Champions League football makes its return this week as the group stages begin, the biggest clubs in Europe beginning their quest to be crowned as the continent’s finest.
Bayern Munich will be bidding to become just the second side in history to defend the trophy during the Champions League era, though the reigning champions are likely to face strong competition in what is expected to be another season of enthralling European action.
As football’s finest prepare to do battle once more in the biggest club competition in the game, we’ve decided to look at some of the players who could make a major impact on this season’s tournament.
So for those of you who like to follow the top betting sites, here are the five favourites to finish as the Champions League’s leading scorer this season:
Erling Haaland – 9/1
Edging out Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah as the fifth favourite to finish as the Champions League’s leading goalscorer is Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, a player who burst onto the scene in last season’s competition to establish himself as one of the game’s most exciting talents.
Haaland announced himself to world football whilst playing for Red Bull Salzburg with a hat-trick on his Champions League debut against Genk, before becoming the first teenager in history to score in each of their first five appearances in the competition.
The goals continued to flow following a winter window move to Dortmund, becoming the fastest ever player to reach double figures for Champions League goals and the first teenager to achieve the feat in a single season.
Haaland’s record now stands at a phenomenal 21 goals in 24 appearances for the Bundesliga side in all competitions and he will be the key figure in their quest to better last season’s last-16 exit, Dortmund beginning their campaign with a trip to Lazio before facing off against Zenit St Petersburg and Club Brugge in Group F.
Lionel Messi – 7/1
Last season was the first time in more than a decade that a player not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had finished as the outright leading scorer in the Champions League, though the two all-time greats remain amongst the favourites with Messi priced at 7/1.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has finished as the Champions League’s top scorer on six previous occasions and will once again be pivotal to Barcelona’s hopes of success, the Spaniards bidding to bounce back following a difficult period in European competition.
Knockout stage capitulations to Roma and Liverpool in recent seasons were followed by that harrowing loss to Bayern in last season’s quarter-finals, the 8-2 defeat likely to leave mental scars for a side with a proud history at this level.
Their turbulent off-season – including Messi attempting to force an exit – and indifferent start to the season has seen the credentials of the five-time winners rightly questioned, though Messi remains arguably the game’s best player and one capable of enjoying another prolific Champions League campaign.
Kylian Mbappe – 6/1
Paris Saint-Germain came agonisingly close to winning an elusive Champions League crown after reaching a maiden final last season, and the Parisian’s are likely to be amongst the leading contenders for the trophy once more this time around.
A formidable forward line containing the likes of Neymar and Angel Di Maria is spearheaded by the irresistible Kylian Mbappe, who has been priced at odds of 6/1 to finish as the Champions League’s leading scorer.
Mbappe has scored 30+ goals in all competitions in each of the past two campaigns and has finished as Ligue 1’s leading scorer in both seasons, the forward now hoping to make his mark in continental competition as PSG bid to become champions of Europe.
The 21-year-old has begun the new league season with four goals in four fixtures and looks to be in razor-sharp form ahead of the French champion’s group stage opener against Manchester United on Tuesday night.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 6/1
Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus was hoped to inspire the club to a long-awaited Champions League crown, the serial Italian champions approaching 25 years since last lifting club football’s biggest trophy.
Ronaldo has had his moments on the European stage since moving to Turin, but the Bianconeri have failed to progress past the last eight in each of the past two seasons and have suffered disappointing early eliminations to Ajax and Lyon respectively.
This season will see the club guided by the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo and the former midfielder’s key objective will be unlocking Ronaldo, a player who has made the Champions League’s latter stages his own throughout a record-breaking career.
The greatest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League and a player whose career-defining moments have often come at the business end of the competition, can Ronaldo help end Juventus’ wait and write another chapter into his unforgettable career.
Robert Lewandowski – 4/1
Last season’s leading scorer and a forward regarded as the best number nine in the game at present, Robert Lewandowski played the best football of his career for the reigning champions last season.
The Poland international finished as the leading scorer in the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League, hitting 55 goals in all competitions as Bayern Munich completed a historic treble under Hansi Flick.
Bayern look well placed to challenge again and are the bookmaker’s favourites to lift the trophy once more, their flawless run to success last season rightfully making the Bavarians the team to beat.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo has ever scored more than the 15 goals managed by Lewandowski in the Champions League last season, a staggering statistic given the tournament’s change to one-legged latter stages amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski is now just four goals short of eclipsing Real Madrid legend Raul as the third-highest goalscorer in Champions League history, and few would bet against the 31-year-old enjoying another goal-laden campaign.