Champions League Contenders: Chelsea & Bayern Munich Among Early Favourites
The Champions League is underway, with the first two match days completed in the group stage. Here’s a look at five of the early season favourites to win it.
The Champions League is underway, with the first two matchdays completed in the group stage. The ultimate goal is to reach the final in Lisbon, taking place in May, and the bookmakers are suggesting last year’s winners Bayern Munich are the favourites, having defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the final last year.
Bayern are priced at 3/1 with the bookmakers – but which teams will be in contention once the knockout phases begin?
Since the inception of the Champions League, no team has retained the title, and Bayern will be looking to become the first team to do so. With Pep Guardiola now at the helm, it looks increasingly likely that Bayern will be challenging in the later stages of the tournament after a convincing 3-1 win at Manchester City. The keys to last year’s success are still with the club, such as Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Frank Ribey and Arjen Robben, whilst they also added starlets Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze to their star studded line up.
The second favourites to win the Champions League final, Barcelona will be a threat – as they always are. Spearheaded by Lionel Messi, Gerardo Martino’s side have started the season in fine fashion, winning every La Liga game so far. The addition of Neymar will take some of the pressure off Messi, who Barcelona became dependent on in last year’s tournament. There are still question marks in defence, but with the amount of attacking talent they possess, teams will do well to outscore the Catalan giants.
Barcelona’s biggest domestic rivals, Madrid haven’t won the Champions League in over ten years, with their last success coming 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen. New manager Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Jose Mourinho at the Santiago Bernabeu as Los Blancos search for European glory, and a summer of spending looks to have helped their chances, with Asier Illarramendi, Isco and Gareth Bale all purchased, and despite the departures of Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain, Real look well placed to challenge.
With Mourinho’s spell at Madrid over, the Portuguese enigma returned to Chelsea, where he was manager between 2004 and 2007. The Blues clinched the Champions League title in 2012, but owner Roman Abramovich wants more and brought Mourinho back in search of another one. Andre Schurrle, Willian and Samuel Eto’o were signed to boost the attack, and with a manageable qualifying group, expect Chelsea to a tough proposition in the knockout phases.
Another team that spent heavily, PSG lost Ancelotti to Madrid and subsequently hired former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc as manager. The strike pairing of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is arguably the best in the tournament, and players such as Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti would probably walk into any side in the competition. The French club are getting stronger every year with their wealthy owners backing the club, and their plans feature European success – could they do it this year, well ahead of schedule? The bookmakers have PSG as a 14/1 shot to win it, making them fifth favourites.
A number of other Premier League clubs could be in the frame other than Chelsea, with Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City expected to challenge after their starts to the season.
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