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Ready for the premier soccer club competition to begin? We help you decide who to back in the 2016-17 Champions League.
The 25th edition of the Champions League is set to get underway and everything points to it being one of the most exciting competitions since its inception.
Barcelona, with odds of -300, are the pre-tournament favorites but there is not a lot to separate them from Bayern Munich (+400) and Real Madrid (+500) when it comes to betting on the eventual winners.
These three teams are going to be there or thereabouts come the final game, but are there any other sides in this season’s Champions League that could defy the odds and stop Barcelona from lifting the trophy? Here are our 2016-17 UEFA Champions League picks.
Our Winner: Barcelona (+300) to win the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League
It would be impossible, not to mention stupid, to write a prediction piece about the Champions League without including Barcelona, the tournament favorites.
Barcelona have won European club football’s top prize five times, with four of those being the Champions League. The last time Barcelona lifted the coveted trophy was in the 2014-15 season when they defeated Juventus 3-1 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
After falling during the quarter-final stage of last season’s competition, Barcelona will be going all out to ensure they reach at least the final this time around, and with the likes of Neymar Jr, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez leading the line, it is hard to look beyond a Barcelona final appearance.
The group stage games against Manchester City will be interesting, not least because City are managed by former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, so look out for those games as they could be firey.
Our Finalist Real Madrid (+500) to win the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid have been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market during the close season, but when you look at their first team squad you can see why — it did not really need strengthening.
Real are solid at the back with Pepe and Sergio Ramos, have the likes of Luca Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield, and then Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo up front.
I believe if anyone will stop Barcelona winning this season’s Champions League it will be the current holders of the trophy.
Manchester City: +1200 to win the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League
Manchester City could either shock the football community by being an awe-inspiring team, or one that is extremely poor in this year’s competition, but we think the former is more likely.
New manager Pep Guardiola won the Champions League twice with Barcelona (2008-09 and 2010-11) but failed to do so with Bayern Munich.
City have spent big this summer and their squad looks much stronger than the one that fell in the semi-finals of last season’s competition. These new faces, coupled with Guardiola’s guidance, could see Manchester City go all the way and add to their 1969-70 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup trophy.
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Atletico Madrid: +1400 to win the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League
After reaching the final of last season’s competition, and keeping hold of their star assets, Atletico Madrid are a team on the radar of many a bettor, but we would urge to stay away from the red and white striped half of Madrid.
There is increased speculation surrounding Diego Simeone’s future as head coach, with Arsenal the favorites to land the Argentinian. And if Simeone goes it is likely talismanic forward Antoine Griezmann will follow him out of the door.
These two integral characters are still at Atletico but will distraction creep in at the business end of the season? We think so.
Paris Saint-Germain: +1400 to win the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain have been considered contenders for some time, and now that they have seemingly unlimited funds from investors, there is no excuse for them to not challenge for top European honors.
PSG signed Grzegorz Krychowiak for £28.56m from Sevilla and the Pole’s presence in midfield will allow the more creative players to get forward, players such as winger Jese who signed from Real Madrid for £21.25 million.
However, losing David Luiz back to Chelsea and allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to leave on a free transfer sees the Parisians short of quality in central defence and striker positions, the latter now seeing Edinson Cavani as the only recognised striker in a relatively small squad. We can’t see them making it past the quarterfinals.