Who will win Champions League 2018-19? Favourites, outsiders & underdogs

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus

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

Mohamed Salah Liverpool Demetri Mitchell Manchester United

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

AS Roma Barcelona Champions League 2017-18

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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Lanzini makes long awaited return to West Ham after knee surgery

Manuel Lanzini has returned to West Ham following a successful operation on his injured knee and is working towards a return to first-team action.

The 25-year-old ruptured the anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee during Argentina’s preparations for the World Cup in Russia and underwent surgery in June.

Since then he has spent three months in recovery in Barcelona but he has now returned to London to begin his programme of rehabilitation with West Ham’s medical team.

Richard Collinge, head of medical at West Ham, told the club’s official website: “We’re really pleased for Manu and it’s great to have him back.

“He’s now at the three-month stage, so I flew out to see Manu and his consultant Dr Cugat at the weekend and the doctor is very happy with his progress after three months.

“Rehab-wise, we have a plan in place and Manu is very disciplined and very motivated and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Supporters will hope that the midfielder can recover in time to contribute to the team in the new year, after being such a vital part of the squad during the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.

In Lanzini’s absence, West Ham have endured a torrid start to the season, losing all four of their Premier League matches and scoring just two goals in the process.

Ahead of their return to domestic action against Everton on Sunday, Collinge had some more good news for boss Manuel Pellegrini, regarding Andy Carroll and Winston Reid.

“Andy Carroll is progressing really nicely and he’s going to start doing some work on the pitches this week,” said Collinge.

“Winston Reid is in a knee brace and he’s eight weeks down the line from his surgery and making good progress.

“He’s going to be a little bit longer, but he’s also making good progress.”

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Rakitic wins 100th Croatia cap against Spain

Ivan Rakitic is making his 100th appearance for his country in the UEFA Nations League against Spain in front of a packed out crowd at the Martinez Valero.

The Barca midfielder becomes an international centurion 11 years and three days on from his debut in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia.

Speaking ahead of the match, Rakitic admitted it was fitting for him to reach the milestone against Spain, having played in La Liga since 2011.

“I remember how I could hardly wait my first appearance for Croatia,” he said. “Today, 11 years later, I can hardly wait my hundredth.

“It’s incredible, I’m so happy and proud, and I could not have wished a better opponent. However, it will not be a real celebration for me without team success. We have to fight.”

Rakitic is the eighth Croatia player to reach 100 appearances, after Dario Simic, Vedran Corluka, Ivica Olic, Josip Simunic, Stipe Pletikosa, Luka Modric and Darijo Srna.

Srna is their most-capped player of all time on 134, but at just 30 years of age, Rakitic can harbour realistic hopes of overtaking that record in the near future.

Tonight marks the first game of Croatia’s Nations league campaign, while Spain come into the match fresh off the back of a well-earned 2-1 victory against England at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night.

Goals from Saul Niguez and Rodrigo gave the visitors the three points after Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for Gareth Southgate’s men.

Zlatko Dalic will be confident of his team faring slightly better against Spain, given the fact that they reached the World Cup final this summer in Russia after defeating England in the semifinals.

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‘If we get a €200m bid we’ll sell him’ – Napoli president puts huge price on Insigne’s head

Napoli hit-man Lorenzo Insigne will not be sold for less than €200m (£178.1m/$232m), club president Aurelio De Laurentiis has revealed on Tuesday.

The Italy international is a product of the youth system at the Stadio San Paolo and has been a member of the senior squad since 2009, fully establishing himself as one of the most deadly strikers in Serie A over the last few years.

In 256 appearances for Napoli, the 27-year-old has scored 62 goals, most recently helping the team to a runners-up finish in the Italian league in their 2017-18 campaign, behind perennial champions Juventus.

It has been a summer of change in Naples ahead of the new season, with Carlo Ancelotti taking over in the managerial hot seat after the departure of Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea, who returns to manage in Italy after previous spells with AC Milan, Juventus, Parma and Reggina.

The veteran coach will surely be expecting to keep hold of the club’s talismanic forward in the near future and De Laurentiis has spoken out to re-assure the manager and supporters with his latest comments in the media.

He sat down for an interview with Corriere Dello Sport and stated that he has an arrangement in place with Insigne’s agent Mino Riola regarding his market value, as he told reporters: “He has a symbolic release clause.

“[Mino] Raiola and I have decided that if we get a €200m bid we’ll sell him. It’s not a written agreement, but a verbal one. €200m, is that clear?”

Napoli have endured a mixed start to the new Serie A season, picking up hard-fought wins against Lazio and AC Milan before succumbing to a disappointing away defeat at the hands of Sampdoria before the international break.

Insigne has only managed to find the net once so far but he will be expected to deliver the goods once again as the year progresses.

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Eight years and 25 matches – Neto’s long wait for Brazil debut

The Valencia goalkeeper is finally set to make his international bow on Tuesday when the Selecao meet El Salvador on the Brasil Global Tour

A number of fresh faces will be given an opportunity to stake their claims for places for a role in a new era for Brazilian football tonight when the Selecao face El Salvador at FedExField.

Coach Tite has made six changes to the line-up that saw off USA 2-0 on Friday, including handing debuts to a couple of hopefuls.

Full-back Eder Militao, 20, will be handed the first international appearance of what he hopes will be a long and successful career with his country following his meteoric rise with Sao Paulo and subsequent transfer to Porto in Portugal.

Expected #Brasil team to face El Salvador tomorrow!

Posted by Brasil Global Tour on Monday, September 10, 2018

But while things are coming quickly for one debutant, the other has had quite a wait: eight years and 25 matches, in fact.

After nearly a decade since his first Brazil call-up, Valencia goalkeeper Neto has made the Brazil squad for 24 previous matches – and never made it onto the field.

But on Tuesday, his long wait will finally end. Neto will become a Brazil international.

Neto - Fiorentina

“When I told him, a huge smile came across Neto’s face,” said Tite. “He said thank you very much, but he didn’t have to thank me for anything.”

The 29-year-old goalkeeper earned his first international call-up in 2010 under Mano Menezes as a promising teenager but never made it off the bench.

He was then a member of the squad that went to 2012 Olympics in London, appearing twice in the Games, before joining the senior squad in 2014, only to miss out on a place in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s World Cup squad.

Neto Brasil 01022016

Neto returned in 2015 and went to the Copa America after replacing the injured Diego Alves, but remained a reserve.

That same year, his impressive form for Fiorentina earned him a move to Juventus, but he would remain understudy to the great Gianluigi Buffon before joining Valencia in 2017.

Neto is once again impressing after returning to regular first-team action in Spain and has quickly established himself as one of La Liga’s leading goalkeepers. His form impressed coach Tite, who called him up again in March for the friendlies with Russia and Germany, but was absent again in June as the Selecao headed to Russia.

It’s been a long wait, but Neto will finally achieve a dream on Tuesday. Now he will have his eyes set firmly on Copa America 2019, desperate not to miss out once again.

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