The Champions League competition proper kicks off next week with a huge clash between two of the teams ranked among the favourites for the trophy accodring to football betting site SkyBet: Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Although it’s far too early to take too much from such matches, the nature of City’s group means that every point will count: a resurgent Ajax and the dangerous Borussia Dortmund complete a group that has the potential to produce some outstanding matches.
City haven’t started the season too convincingly, though they have claimed seven points from their opening matches. Surprisingly, the English Champions look a little flimsy at the back, having conceded five goals in those first three matches. Still, they have more than enough ability to progress from the group and if they manage to come out of it on top, the odds will shorten significantly on them winning the whole thing.
Madrid, meanwhile, have won, lost and drawn in their opening three matches in La Liga and are disrupted by rumours of unrest in the camp. Star player Cristiano Ronaldo has been ‘sad’, although the reasons for his upset aren’t currently clear. If Madrid’s uncertain league form continues into the Champions League, they could find themselves facing the unthinkable – and anxiety exacerbating – prospect of an early exit from Europe’s most gilded competition. Arguably the match against City will be more important for the Spanish champions than their English counterparts.
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Despite not winning the league or the Champions League last year, Barcelona find themselves once again favourites to win every competition that they’re in. A new manager at the Camp Nou has hardly made any difference as Barca have exploded into the new season, scoring eight and conceding just two, and in the process dealing with tricky opponents in the shape of Valencia. Barcelona’s opener against Spartak Moscow at home should be dealt with comfortably, whilst they won’t anticipate Celtic or Benfica causing too many problems.
The two remaining teams in the top five list of favourites are Manchester United and Bayern Munich. United haven’t started the season particularly well and face a tricky home tie against Galatasary first up, but the likes of Braga and Romanian minnows Cluj shouldn’t represent a serious obstacle to getting out of the group.
Bayern, meanwhile, have Valencia to deal with, and then BATE Borisov and French team, Lille. Last season’s finalists should qualify comfortably and with two wins from two under their belt in the Bundesliga will go into the first round of Champions League matches in high spirits.
Making predictions at this early stage is far from easy, and who knows what the second round draw could throw up. Barcelona start as favourites, but should they hit a rough patch it will be interesting to see how quickly they emerge from it under new management. It’s also worth considering that most of their players have hardly had a break for several years now. Still, with the talent on display at the Camp Nou and a relatively easy group, it would be foolish to bet against the Catalan giants.