Europe’s leading clubs learned their fate ahead of the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stages following the draw for the competition’s last 16, with Barcelona meeting last season’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain in the pick of the ties.
Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are the Premier League’s remaining representative sides with each qualifying for the knockout stages as group winners, with their scheduled last 16 encounters set to take place over two legs in February and March.
So for those of you interested in the best betting sites like Betiton UK, we’ve decided to look at who the bookmakers fancy to be crowned as champions of Europe at the season’s end, here are the five favourites to win the Champions League:
Juventus – 12/1
Juventus’ desire to end their long wait for a Champions League trophy is well documented, with this season marking 25 years since the Bianconeri were last crowned as the continent’s finest.
Since then there have been an agonising five final defeats, their most recent coming in 2017 as the Italians were beaten by Barcelona in Berlin.
Juventus’ acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago was designed to help the club compete once more for Europe’s biggest prize, the addition of the Champions League’s all-time record goalscorer providing the side with star power as they bid to transfer their domestic dominance into continental competition.
Now under the management of Andrea Pirlo, Juventus qualified for the knockout stages as group winners, bouncing back from a disappointing defeat to Barcelona in Turin to thrash the Spanish side in their final group fixture and finish top.
That performance has seen their odds placed at 12/1 and Pirlo’s side have been handed a favourable draw after being paired with Porto in the last 16, a tie they will enter as favourites as they bid to reach the last eight.
Cristiano Ronaldo marks 💯 games for Juventus by burying a pair of penalties. 👏👏
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 13, 2020
Juventus have disappointed in early exits to Ajax and Lyon over the past two seasons and will be determined to right those wrongs this time around, the Italians possessing the talent to trouble any side and in Ronaldo a player who relishes club football’s biggest stage.
Paris Saint-Germain – 12/1
Last season’s runners-up are the joint-fourth favourites to go one better and win the Champions League this season, having qualified as winners from a testing group containing both RB Leipzig and Manchester United.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have not always convinced during this season’s competition and remain heavily reliant on both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for inspiration, though the presence of that duo in the Parisian’s attack offers hope they can secure a maiden title this season.
Tuchel showed that he can organise an often individualistic side into contenders last season, reaching the showpiece before suffering a narrow loss to Bayern Munich in Lisbon.
Winning the Champions League remains the holy grail for the club’s owners and PSG are well placed to become just France’s second ever European champions, provided they can retain a balance when coming up against the continent’s finest in the latter stages.
The draw for the last 16 has pitted PSG against five-time winners Barcelona in a fascinating match up, one that will see Neymar – the joint-leading scorer in this season’s competition – come up against his former side and Lionel Messi.
Neymar’s world-record signing was completed with the hope the Brazilian could lead PSG to a maiden triumph and he will once again be key to their chances of success.
Liverpool – 11/2
Liverpool are regarded as 11/2 third favourites to be crowned as champions of Europe once more, the Reds having reached successive finals in 2018 and 2019 – winning the latter against Tottenham – before a disappointing last 16 exit to Atletico Madrid last season.
The Premier League champions qualified fairly comfortably from a group containing tricky assignments against Atalanta and Ajax, and will face a first ever meeting with RB Leipzig in the knockout stages as Jurgen Klopp pits his wits against highly-regarded compatriot Julian Nagelsmann.
Victory in this season’s competition will take Liverpool level with AC Milan on seven European Cups, a figure bettered by only Real Madrid in the competition’s entire history.
Klopp’s side have the talent and know-how to make a real impact in the latter stages, though their depleted defensive options are a concern with both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez expected to miss the majority of the season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 14, 2020
Those absences leave the Reds in a precarious position with injuries ahead of a relentless festive schedule and it remains to be seen whether the club’s board opt to assess their issues in the January transfer window.
The addition of a new centre-back could make a huge difference to a side few will fancy facing in the latter stages.
Manchester City – 7/2
Whether it’s spoken publicly or not, the Champions League is at the forefront of Manchester City’s ambitions this season as the club look to finally end their wait for a maiden European crown.
City have been the most successful side in English football over the past decade but have struggled to transfer their domestic dominance to the Champions League stage, suffering meek early exits in each of the past four campaigns.
Chaotic clashes with Monaco, Liverpool and Tottenham all resulted in elimination for Pep Guardiola’s side, whilst they were defeated by rank underdogs Lyon in the quarter-finals last season.
Guardiola has been criticised for overthinking and complicating matters when it comes to Champions League ties, and hopes will be high that the Spaniard has learned his lessons as he bids to lift the trophy for a third time as a manager and first since leaving Barcelona almost nine years ago.
🔵 Sergio Agüero in the Champions League for Manchester City:
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 9, 2020
City undoubtedly have the talent to go far and their new found solidity bodes well ahead of the latter stages, with the signing of Ruben Dias having improved their defensive fragility ahead of a last 16 encounter with a Borussia Monchengladbach side possessing firepower.
Kevin De Bruyne remains the key to City’s hopes of Champions League success, whilst the club will hope Sergio Aguero can overcome the injury problems which have plagued the Argentine of late.
Bayern Munich – 11/4
Bayern Munich remain the team to beat in the Champions League this season with the holders having made an ominous start to the defence of their crown, breezing through the group stages in unbeaten fashion to reach the last 16.
Hansi Flick’s side are currently unbeaten in 17 fixtures in the competition and will face Lazio in the first knockout stage, the Italians having returned to the Champions League this season after more than a decade away.
Bayern’s hopes will largely be pinned on the prolific talents of Robert Lewandowski who may just have been the world’s finest footballer over the past 18 months, scoring 55 goals in all competitions during the Bavarian’s treble-winning campaign and starting the new season with 16 goals in just 16 appearances.
Bayern have world-class quality throughout their ranks, however, with the summer signing of Leroy Sane adding yet more speed and skill to a forward line containing Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, whilst Joshua Kimmich has assumed the mantle of midfield conductor.
Real Madrid are the only side to have retained the trophy in the Champions League era following a three-peat between 2016 and 2018, though few sides have been as well equipped as Bayern to embark on a period of European dominance.