The draw for the Champions League group stage has been made, and there are already a number of high-profile clashes on the cards.
Excitement in Europe comes early this year what with there being one of several ‘Groups of Death’ being drawn, with the likes of French champions Paris Saint-Germain facing runners-up Liverpool in Group C and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo returning to his former home of Manchester United, as well as a meeting with former boss Jose Mourinho.
Elsewhere, Tottenham have once been given an unfavourable group draw as they are poised to dethrone Barcelona, while Dortmund must face off with Europa League winners Atletico Madrid.
Goal brings you all the details of the favourites , underdogs and outsiders ahead of the upcoming Champions League season, as well as all the teams who have already qualified and when fixtures will be played.
Favourites to win the 2018-19 Champions League
Manchester City have emerged as strong favourites to win the first Champions League this season and are placed at odds of winning 9/2 according to bet365. Pep Guardiola’s side are yet to lift the European Cup and have another formidable chance of winning the competition – placed in a benign group that consists of the likes of Lyon, Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim.
Guardiola has experience winning the trophy with Barcelona and will be eager to repeat the success with the Citizens – as the European Cup is the one major trophy that has eluded the affluent Manchester side.
Barcelona are 6/1 to win the Champions League this season, last winning the tournament in 2015 after beating Juventus 3-1 in the final. This season will be the first in which star striker Lionel Messi takes on the captain’s armband, inheriting the honour from Andres Iniesta who left the club to join Japanese side Vissel Kobe.
The Catalan team do have a tricky group and will have to face Tottenham Hotspur – who have enjoyed a strong start to the Premier League season, having already registered a 3-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The event of Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus this summer in a sensational €100m transfer has put the Italian side at 13/2 to win the Champions League. Ronaldo joins the Serie A team off the backs of three consecutive European Cup wins – bringing his tally to five in total – and will no doubt provide to be instrumental in their run-up to European glory.
Juve have been drawn into one of several ‘Groups of Death’, and the Portuguese striker has been gifted with a return to former club Manchester United. It could be a reunion of bittersweet nature as it was Ronaldo’s goals for Real Madrid that knocked the Red Devils out of the competition back in 2013. Europe could very well be where the forward nets his goals as he has been unable to strike for Juventus in Serie A so far this campaign.
Defending champions Real Madrid are priced at 8/1 to repeat their success this season, having won the competition for the last three years running – and would put them on course to win a fourth European title in a row, which has never before been done. Madrid, however, are currently a side in transition having recently replaced manager Zinedine Zidane with Julen Lopetegui and still aiming to fill the striker void that Ronaldo left behind.
Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain have odds of 7/1 to win the Champions League after exiting the competition at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid in the last 16 stage, ruing the loss of star forward Neymar to injury. The French side will doubtless be buoyed by the strengths of Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani leading the line, helmed by new coach Thomas Tuchel.
A clash with Liverpool awaits the French champions in Group C, which also involves challenges against Red Star Belgrade and Napoli.
Bayern Munich are priced at 10/1 to win the Champions League after being eliminated by Real Madrid at the semi-final stage in last season’s competition. Niko Kovac takes the reins of the Bundesliga giants who will be looking to lift their first European Cup since 2013, when they won against German rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final.
They face the straightforward task of progressing past a group stage that involves clashes with Ajax, AEK Athens and Benfica.
2018-19 Champions League outsiders
Liverpool finished runners-up in the competition last year and continue to be underdogs this year at 12/1 to win outright. The Reds were unfortunately placed in a Group of Death following their demotion to pot three after initially being grouped in pot two, and now face the dreaded likes of PSG and Napoli in the group stage.
Klopp’s side were lucky in being handed a kind draw in last year’s group stage, but even struggled to top their group despite facing opposition in Sevilla, Maribor and Spartak Moscow. They will find the route to this year’s Champions League final even harder, despite adding the big-name likes of goalkeeper Alisson, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Atletico Madrid are another outside bet in Europe, priced at 12/1 to win the competition. The La Liga side won the Europa League last season and will be looking to push on for Champions League success – having finished as runners-up in the competition to none other than local rivals Real Madrid on two occasions, in 2014 and 2016.
It is not for lack of a strong squad that has dented Atletico’s chances of winning the Champions League, but rather the opposition they face in their own Group of Death. Diego Simeone’s group consists of the experienced likes of Dortmund and Monaco, and the Spanish side will find it tough to progress out of their group after crashing out in the same stage last season.
Manchester United are tipped at 28/1 to lift the trophy as the Red Devils approach Jose Mourinho’s infamous ‘third season’ with the side.
A clash with Juventus is not what Mourinho had in mind for his side, who typically have strolled past the group stages in past years, and the Portuguese boss will find difficulty guiding his side to the final after off-pitch troubles consisting of clashes with the board and a poor start to the Premier League season that has already seen them lose twice in four matches.
2018-19 Champions League underdogs
Tottenham are certainly worthy of the tag of underdog in the Champions League, with odds of 20/1 to win the competition.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side did well to finish first in their own Group of Death last year that involved Real Madrid and Dortmund, but they have been handed the unlucky side of the draw once again this year as they are faced with the prospect of facing Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Inter in the group stage.
Odds of Napoli winning the European competition are at 50/1, and will be rocked by the departure of coach Maurizio Sarri who guided them to a second-place finish in Serie A.
Roma are also priced at 50/1 to be crowned European champions and will also be dealt with a blow following the major loss of goalkeeper Alisson to Liverpool, who kept them in the tie when they played out a narrow 4-3 semi-final tie on aggregate. They shocked the world last season when they eliminated Barcelona in the quarter-final stage after losing 4-1 in the first leg, progressing to the last four based on away goals.
The Italian side now face the unruly task of having to overcome champions Real Madrid in the group stage, as well as the likes of CSKA Moscow.
German side Borussia Dortmund are rated 80/1 to pick up their first title since 1997, while Inter, who return to the top table of European football this season, are deemed a 50/1 bet to win the competition.
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