This week sees the Champions League kick off. If it feels like Bayern Munich just wrapped up last season's title, you're not wrong. What is usually a three-plus month break between the final and the start of the next season's competition has become just under two months since the Bavarians lifted the trophy in Lisbon after their 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain.
The road to Istanbul and the 2021 trophy starts this week with the holders Bayern (+400) joined by Manchester City (+400), Liverpool (+550) and last season’s runner-up, PSG (+1000) as the betting favorites according to oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook.. None of these clubs enter the competition looking particularly formidable, at least compared to their usual standards. Their short odds are due more to the early-season challenges at traditional powers like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus who would ordinarily be among the favorites.
While all of these favorites are likely to progress from the group stages to the knockout portion of the competition but all start their campaigns with uncharacteristic weaknesses and uncertainties. Bayern, while certainly still packed with talent, lost Philippe Coutinho, Thiago Alcántara, and Ivan Perisic from their title-winning side. They did bring in Leroy Sané and Douglas Costa to help on the wings but the absences of Coutinho and ThIago will be felt in the center of the park.
The two Premier League clubs among the favorites have both started off the season in troubling form. Manchester City struggled down the stretch last season and have lost midfield lynchpin David Silva and seen Sergio Agüero and Kevin De Bruyne both miss time early in the season as they've dropped points to Leicester City and, more concerningly, newly promoted Leeds United. None of that will prevent Pep Guardiola's side from topping a group containing Porto, Marseilles, and Olympiakos but it may make it difficult to get much further than that. The defending Premier League champions would probably be ahead of City in the odds given their Premier League dominance last season combined with a relatively weak group with Atalanta, Ajax, and Mitjylland but the Reds lost the rock of their defense, Virgil Van Dijk, for the season to an ACL injury over the weekend. The injury heaped early-season woes on Jurgen Klopp's side after they lost 7-2 to an Aston Villa side that barely avoided relegation last season and then drew with city rivals Everton 2-2 in the match that saw Van Dijk injured.
With the football economy in distress due to the lack of fans it isn't clear whether the big (but flawed) clubs that are currently favorites will be able to improve themselves in January ahead of the start of the knockout stages in February. With the final in May wide open, here's a list of the sides tipped to make it to the knockout stages and the chances the bookies give them of coming out on top in Turkey:
Bayern Munich (+400)
Manchester City (+400
Paris Saint-Germain (+1000)
Real Madrid (+1200)
Atletico Madrid (+2200)
Manchester United (+2500)
Borussia Dortmund (+2500)
Inter Milan (+3000)
RB Leipzig (=6600)
You'll notice that I've listed 17 teams as "tipped to make it through" where clearly, only 16 can. As it turns out, Group H, featuring PSG, Manchester United, and RB Leipzig, is looking like a "Group of Death" with three strong contenders while Porto from Group C are favored to progress from their group but given little chance of moving much further than that.
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