The UEFA Champions League is heating up with Round of 16 second legs being played in the month of March. Manchester City was the favorite to win it all in early February as it had around +185 odds at most books. Paris Saint-German and Bayern Munich were also at the top of Champions League odds boards with prices ranging from +600 to +650.
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Champions League soccer teams
The team that has it all, apart from a Champions League trophy to call their own. The last few years have been rather agonizing for Manchester City and manager Pep Guardiola will hope he and his players finally have something to celebrate.
For all the financial muscle that is flexed at the Etihad, it is yet to have delivered European soccer’s biggest prize. However, that same muscle has also delivered Erling Haaland to the blue half of Manchester, and this could be the final piece of the jigsaw.
While they reached the Round of 16 by virtue of finishing top of Group G and this was perhaps an insight into what they can do later on in the competition. They may have started well but can they find an extra gear in the new year?
The dominant force in German soccer and that dominance has a habit of seeping over to the European stage. The Bundesliga giants have won 10 successive league titles and last won the Champions League in 2020.
The makeup of the team may have changed since then, but they are still something of a powerhouse under current manager Julian Nagelsmann and after finishing top of a group that also included both Inter Milan and Barcelona, they are once again showing their Champions League winning pedigree.
They reached the Round of 16 after recording a perfect record in the group stage – six wins from as many matches and now they have also found reinforcement in the shape of defender Joao Cancelo. Could Manchester City’s loss be Bayern Munich’s gain?
There is no doubt that PSG has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to playing personnel. Then again, the fact that the Paris-based outfit is yet to win the Champions League is also rather embarrassing for their wealthy Qatari owners.
With the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe currently plying their trade in the French capital, European success should be something of a formality. However, they like Manchester City know that you simply cannot buy your way to continental glory.
While Christophe Galtier’s men could not even buy their way to the top of Group H and after being pipped to the top spot by Benfica, the 2020 finalists have been handed the incredibly tough task of meeting Bayern Munich in the Round of 16.
When you think of Liverpool, you think of their rich pedigree in the Champions League and those famous European nights at Anfield. The Merseyside men have won this tournament on six separate occasions and will be giving everything to make it seven.
Not because of the fact that they lost in last year’s final, but more because they have nothing else to play for this season. With the ability to throw their eggs into a Champions League basket, they may save their best for the continent.
Of course, they will need to be at their best in the Round of 16, as Real Madrid lies in wait. They may have comfortably qualified out of the group stage but a second-place finish in Group A was always going to offer a substantial risk thereafter. The risk comes in the shape of a 2022 final rematch.
If Liverpool has a rich pedigree in the Champions League, then Real Madrid’s is even richer. With 14 final victories under their belt, the club from the Spanish capital is the most successful in the tournament’s illustrious history.
With trophy number 14 being lifted almost a year ago, Los Blancos find themselves as the current holders and when you look at their ability to grind out unlikely results, a 15th outright win is certainly not outside the realm of possibility.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men finished top of Group F by just a single point and although they made life far harder than it needed to be, you do get the feeling that Real Madrid is only just waking up in this season’s Champions League. As always, you write this team off at your peril.
Napoli is certainly one of the most entertaining teams across Europe this season, running away with proceedings in Italy’s Serie A, managing to top a group that included the likes of both Liverpool and Ajax.
While it is the early season meeting between Napoli and Liverpool that had many observers stand up and take real notice of what manager Luciano Spaletti and his players are capable of in the Champions League.
The former home of the late great Diego Maradona scored 20 goals in just six Group A matches and with such an exciting crop of talent currently playing with nothing in the way of fear, Napoli could be one of the true dark horses of this season’s Champions League.
Chelsea is undoubtedly a team in transition at present and that transition is not only being overseen by current manager Graham Potter but also owner Todd Boehly. The American may be new to the world of soccer but is certainly not shy when it comes to spending dollars.
An influx of young talent has recently arrived at Stamford Bridge and there is definitely an air of excitement surrounding West London. However, with so many new faces arriving at once, one wonders if the manager knows his strongest starting eleven.
The Blues showed they can be more than a handful, and this was signified by beating AC Milan to the top of Group E. It is Borussia Dortmund who awaits them in the Round of 16, can Chelsea’s new charges move on to the last eight?
All is not well at Tottenham at present. Then again, all is rarely well in the white half of North London, and with Spurs enviously looking up at Arsenal in the Premier League, they will have to look to Champions League success instead.
A success that although not impossible, is certainly something that will be a tall order at the same time. Then again, this is a club that currently possesses Antonio Conte as their manager and the concept of being the best of the rest is not something that sits well with the Italian.
With ongoing questions regarding whether the former Juventus boss will sign a new contract, this tournament could serve as his final opportunity to win some silverware as the manager of Tottenham. What better parting gift than finally ending the club’s lengthy trophy drought?
Although Benfica was always tipped to make it to this season’s Round of 16, not even their most ardent supporters would have placed at the top of a group that also included PSG. However, the Champions League is always full of surprises, and this was certainly one of them.
The Lisbon-based outfit is never a team you want to face in the knockout phase and their fearsome reputation will have only been further enhanced after their performances before last year’s FIFA World Cup.
Now though, Roger Schmidt’s men will have to build on such an impressive early showing. They may have amassed 14 group stage points out of 18 but that will be pointless if they are soon dumped out by Club Brugge.
Although Italian soccer is not at the same heights as a generation or so ago, it is certainly going through something of a renaissance in recent times. One that although led by Napoli, is also being crafted by Milan’s two famous clubs.
The first of those is Inter and although they have had recent success in Serie A, any championship charge looks rather futile this season. At the same time, when you look at the caliber of the Champions League favorites, the same could be said for the bid to crack Europe.
Not quite an also-ran in terms of capability but not far off it either. However, the Round of 16 draw has certainly been kind to Simone Inzaghi’s men and a meeting with FC Porto may be one that allows further progress.
As soon as we mention one of Milan’s two clubs, the other is not all that far away. Like Inter, Milan is playing a part in Italian soccer’s resurgence in recent years and after winning last season’s Serie A title, the good times are back in the red and black half of the city.
Then again, even though Italy’s clubs are managing to go toe to toe with Europe’s finest, there is still a relative chasm between Serie A and competitions such as the Premier League – something that will show on the European stage.
This is why they will have a point to prove against Tottenham in the Round of 16. Both teams will fancy their chances of progressing to the next round, a lot will depend on how each performs in front of their own fervent support.
Staying on the topic of fervent support and it does not get rowdier than that of Borussia Dortmund. The famous black and yellow can create a cacophony of sound and it is a noise that has seen big-name opposition wilt in the process.
While Dortmund currently has a big name of its own to call upon and with England midfielder Jude Bellingham under the watchful eye of Europe’s elite, it is unlikely that the youngster will be wearing the club’s colors next season.
With that said, Bellingham will still be in a position to assist the German outfit’s charge in Europe and after finishing second in a group that included Manchester City, it is further Premier League opposition in the shape of Chelsea that soon awaits them.
Staying in Germany and RB Leipzig will also be looking to fly the flag for the Bundesliga in this season’s Champions League. They may be a club that is largely unloved because of its links to a certain energy drink, but that is not something that has halted their progress thus far.
While in Christopher Nkunku, they currently have one of the most sought-after forwards in European soccer. The 25-year-old has already lit up this season’s tournament and was a key component in just missing out on the top spot in Group F.
A group that saw them push holders Real Madrid all the way and although they are considered one of the outsiders to lift the trophy, they will look to provide Manchester City with a rather stiff test in the Round of 16.
Before the group stage draw was made, FC Porto would have been rather pleased with the construction of Group B. It may have included both Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen, but neither of those teams made it to the Round of 16.
Instead, it was Sergio Conceicao’s men who eventually finished top of the standings and although this was considered the weakest group of the eight, you can only beat the opposition what is put in front of you.
Which is what they will need to do in their Round of 16 meeting with Inter Milan. On paper, you would probably hand the advantage to the Italian outfit. Then again, you must remember that soccer matches are not played on paper.
After earning entry to the tournament as last season’s Europa League winners, Eintracht Frankfurt is now continuing its adventure at the European top table. While their next quest is a Round of 16 meeting with Napoli.
One that comes courtesy of finishing second in Group D and in a mini-league that saw wild fluctuations during the final matchday, it would need a comeback win at Sporting Lisbon to eventually secure further progress.
There is no doubt that Oliver Glasner’s men are one of the outsiders to win this season’s Champions League but not many fancied them to win the Europa League in 2022 either. All they need is a bit of momentum and who knows where their travels will come to an end.
If FC Porto were a shock qualifier out of Group B, then Club Brugge certainly was. The Belgian outfit was largely unfancied when the draw was made, but then manager Carl Hoefkens and his players made a lot of people eat their words.
Since securing qualification to the Round of 16, there has been a change in manager. Hoefkens was shown the exit door in December and now it is time for former Fulham and Bournemouth manager Scott Parker to pick up the baton.
The Englishman has not had any previous coaching experience in the Champions League but at the same time, he is certainly ambitious. Now that ambition must be focused on the upcoming trip of Benfica.
What is the Champions League?
The Champions League is a tournament where Europe’s best clubs compete to be the kings of the continent. Often called the World Cup of club soccer, it has a 32-team format that mimics the peak of the international game.
While the Champions League is certainly the pinnacle of European club soccer and with the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and PSG serving as regular entrants, to be the best you really do have to beat the best.
With fixtures being played across the continent in a mixture of group-stage clashes and home and away knockout ties, this season’s edition of the tournament will eventually work its way to the final in Istanbul.
Contested between September and June of the following year, this is always a tournament that serves up the highest sporting drama throughout and this is why a global audience is always fixated throughout.
As for who will win this season’s edition of the Champions League, the sportsbooks currently have Manchester City as the favorites. Then again, you could just as easily make a case for a large number of clubs at the same time, and this is why this tournament is always so fascinating.
Although the Champions League has several qualification rounds, the competition starts properly each September. With 32 teams either earning an automatic invite from the domestic league finish the season before or making it through the pre-qualifier process, the group stage will soon begin.
The 32 entrants are split into eight groups of four. The four teams play each other both home and away in a double round-robin league. When each side has played six group stage fixtures each, the top two advance to the knockout phase.
In addition to this, the team that finishes third has the opportunity to continue in the Europa League. If they win a play-off against a team that finishes second in the Europa League group stage, they will drop down to UEFA’s secondary competition instead.
For those who reach the knockout phase, it is a format of two-legged home and away ties in the Round of 16, Quarterfinals, and Semi-finals. Clear those hurdles and the two best teams in Europe will compete in a one-off final at a neutral venue. The winner takes the spoils, the loser takes nothing.
What are the most common bets on Champions League?
When it comes to betting on the Champions League, there are plenty of options to keep punters interested. While the most popular wager that is placed each year is the outright winner market and this is a bet that can reward those who have plenty of patience.
Because if you are willing to predict a winner before a ball has even been kicked in anger, there is certainly more value to be squeezed out of the market. However, the Champions League is not simply geared toward long-term betting.
With this being a tournament known for possessing players with plenty of attacking talent, over/under goal bets always prove to be crowd-pleasers and with so much soccer on offer, the 3-way market also offers the opportunity to boost your bankroll across the length of the season.
When will group play start?
Once the full lineup of teams has been announced for each season’s Champions League, the group stage will then get underway in September of each year. Of the 32 teams that start the competition, they are all guaranteed to play six matches in this round.
These fixtures are scheduled between September and December and once a winter break has been and gone, the knockout phase then begins in February. 16 teams are eventually whittled down to two and the showpiece event is played in either May or June to end the European club season.
Who are the best players in the Champions League?
The Champions League is home to the very best players in world soccer. World Cup winners, national team captains, goal machines, and defensive powerhouses. This tournament only accepts players of an exceptional standard.
Whether it be the likes Lionel Messi or Kylian Mbappe for PSG, Erling Haaland for Manchester City, or Luka Modric for Real Madrid, these are names that are ready to lead their respective teams into battle.
Of course, the list of talents is not exclusive to those above. You can easily add Tottenham’s Harry Kane or Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah to the group of elite players that are in the tournament, you should not forget Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane either.
Simply put, this tournament is the pinnacle of club football. The World Cup may have history on the international stage, but the Champions League has the glamour, and this is because of the ludicrous amount of talent that can be found within it.