Is This Year’s Champions League The Stongest Ever? You Be The Judge!

By Ian John
January 28, 2022

The Champions League is always a tough trophy to win, but after last week’s draw for the Group Stages of the competition this year, this could well be the most difficult tournament to win given the sheer quality of the teams competing.

For once, it seems like every major club from European football’s top league have made it into the competition and all seem to be coming into form heading into the new campaign.

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Let us begin now with a quick look at the draw for the Group Stage, before we look at the main contenders for the tournament and their odds in a little more detail.

Champions League Draw

Group A

  • Club Brugge
  • Manchester City
  • Paris St Germain
  • Red Bull Leipzig

Group B

  • AC Milan
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Liverpool
  • FC Porto

Group C

  • Ajax
  • Besiktas
  • Borussia Dortmund
  • Sporting Lisbon

Group D

  • Inter Milan
  • Real Madrid
  • Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Sheriff

Group E

  • Barcelona
  • Bayern Munich
  • Benfica
  • Dynamo Kyiv

Group F

  • Atalanta
  • Manchester United
  • Villarreal
  • Young Boys

Group G

  • Lille
  • Red Bull Salzburg
  • Sevilla
  • Wolfsburg

Group H

  • Chelsea
  • Juventus
  • Malmo
  • Zenit St Petersburg

Who Are The Pretenders In The Champions League This Season?

Looking at the 32 teams competing, I think we can rule out a number of teams as being genuine contenders immediately.

  • Sheriff Tiraspol, Club Brugge, Young Boys, Malmo, Zenit St Petersburg, Dynamo Kyiv, Besiktas, Wolfsburg, Sporting Lisbon, Shakhtar Donetsk, Lille, Red Bull Salzburg.

I don’t feel many of these teams have a genuine chance of reaching the knockout phase, while some may feel that reaching the Europa League by finishing third would be a huge achievement.

From the remaining teams I think we can also identify teams who only have a slim chance of success and they are:

  • Villarreal, Benfica, FC Porto, Ajax Amsterdam, Red Bull Leipzig, Sevilla

These are teams that I feel will be looking to reach the knockout phase of the tournament and if they go beyond the first round of that, then they will view that as a successful campaign.

However, that still leaves us with a staggering 14 teams who will probably feel that they have a chance of winning the trophy if things go well for them. Let’s take a look at each of them, showing their current odds for the Outright Winner market.

Who Are The Genuine Contenders In The Champions League This Season?

AC Milan – 80/1

Their first Champions League campaign for many years. The 7-times winners of the trophy have a talented squad featuring Ibrahimovic, Giroud, Kessie, Tonali and Rebic but they have been drawn in a very tough group and could find things tough in their first campaign for a while.

Inter Milan – 66/1

With Antonio Conte gone and Simone Inzaghi now in charge, Inter face a tough task here after letting several key players leave in the summer. Dzeko, Calhanoglu and Dumfries have arrived but the feeling is that this Inter squad is not as strong as the one that won Serie A last year.

Atalanta – 50/1

An intriguing side who performed well in the Champions League last year. They have lost a couple of players from hat team but have kept plenty of talented players such as Gosens, Zapata, Maehle, Malinovski, Pessina and Ilicic. They won’t be easy to beat by any team.

Borussia Dortmund – 33/1

Any team with Erling Haaland in attack stands a chance and despite losing a couple of key players over the summer, notably Jadon Sancho, Dortmund have invested in the squad bringing in players like Donyell Malan. A young and talented squad that should be at least looking to land a spot in the quarter finals.

Juventus – 28/1

Ronaldo may have gone, but Juventus do have Massimiliano Allegri back and having signed Manuel Locatelli, Kaio Jorge and kept hold of a number of other key players, the Old Lady of Turin will likely be Italy’s strongest contenders this year and their group stage games with Chelsea will give us a good idea of how strong they are.

Barcelona – 20/1

Usually one of the favourites to win this trophy, with Lionel Messi now gone and the club in a dire financial position, this won’t be an easy season for Barcelona. This team is still very good, but it is not a patch on Barcelona teams of the past, hence the lengthy odds on them winning the Champions League. Watch out for youngsters Pedri and Ansu Fati to shine in the competition this year though.

Atletico Madrid – 20/1

The current Spanish Champions, Diego Simeone’s team are always tough to beat and have plenty of attacking talent including new signings Rodrigo De Paul and Matheus Cunha. Losing Saul may be a big blow though and there is a feeling that this team’s best years are now behind them. That said, they will still be very difficult to beat.

Real Madrid – 14/1

Ramos and Varane have left the club, but Real signed David Alaba as a solid replacement. There’s no doubt that this Real Madrid team is not as strong as teams of the past but they are still the masters of dragging out results when needed in this tournament and as such, I fully expect them to be contenders at the sharp end of things this year too.

Liverpool 9/1

With their centre back nightmare now resolved, Liverpool could be set for a much better season this time around. They lost out to Real Madrid in the quarterfinals last year but on their day they can beat any team in Europe. However, there is a feeling that Klopp’s team has been found out a little and a tough group phase draw won’t help their cause any.

Manchester United – 8/1

After signing Jadon Sancho, Rafael Varane and then Cristiano Ronaldo, this Manchester United team is now poised to make a real run at the top honours in Europe and domestically. Solskjaer’s team finished runners up in the Europa League last season. If they hit form, they could well be serious challengers in this competition too.

Chelsea – 8/1

The current Champions League holders look well set again this year, especially after signing Romelu Lukaku and then snapping up Saul on loan just before the transfer window closed. Thomas Tuchel’s team should be a real threat in this tournament, even though winning back to back Champions League titles is incredibly difficult.

Bayern Munich – 7/1

With Julian Nagelsman now in charge, it is going to be interesting to see how Bayern develop under their new, forward-thinking coach. A squad that is one of the best in Europe and who seem to have the Bundesliga locked up every year, it would be a huge surprise if the Germans do not reach at least the quarter final stages, if not the semis.

Manchester City – 7/2

After losing in the final last year, City have snapped up Jack Grealish to give them added flair from midfield. Pep Guardiola’s team are going to be very tough to beat in this competition this season and they should be semifinal contenders at the very least,

Paris St Germain – 10/3 favourites

A squad that boasted Neymar, Verratti, Marquinhos, Di Maria, Icardi and Mbappe now has Donnarumma, Wijnaldum, Hakimi and Ramos added to its ranks, Oh and Lionel Messi of course. PSG owners have made their play (although how they get around financial fair play is more of a mystery) and this squad has been put together to do one thing; win the Champions League. This may be their best ever chance to do so.

As you can see, it is an incredibly competitive tournament and picking the winner is tough. If I had £10 to place on the winner, I would put my money on Paris St Germain, or I would place £5 each way bet on Manchester United.

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