There isn’t a bigger club soccer competition on the planet than the Champions League, as Europe’s biggest clubs begin their charge towards the final in Saint Petersburg when the group stages get underway next week.
2021/22 Champions League Front Runners
The outright odds for the campaign are already out, with all the main players found at the top of the market. But, which club could win the Champions League this season?
- Group A Opponents: Manchester City, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
PSG are the early favorites in the betting for the Champions League this season, which will come as little surprise following the addition of Lionel Messi. A front three of the Argentinean superstar alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar certainly strikes fear in opposing defenses, but it is the signings made at the other end of the field that could be most crucial.
Gianluigi Donnarumma was an excellent signing from AC Milan, and will likely be regarded as the world’s best goalkeeper for years to come after impressing once again for Italy at the EUROs.
Meanwhile, Sergio Ramos adds extra experience to the backline, something that was evidently missing following the departure of Thiago Silva in 2020. Achraf Hakimi fills another problem area at right-back and offers class at both ends of the field.
The main area of concern for PSG comes in the middle of the park, as they could be overrun in the knockout rounds, with the aging Marco Verrati likely to anchor a middle three, also including Georginio Wiljnaldum and Idrissa Gueye.
- Grade: A
All set for the 2021/22 season! 🤩
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 26, 2021
Manchester City- +350
- Group A Opponents: PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
Manchester City fans may be starting to believe that their time in the Champions League may never come. Pep Guardiola’s side were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea in the final last season, as not for the first time the former Barcelona boss overthought tactics in a big European tie.
His decision not to play a natural number nine did come back to haunt him on that evening, but Guardiola may have no choice but to play that way this season after failing to bring in Harry Kane. The addition of Jack Grealish, while exciting, doesn’t necessarily bring anything fresh to the table, with a stacked selection of wingers, including Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, and Phil Foden, already on the books at the club.
Defensively there will be no issues, as three of the back four are assured of places, with Kyle Walker at right-back and John Stones partnering Ruben Dias in the heart of the defense.
Left-back could be a slight issue, but Aymeric Laporte is likely to be preferred when the big knockout stages come around. A lack of number nine could be an issue in the Champions League this season, but a strong defensive backbone always gives Guardiola’s side a chance.
- Grade: B-
Bayern Munich- +750
- Group E Opponents: Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv
Bayern Munich may be the value selection at this early point of the Champions League, as their experience of winning this competition trumps many of the other sides in the tournament.
Bayern won the title in 2020, and have added younger talent to their squad since then. Leroy Sane is still a very talented player, while Dayot Upamecano ensures that the club has a talented central defender at the heart of the backline for years to come.
Power in the midfield is something that the Bavarians don’t lack, with Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich efficient at both ends of the pitch. Younger talents such as Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala add a freshness to the left-hand side, while with Robert Lewandowski leading the line, you can rest assured knowing that Bayern are most than capable of hitting the back of the net.
- Grade: B+
- Group H Opponents: Juventus, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Malmo
Chelsea come into the new Champions League campaign looking to achieve something that only Real Madrid have managed in its current format, and defend their title. The Blues were shock winners of the tournament last season, as they didn’t have an out-and-out goalscorer throughout the season.
However, that area has been addressed with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku, while Saul adds extra quality in the middle of the park following his deadline day arrival from Atletico Madrid. There are few sides in Europe that have as much creative flair as the Blues, with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, and Christian Pulisic all proven at this level of the game.
N’Golo Kante and Jorginho ensure the base, which allows the forward players to focus on what they are best at- going forward. The issues could come defensively, as Thomas Tuchel may not know his preferred central defensive partnership. The aging Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Antonio Rudiger are his choices. A repeat win looks unlikely in the Champions League, mainly because the focus for the Blues this season will be on the Premier League title.
- Grade: C
- All odds from PointsBet (Correct on 09/10/21)