For any European club of distinction, success in the Champions League is still the yardstick by which they are measured most closely, and with this season’s edition offering up at least five potential winners it’s fair to say that whoever has their name engraved on the trophy on June 3, 2017 will have truly deserved the honour.
The final of this season’s competition will be played at Cardiff’s ‘National Stadium of Wales’, so there is even more incentive for the UK contingent to bag a place in the showpiece on home soil (sort of).
But have any of our boys got a chance against the great and the good of the continent?
Champions League Winner Betting Tips
You know the drill: a round robin group stage is backed by four knockout matches to determine the champion of Europe each season, and in the last three finals it is Spanish sides that have tended to dominate with Real and Atletico Madrid (twice each) and Barcelona making up the numbers; only Juventus have interrupted the flow.
This looks as good a place as any for our preview to start then.
It’s no surprise to note that Spanish clubs have dominated the Champions League in recent times as a) Barcelona and Real Madrid are probably the best two teams on the continent, and b) on their day Atletico are as hard to beat as anybody.
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has decided that his squad from last term is good enough to defend their crown, and the only addition to his personnel is substitute striker Alvaro Morata. For a side known as the Galacticos to keep their chequebook all but closed in the summer is a sign of supreme confidence.
Barcelona have won four of the last eleven renewals of the Champions League, so they know a thing or two about what it takes to win that famous trophy. They’ve not got off to the mot promising start to the campaign – a defeat to Alaves at the Nou Camp is almost unthinkable – but they are as yet to field their preferred front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. When they do, watch out.
What is particularly pleasing for the Catalan giants is that they can remain competitive in La Liga while resting one or more of that elite front three. The summer signing of Paco Alcacer will keep Suarez honest, while Arda Tura is finally showing his best form in the famous Barca blue and red. Being able to keep the best strike-force in word football fresh and ready is a terrifying proposition for everyone else, and at 7/2 with BetVictor to lift the trophy in Cardiff they rate as the best bet for punters.
A quick word about Atletico, who have been the bridesmaid in two of the last three seasons. They continue to achieve under the gaze of Diego Simeone, and in Antoine Griezmann they surely possess one of the best players on the planet. You would expect them to go deep once again, but perhaps they lack the quality to go all the way.
Just 20% of the last 20 editions of the Champions League have been won by an English side (Manchester United x2, Chelsea and Liverpool), and only Manchester City got past the round of 16 stage last term. Clearly the beautiful game in this country is currently lacking the depth and quality to push our sides on to bigger and better things on the continent.
That may change this term though with the introduction of Pep Guardiola, a manager with a fine pedigree in this competition. He has inherited a side that reached the last four in 2015/16 and added to it with the signings of Nolito and, when fit, Ilkay Gundogan in particular, and so there is no reason why they can’t go at least one better. Their group draw – Barcelona, Celtic, Borussia M’gladbach – has been kind(ish), and they have the experience under their belts now to win tight knockout phase matches. That bodes well, and the 12/1 readily available at bet365 and others is well worth an each way investment in.
Of the rest of the Brit pack, Arsenal should dominate Group A which features a weakened PPSG as the other top seed, while Leicester will have no fear of trips to Porto, Brugge and Copenhagen. Spurs, well, they will need to keep Harry Kane fit if they are to reach the last 16 ahead of Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow.
Never Underestimate a German
Bayern Munich have won this tournament once in the last 40 years, while Dortmund’s solitary success came two decades ago. And yet, they still feature highly in the reckoning.
The Bundesliga champions are now coached by Carlo Ancelotti, a two-time winner of this tournament, and with the quality they have at their disposal they should go to the business end of proceedings. No final appearance since 2013 will be a concern, though.
The last time Bayern won it they defeated Dortmund in the final, and after a barren 18 months or so they look ready to hit the big time once again under the canny stewardship of Thomas Tuchel. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang they possess a player that can score any time, but a habit of losing matches they should really win could hamper their progress.