The Round Of 16
With the knockout phase soon to begin, we are now at the business end of this season’s Champions League and as 16 of the very best aim to go all the way, we look at the runners and riders that are still left in the competition.
One Step Further
After the disappointment of last season, Manchester City will look to go one better this time and in doing so, finally capture the one prize that their Abu Dhabi owners have been coveting for more than a decade.
Because although English dominance feeds the Etihad machine, it is the conquering of the continent which has eluded City the most and with the bookmakers currently marking them down as favourites, could 2022 finally be their year?
For those who do think that Pep Guardiola will win his third Champions League as manager and finally lead City to the promised land, you can currently get odds of 11/4 with bet365 on the Premier League leaders and that must be considered a solid mid-term investment.
While for those who like to past the favourites, it is always difficult to look past Bayern Munich and with Julian Nagelsmann taking the Allianz reins from Hans-Dieter Flick, a tenth successive Bundesliga crown is looking likely for the Bavarian outfit.
Then again, winning the Bundesliga is just everyday business for Bayern and at odds of 1/50 for them to make it a perfect ten in a few months, it is not a price which constitutes anything in the way of value.
However, backing Bayern to win the Champions League at odds of 7/2 with bet365 certainly is and with the 2020 winners looking to wrestle back the trophy from holders Chelsea, this price will surely be worth considering.
The English Invasion
As for holders Chelsea, they may now look to put all their eggs into a Champions League shaped basket and with their aim to win the Premier League, being one that has become unrealistic in recent weeks, a fuller focus on Europe is one that may be required.
Because you could argue that keeping Chelsea as a going concern in the Champions League, is the one thing that is keeping Thomas Tuchel in gainful employment and with Roman Abramovich not being shy when it comes to sacking managers, the Blues’ boss is currently on slightly shaky ground.
That is not to say that a sacking is imminent but there is no doubt that Chelsea have lost a step in the Premier League and if they fail to match the same European heights as last year, then questions will be asked of Tuchel’s time in West London.
At 6/1, Chelsea currently finds themselves priced as fourth favourites and although they will be confident of getting the better of Lille in the Round of 16, they must also treat the defending Ligue 1 champions with the respect they deserve.
With three of the four favourites now covered, it is time to put the spotlight on the last of the quartet and with Liverpool currently priced as 11/2 third favourites with Paddy Power, the Merseyside men will hope for a repeat of the 2019 success.
Of course, Liverpool perhaps have something of a dilemma when it comes to their own set of eggs and a Champions League sized basket, because Jurgen Klopp will have to balance a domestic title hunt and a Champions League run accordingly.
Whether the Anfield outfit do have the resources to compete on both fronts remains to be seen and if they fail to really land a glove on Manchester City above them, then a quick pivot of focus to Europe may well be required.
The Next Batch
When looking outside the four teams at the top of the market, PSG then enter the conversation and with Mauricio Pochettino’s men leading Ligue 1 at a canter, they have the luxury of resting key men before key matches.
Which is something to consider when looking at their current odds of 10/1 with Coral and if the Argentine manager can juggle his superstars accordingly, then the French giants could be worth considering as a relative outside bet.
Looking past PSG and Ajax are arguably the biggest shock at 14/1 and although Erik ten Hag has worked wonders with the Amsterdam based outfit, winning the Champions League trophy in 2022 may be a stretch too far.
With that said, Ajax have been priced at 14/1 for good reason and with them at shorter price than the trio of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus, these three European giants seem largely unfancied.
Which what can also be said for two clubs that have a Diego Simeone connection and with both Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan largely unfancied to win the competition, odds of 33/1 and 50/1 respectively are testament to that.
Past them and we are moving into pure outsider territory and with the quintet of Villarreal, Benfica, Lille, Sporting and RB Salzburg bringing up the rear in that order, any of these being crowned the kings of Europe seems rather unlikely.