went for La Liga and the Champions League and cleaned up on both. I expect more of the same, Fabio Coentrao notwithstanding.
Question: Will King Kenny Dalglish elevate Liverpool back to the top four in England?
Answer: Liverpool finished sixth, 10 points shy of the Champions League and four points in arrears of the Europa League. Given their start and abysmal record away from Anfield, it's sensational the Reds got as close to the top as they did. Dalglish deserves a big nod. He deserved the full-time job and now that he has it, I want to see him mold newcomers Charlie Adams and Stewart Downing and whether he can find the same magic as he did with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. I expect Liverpool is good for third in England, maybe second given Chelsea's shaky standing.
Question: Is Andre Villas-Boas over his head at Chelsea?
Answer: He better not be. Like it or not, fairly or not, he's bringing a lot of baggage with him from FC Porto. All that silverware gets pretty heavy; I mean how do you top an unbeaten league season, domestic cup win and Europa League title? Roman Abromovich says win me the Champions League; the Premier League too if you can squeeze it in. Well Portugal's top division ain't England. He won't have the best team in the land, and he certainly won't be playing MLS-caliber teams 11 out of every 15 games as he was in Portugal. I'm not saying he'll be out by Christmas, but I am saying the expectations will weigh on him and it may be a relatively short, and fruitless stay at Stamford Bridge.
Question: Can the Champions League be saved?
Answer: Is it in trouble? I know, you're not supposed to answer questions with questions, but I just did. Sue me. BTW, the answer in my opinion is yes. No one cares until the knockout round; the group stage is a boring money grab; and honest football fans like the competitiveness of the Europa League much better. The question, however, was "Can it be saved?" And the answer is yes, if UEFA is willing to be less greedy, revert it back to a knockout-only format like it was back in the day and watch the fun. But then again, we all know the answer to that question. Man, that's a lot of questions.
Question: Will there be a River Plate-style relegation in Europe this year?
Answer: No. But how much fun would it be? I cannot fathom Inter, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Olympiakos or Benfica fighting for its first-division life with two weeks to play. And I'm sure the folks in Buenos Aires were saying the same thing about their beloved River Plate. How much fun would it be?