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Champions League – the favourites to progress to the knockout stages

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This season’s Champions League is already in full-swing, and we’re over halfway through the group stages, with an early indication of who is likely to progress to the knockout rounds. The round of 16 draw is set to take place next month, on December 14th, with the first leg of those matches pencilled in for February 16-17th 2021. Let’s take a look at the front-runners, tipped to make it through their groups to the knockout stages.

Bayern Munich

Last year’s champions are this year’s favourites and if you’re looking to bet on the outright winner, Bayern Munich are great value. They boast a 100% record in the competition so far, and are likely to finish as winners at the top of Group A. In fact, last season, Hans-Dieter Flick’s side won six out of six in the group stages, before going on to win every match en route to the final in Lisbon. Bayern went on to win the treble last season, and have continued their good form this year – both domestically and in Europe. With Robert Lewandowski up front, they always stand a good chance of success, and the Polish international won the Golden Boot last season, scoring 15 goals.

Manchester City

Also boasting a 100% record so far in the group stages are Manchester City. Pep Guardiola is no stranger to silverware in the competition – having been successful with Barcelona twice. But the Champions League is the only accolade missing from the Etihad’s trophy cabinet, and Guardiola’s men are second-favourites to lift the trophy come the end of the season. Their excellent form in the Champions League so far, completely contradicts their domestic showing, with the Citizens sitting 13th in the Premier League table. But perhaps the Sky Blues believe that this is their season, and instead, will be pinning all hopes on glory in Istanbul.

Liverpool

Liverpool suffered a shock exit in the Round of 16 last season, at the hands of Atlético Madrid, who needed extra time to win their second leg. But Liverpool’s name is always there, or thereabouts, when it comes to the latest Champions League odds – and while none of the Anfield faithful will ever forget that night in Istanbul in 2005, they were winners just two seasons ago, also finishing as runners-up in 2017-18. With a clean record so far in the group stages, in what is a difficult group, containing two of the recent underdogs in Ajax and Atalanta, Jürgen Klopp’s side are favourites to progress. Despite their injuries list mounting up, Liverpool have fared well both domestically and in Europe so far this campaign.

Barcelona

It’s been six seasons since the Catalan giants won the Champions League, beating Juventus 3-1, and since then, the furthest they’ve got is the semi-final in 2018-19. Of course, a club of Barcelona’s stature are expected to progress out of the group stages and are among the front-runners to lift the trophy come the end of the season. The Spanish club have been going through tough times on and off the field, and while they’re reliant on their diminutive striker, Lionel Messi, who has amassed 117 Champions League goals (just 13 behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time record), they’ll be hoping their decent form in the competition continues through the latter stages. Like others on this list, domestically, they’ve been pretty woeful, sitting 13th in La Liga with three wins from eight games – so just maybe, they’re hoping for European glory.

Who else do we fancy? Well in Group E, it looks a dead cert that Chelsea and Sevilla will progress. You can’t look beyond Bundesliga sides Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, either. It doesn’t look like there will be too many surprises this season, although Group B is still very open – and any two of four could still make it.

comeontheoviedo
Old-school FM/CM player, author of 'Johnny Cooper: Championship Manager' and someone who now very much starts a save and quits halfway through...

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