It has been an entertaining campaign so far in the Champions League. We’ve seen some major upsets, like when Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol beat 13-time winners Real Madrid. There were more teams than ever taking maximum points from the group stages, including Liverpool who topped this seasons ‘Group of Death’ becoming the first English side to win all their group stage matches. And of course there were some tasty ties set up for the knockout stages.
Not without controversy though, as the tie had to be redrawn to a number of administration issues. But rather than apologising, in typical UEFA fashion, they just blamed someone else for the mistakes rather than owning up to their own. Eventually though, the correct draw for the round of 16 was made, and it showcases some tasty ties.
The question on the tip of everyone’s tongue now though is who is favourite to win the tournament? At the start of the group stages we had 32 teams who were battling it out for a place in the next round. But only 16 of those could progress, with eight teams getting the consolation of remaining in some format of European competition by dropping to the Europa League. Of those remaining 16 sides, here are the favourites to go on to European glory this season.
The Bookies Favourites
According to numerous online sports betting sites, the favourites to win the Champions League are Manchester City at 3/1. Earlier in the campaign, they were joint favourites coming into the tournament alongside a revamped Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) side that boasted new signings such as Messi and Donnarumma. But having beaten them in Matchday Five to secure top spot in Group A, they also were declared to have the statistical advantage.
They have a favourable tie against Sporting CP of Portugal who are the lowest ranked side in the competition at 500/1. Although they’re actually doing better than Benfica this season who are also through, so it may not be such a straightforward affair for City.
The Best of the Rest
Having finished second in Group A saw the previous joint favourites PSG slipping down the rankings, and they would soon be fifth favourites at 11/1 to claim what would be, like Manchester City should they win, their first European Cup. But PSG have a much tougher tie in the knockout stages, having been pulled out against Real Madrid who are 20/1 to win a 14th European Cup. It’s a shame though, because in the initial draw, PSG did pull out Manchester United who were 23/1, and would’ve meant a potential reunion on the pitch between Messi and Ronaldo.
In between the two sides who contested Group A are two English sides, one who dominated their group, and the other who finished runners up after a terrible defensive display on Matchday Six. The other side hails from Germany, so who are they?
Well, the German side is Bayern Munich, the only side from the Bundesliga to progress after a terrible group stage for Borussia Dortmund, who shifted seven goals across two games against Dutch side Ajax. The reigning German champions are second favourites at 21/5 after being one of three teams to win all their group stage games alongside Liverpool as mentioned, and Ajax who knocked out their Bundesliga counterparts. And like City have a tie that they should easily brush aside, as they face Austrian outfit FC Salzburg who are the second lowest ranked side left at odds of 500/1.
Of the two English sides, there are Liverpool who made history in their group, brushing aside AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and FC Porto. At odds of 11/2 they are the third favourites for the tournament, and have an interesting matchup in the next round against Inter Milan who are 66/1. They could actually go to the San Siro and manage to beat both Milan sides in one season, which would be an impressive feat in itself. And with the current form they are in having now won six on the bounce, and with Salah breaking records for fun, we’d have Liverpool as our personal favourites to go on and win the Champions League this season.
The last English side who make up the top five teams expected to do well are Chelsea who sit at 8/1 to win back-to-back titles after beating Manchester City in last season’s final. They had a decent group stage, having secured qualification before the group was over, but they missed out on top spot in a poor performance that saw them give up the lead multiple times to draw with Zenit 3-3 in the dying minutes of the game. But, they’ve been given a favoured tie in the next round against French side Lille who are 300/1 to win the Champions League.
An Outside Chance?
If you’re wanting to take a punt on an outside chance, there is only one team to back. Dutch Eredivisie champions Ajax who are 31/2. They managed to qualify top of their group winning all their games as already mentioned, scoring twenty goals in the process and conceding just five.
A couple of seasons ago, they made it all the way to the semi-finals where they were narrowly beaten by Tottenham Hotspur who would go on to lose to Liverpool in the final hosted in Madrid. It was an incredibly young side back then, and many of those players were picked off by bigger teams. However, Erik ten Hag has put together another good side who play exciting football and look solid in defence. They have a decent tie against Benfica in the next round who are 250/1, and should they continue to turn out performances like they have been, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.