The Champions League returns next week with blockbuster clashes that serve as a reminder of why it is regarded as the world’s greatest club competition. Watch the goals flow when Ajax host Liverpool in Amsterdam. Or see how tactical mastermind Diego Simeone sets up his Atletico Madrid team to take on reigning champions Bayern Munich.
Not feeling those? Then tune in to the action in the French capital to see if Manchester United can get their defence in shape to handle PSG. The list goes on. There’s something for everyone. And the keen-eyed readers of this article will notice that Paris was listed as a location for one of the matches. Yes, only one.
Travelling is back on in the Champions League. The latter stages of last season’s competition were condensed into a mini-tournament format to spare clubs from zipping around the continent. All of the football from the quarter-final stage onwards was played out in neutral venues across Lisbon. This was all implemented in the early days of the pandemic. There seems to be a view now that such precautions are no longer necessary.
There will even be fans allowed inside stadiums depending on where the game is being played. If local authorities are cool with it then UEFA are happy to allow clubs to fill their venues up to 30 per cent capacity with only home fans attending. This could give certain clubs an advantage over others given that some countries are allowing fans in and others are not. On the pitch, Bayern will be the favourites to regain their title.
A domestic blip against Hoffenheim aside, they have looked imperious under Hansi Flick. They allowed Thiago Alcantara to leave but brought in the likes of Leroy Sane to further bolster their ranks. We mentioned a blip there and Bayern are not the only team to have suffered one or two dodgy results in the opening weeks of the season.
Many of the clubs who participated in the latter stages of the Champions League and Europa League are suffering from the lack of a break long enough to rest and recover. We wonder if this will impact the group stage, which doesn’t provide as many shocks as the latter stages.
Two English sides are tipped to go far in the competition, Manchester City and Liverpool showing their domestic prowess in recent seasons. Liverpool won the competition in 2019 and exited at a relatively early stage last time out. City have one of the easier groups and will be expected to coast to the knockout rounds.
PSG made it to last season’s final and missed big chances against Bayern before eventually losing to the German giants. With their stranglehold on the domestic game so strong, they will once again be expected to go far. Then you have the traditional giants from the other Big Five leagues, the likes of Italian sides like Juventus and Inter Milan as well as Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The big odds on the latter two teams shows how far they have fallen in recent seasons. An emphatic win on matchday one would go some way to shortening those odds and silencing doubters. We suggest keeping an eye on the daily free betting tips you can find on Sportytrader to stay up to date with the shape of each side. The Champions League offers twists and turns like no other competition. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It’s quite a show.
The Champions League returns on 20 October 2020.