The UEFA Champions League is the pinnacle of European club football and is one of the most prestigious club competitions in the world. The competition, in its current format, was introduced in 1992 when it replaced the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.
To illustrate its worldwide popularity, the final of the 2012–13 competition was the most watched UEFA Champions League final, as well as the most watched annual sporting event in 2013. It drew in a huge 360 million television viewers.
In its current format, the Champions League begins in mid-July with three knockout qualifying rounds and a play-off round. The ten teams who get through this qualifying process enter the group stage, joining 22 other teams who qualified in advance. The 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four and play each other in a double round-robin system, similar to their domestic league format. The eight group winners and eight runners-up proceed to the knockout phase that culminates with the final match in May. The winner of the Champions League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Since its initial inception in 1955, Real Madrid are the most successful club in the competition's history. They have won the tournament ten times, including its first five seasons. Spanish clubs have recorded the highest number of victories with 15 wins and are closely followed by England and Italy who have 12 wins a-piece. Spanish clubs are favourites to add a sixteenth title to that total with most bookmakers, followed by Germany and England.
The competition has been won by 22 different clubs, of which 12 have won it more than once. Since the tournament changed name and structure in 1992, no club has managed consecutive wins. Milan remain the last holders of the competition to successfully defend their title after doing so in the 1989–90 season.
In 2013/14, Real Madrid clinched their tenth title and their first for twelve years with victory over City rivals Atletico in Lisbon. It was the first final in the competition's history that featured two teams from the same city. It was also the second all-Spanish final, after Real faced Valencia in the final in 2000 and the fifth final between teams from the same country.
Last season the tournament was won by Barcelona who enjoyed a 1-3 success over Juventus at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. The victory capped a tremendous season for Barca who completed a treble upon lifting the trophy for the fifth time in their history having also won La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
Most Successful Clubs In Champions League History
Real Madrid – 10 Titles
A.C Milan – 7 Titles
Bayern Munich – 5 Titles
Liverpool/Barcelona – 5 Titles
Ajax – 4 Titles
Barcelona now join A.C Milan, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Liverpool and Real Madrid in an elite group of European teams. A rule introduced in the 1968/69 season allowed the cup to become the property of any club which won the competition five times or three years in a row. Ajax are the only club in this list who have not won the trophy five times but won the cup three years in a row between 1971 and 1973.
Of the teams from the list above, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich occupy the first three places in outright betting at the outset and are expected to face stiff competition from Premier League winners Chelsea and French Ligue 1 champions PSG, while last year's runner-up Juventus is once again flying the flag for Italy.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal are the other three English sides involved, though all are considered to need a fair bit of luck along the way to reach the 2016 UEFA Champions League Final, which will be played at the San Siro in Milan.
Top Goalscorers In Champions League History At Beginning Of 2015/16 Season (excluding qualifiers)
Lionel Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo - 77 goals
Raúl - 71 goals
Ruud van Nistelrooy - 56 goals
Thierry Henry - 50 goals
Alfredo Di Stéfano - 49 goals
Andriy Shevchenko - 48 goals
Eusébio - 46
Filippo Inzaghi - 46
Didier Drogba - 44
The rivalry of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continued last season as both players netted an incredible 10 goals each in the Champions League to move ahead of Real Madrid legend Raúl in the all time top goalscorer records. Barcelona's Neymar also scored 10 times as that trio pipped Shakhtar Donetsk's Luiz Adriano who recorded an impressive tally of 9 as well as becoming the first player to score hat-tricks in consecutive Champions League group stage games.
Adriano will not be involved in this season's compeition after moving to AC Milan who did not qualify, but the likes of Porto's Jackson Martínez, Bayern's Thomas Müller, and Barca's Luis Suárez who were tied on 7 goals a-piece should be among the goals once again.
Messi and Ronaldo are favourites to top the scoring charts again but as you would expect, it’s hard to find value on a market that they excel in so regularly. However, if you back either player with 888Sport, they will pay out treble the odds on your first bet.
Other players to consider for any goalscorer betting that we have not mentioned yet include; Man City's Sergio Agüero, Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Bayern's Robert Lewandowski who each notched 6 times in Europe last season.