It has been nearly five months since Liverpool were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid, when the last game of the tournament was controversially permitted to go ahead in the UK on 11 March as Covid-19 swept across the continent. But the pinnacle of European football returns this week, and two English clubs remain in the running to win the European Champion Clubs’ Cup with Manchester City currently the joint favourites with sports betting firms here in the UK.
After a 149-day wait, Manchester City will take on Real Madrid (agg 2-1) on Friday at the Etihad Stadium for the second leg of their tie after UEFA bosses announced that the matches will be played at home teams’ stadiums, whilst Juventus will play Lyon (agg 0-1). These games will be followed on Saturday when Bayern Munich will take on Chelsea (agg 3-0) at the Allianz Arena and Barcelona will play Napoli (agg 1-1).
Whilst fans would hope that teams always play for the win in every match, the reality in recent years has been that a number of managers have played it safe in ties away from home and only pushed for the win on the home leg. The change from a two-legs to single-legs for the final stages of the tournament will means that every match is now a knock-out and that should mean a more aggressive and attacking style of football from all involved this season. Add to this the major variations in match fitness between the teams, some of which have only played a couple of competitive matches since March, and picking the favourite has become an ever more complex decision.
Currently, the betting markets have Manchester City and Bayern Munich at equal 10/3 favourites for the title, followed by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at 8/1, Atalanta at 9/1, Juventus at 14/1, RB Leipzig at 14/1, and Real Madrid at 25/1. Few predict that Chelsea will be able to overturn their 3-0 defeat against Bayern Munich, especially since they will be without Christian Pulisic, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Pedro Rodriguez who all sustained injuries during the FA Cup Final. The markets have the London club at 200/1 to win the tournament.
To compress down the amount of time required to complete the tournament this year, the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final will all now only have a single leg and will be played in either Benfica’s Estadio da Luz or Sporting Lisbon’s Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon, Portugal. All the remaining Champions league and Europa League matches will be broadcast in the UK exclusively on BT Sport and kick-off for each game will be at 8pm BST.