Is Real Madrid Set To Win A Third Champions League in 2018?
UEFA Champions League Outright
Forget international fixtures, The Champions League is the most elite competition in the world and captures the attention of fans around the globe from September until May each year, and it's not hard to see why. Matches between European giants such as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are enough to make any football fan's mouth water.
This year's event is one of the most highly anticipated in recent memory, particularly for English Premier League fans as there will be five English clubs competing. Five-time winners Liverpool, three-time winners Manchester United and 2012 champions Chelsea will make a welcome return to the competition after missing out on qualification for the 2016/17 season, while Tottenham and Manchester City will look to improve on their recent campaigns.
The Spanish La Liga is also well represented, with last year's champions Real Madrid leading the early favouritism according to Bet365.com. The twelve-time champions are the most successful club in the history of the European Cup, and as long as they have Cristiano Ronaldo in their side they will be a tough prospect for any opposition team. They have won the tournament three times in the last four years; can they go all the way again in 2017/18?
There are very few teams on the list below that are capable of matching it with Los Blancos, which was perhaps best summed up in last year's final where even the great Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus side could not stop the irresistible attacking power of Real. At odds of +375 they represent very good value, and this price is likely to only drop as the season progresses.
Your best bet is to jump on now!
The biggest threat to Real Madrid's hold on the Champions League trophy will come from Paris, in the form of a PSG side that has been slowly building for a number of years. While they will have nightmares about that fateful night in Barcelona where they blew a 4-0 first leg victory (we won't go into that now), they got revenge by pulling off arguably the biggest transfer in the history of football - snaring Neymar from the Catalans club.
Adding Neymar to their squad was a massive coup, and something that took the world by surprise, yet it wasn't even their most unexpected move of the summer!
That title belongs to Kylian Mbappe, one of the most exciting and talented prospects in world football. A loan move from rivals Monaco was the last thing anyone was expecting, and provides even more strikepower to an already impressive lineup. PSG are second favourites on the list of odds above and have a genuine chance of winning the tournament, even if they have to beat Real Madrid to do so. You can place a wager on Unai Emery's men at a very tempting +650.
Barcelona and Bayern Munich appear next on the list, both priced at +700, and it's hard to decide who represents better value. The loss of Neymar is yet to truly be felt by a Barcelona team that still boasts one of the most prodigious lineups in world football, and arguably the world's best in Lionel Messi. It will be interesting to see if Ousmane Dembele can fill the void.
Barcelona's run in the 2016/17 campaign was not what you would expect from the five-time winners. They escaped from jail in a way only Barcelona could when they scored three goals in the last five minutes to knock out PSG, but were only in that position thanks to a 4-0 loss in the first leg. A subsequent 3-0 loss to Juventus and their inability to score a single goal against the Italians in 180 minutes of football was worrying to see. It will be very interesting to see how the Spaniards bounce back from a sub-par campaign.
Bayern showed last season that they are certainly a team that can match the might of Real Madrid. Their quarter-final loss against the eventual winners went to extra-time in the second leg, and you can expect them to put up a similar performance in this year's event. As long as Robert Lewandowski keeps hitting the back of the net and loanee James Rodriguez gels well with the team, they will be a chance for Munich.
However, there are two important factors to consider before putting your money on the German side. The core of the squad is ageing, and even though players like Arjen Robben are flourishing in their senior years, it could begin to show in this campaign. Secondly, the Bundesliga does not present much of a challenge for Bayern (they have won the title for five consecutive seasons) so they may be underdone when they come up against their biggest European rivals.
Speaking of giant clubs cantering to domestic titles, Juventus proved that in spite of comfortably winning the Serie A title for the sixth consecutive season they were still able to match it in Europe. Their run to the final was built around one of the strongest defences in world football, and they will once again be a good chance of making it to at least the final four.
Juventus appears seventh on the list of favourites, which means they are really good value at +1400. It is hard to see them beating Real Madrid, but if they can somehow avoid the Spanish champions they will be in with a shot. They are priced just behind the two Manchester clubs, who both come in at +1100 and represent the sportsbook's opinion on the best chances from England.
Manchester United have regained their mojo. They have started off the English Premier League season in emphatic form, winning their first three matches comfortably and have not yet conceded a goal. The signing of Romelu Lukaku looks like amazing business, and Jose Mourinho showed that he is no European novice by guiding the team to Europa League glory last season.
Manchester City have assembled one of the most expensive squads in history after spending more on their defence than some moderate-sized countries. This should help address the defensive frailties exposed by Monaco in last season's campaign, and under astute European tactician Pep Guardiola they too are a good chance of going deep into this tournament.
Out of the pair of Manchester clubs, United are your best option. There will be a swagger about the three-time champions when they get underway in the world's biggest club tournament, and under Mourinho they will be tough to beat. They also have one of the easiest groups in the competition, so don't expect to see anything other than a first-placed finish.
While on the subject of easy groups, it's hard to go past Liverpool as one of the best underdogs in the field. Unlike Man City, they have failed to address their defensive woes in the transfer window, however some of the attacking power they possess is second to none. It will be great to see them back amongst Europe's elite, and there will certainly be well backed at outsider odds of +2000.
It is surprising to see Chelsea ahead of Liverpool on the list above. They appear alongside Atletico Madrid and Roma in arguably the toughest group in the competition. Chelsea have not really bolstered their squad over the summer, and letting Nemanja Matic go to Manchester United was perhaps one of the strangest moves of the transfer window. They are at outsider odds of +1600, but it's very hard to see them winning the trophy.
As always, there are a number of clubs in contention to win the Champions League, and a lot can happen during a long season. If Cristiano Ronaldo gets injured, the chances of Real Madrid will decrease dramatically, while the same can be said for Messi at Barcelona and Neymar or Cavani at PSG. The odds will fluctuate dramatically as the tournament progresses, so keep an eye on your team and jump on when the odds are at their best.
We are going to go with PSG to win their maiden Champions League title. The squad depth they now possess is quite remarkable, and it appears Neymar has slotted in perfectly. As long as they can get over their big game nerves they should be there in Kiev on the final matchday.
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