After a decade or so of not having much luck in the Champions League, albeit a period of European football that was largely dominated by Real Madrid and Barcelona, it feels like the Premier League sides are starting to rule the roost again in Europe’s premier club competition.
The first sign of a shift in momentum was the final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at the Wanda Metropolitano in 2019, and for the second time in three seasons, there was another all-English final last year, this time with Chelsea beating Manchester City by a goal to nil at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto.
Of course, there is a real lack of serious competition to the top Premier League sides across Europe. Los Blancos and Barça have been on a decline for the last couple of years, with both of the Spanish sides arguably at an all-time low, whilst the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan were raided for their best players during the summer transfer window, with Romelu Lukaku returning to Chelsea from the San Siro and Cristiano Ronaldo finally making his long waiting homecoming to Old Trafford from Turin.
In terms of the sides that often feature in the knockout rounds — Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and so on — they still lack the real quality all over the pitch and the depth needed to put in a title challenge, and, for that reason, aren’t going to pose any real issues for the favourites in the Champions League odds.
The only teams that look like they could be a thorn in the side of the top English sides are Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. The German giants look dangerous year-after-year, as Robert Lewandowski never seems to let up on the goalscoring front, whilst PSG have built arguably one of the best sides in modern football history as they continue their hunt for that maiden Champions League triumph.
The Parisians and Mauricio Pochettino showed how dangerous they can be this season when they swept aside Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at the Parc des Princes. Idrissa Gueye opened the scoring early on in Paris before Lionel Messi fired home past Ederson from the edge of the box in what was his first strike for his new club.
The task for PSG though is not crumbling in the latter stages of the competition as they have done in recent years. They lost the 2020 final to Bayern Munich, suffering a 1-0 defeat to the Bundesliga giants in Lisbon, and Man City dispatched of the French champions in the semi-finals last year. So, the task for Pochettino and his coaching staff this year is to ensure that they can hold their nerve in the business end of the competition.
Although, the fact that just a mere two sides across the entirety of mainland Europe look capable of actually going all the way and winning the European Cup begs the question — will we see another English winner of the Champions League this year?
Despite the recent defeat to PSG, Man City seem to be the best bet, according to the Paddy Power Champions League betting tips at least. Like their Paris counterparts, the Manchester side have been desperate to lift the iconic trophy since receiving a cash injection from Sheikh Mansour, and last year seemed to be their time, but Chelsea and Kai Havertz had other ideas in Portugal. The main issue for Guardiola this season is the lack of a quality out-and-out striker, and that has already cost his side on numerous occasions this year.
It’s fair to say if City want to go all the way and finally end their drought this season, they would need to bring in a top-class forward, like Harry Kane, in the January transfer window. However, it is notoriously difficult to pull off that kind of deal in the middle of the season and that could be the Etihad side’s downfall in the latter stages of the competition.
With Liverpool and Manchester United perhaps lacking any real depth in their squads, that leaves defending champions Chelsea. In many ways, Thomas Tuchel’s side were in a similar situation to City last year. They lacked any real fire power upfront, but their defensive versatility paid dividends and ultimately won them their second European Cup.
The arrival of Lukaku seems to have filled that void in attack at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea are looking as dangerous as ever. But, with a defeat to Man City in the league and Juventus in the Champions League already this season, it remains to be seen if they have the true quality required to win the tournament back-to-back, which is already an incredibly difficult feat.
On paper, it seems only Bayern, PSG, Man City and Chelsea actually have the capability of winning the Champions League this year, and we wouldn’t bet against one of those four sides lifting the trophy at the Gazprom Arena. But the Champions League is famously hard to predict, so who knows what will unfold in front of our eyes?