The UEFA Champions League has already produced some thrilling games. It’s the early days of the campaign, but already there have been some wobbles from some of the front runners. English champions Manchester City have had no such troubles and they are sitting as the favourites to win the tournament outright.
Favouritism for Man City
The field for the UEFA Champions League looks wide open this season, more so than ever. Manchester City have yet to taste the glory of lifting aloft UEFA’s most coveted club prize, so even though they are favourites, they are yet to solve the puzzle of how to win the title.
Last season’s Champions League Final winners Liverpool are well back in the mix as joint second-favourites alongside Spanish giants Barcelona. The other teams trading strongly following the start of the tournament are Bayern Munich and PSG, both of which have made very convincing starts to the campaign.
Paris St Germain are the ones who have set an early pace in Group A of the competition and are outright favourites to top Group A. They dished out a 3-0 hammering to Real Madrid in a key result early in the group. So the French side have control of things, while Madrid were only able to collect one point from their first two games. There’s a long way to go and with weaker opposition in Club Brugge and Galatasaray, Los Merengues are still expected to qualify.
The two strongest teams in the group are Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur. Those two have already met in the group stage. There was a remarkable scoreline between them in London as well, as the German visitors ran out 7-2 winners over the Lilywhites. So it’s Bayern well on top in Group B. It leaves Tottenham, who also failed to hold on to lead at Olympiakos in their group opener, with some serious work to do to qualify. The Premier League side have a massive goal difference disadvantage already working against them.
Manchester City were the heavy odds-on favourites to win this group even before it kicked off. It stays that way, as they are head and shoulders above the rest of the competition in this section. With routine wins in their opening two games against Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk, Pep Guardiola’s men look untroubled in Group C. Competition debutants Atalanta have had a terrible start and still have Manchester City to be faced twice. The most interesting thing in Group C is going to be who gets the second place out of Dynamo and Shakhtar.
This is one of the groups where the top two appear to be locked in. The big two are Juventus and Atletico Madrid who drew their first meeting out in Spain in the Group Stage. They will both be relatively happy with that (Juve more so being the away side) and it’s just a straight duel between them to see who goes through as group winners. Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen have looked well short of competitive quality compared to Atletico and Juve.
Reigning European Championship Liverpool had a wake-up call as they were beaten by Italian challengers Napoli. So their job of securing top spot in the group has been made tougher with that early setback. With the great dark horse threat of RB Salzburg in the group as well, this could be a thoroughly entertaining three-way battle for the top two here. Will Napoli be able to hold their early advantage and hold out to top the pile over Liverpool?
Slavia Prague got one of the worst draws possible. They are in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona and Inter Milan. The expected threat of Inter hasn’t quite emerged through the early stages of the group though. It was Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona who took early control of things. Those two clashed in Germany and Barcelona were lucky to get out of the trip with a 0-0 draw. It’s already been a long way back for Milan to try and break the dominance of those two.
Group G is a group with no big team in it, not in terms of being a title contender to win the Champions League outright. Early strides were made by Zenit St Petersburg and Lyon, with RB Leipzig right behind them. There is going to be a fascinating scrap in this group between three evenly-matched teams. Surprisingly it is Benfica who are bringing up the rear early on with their defence having had a tough time.
Premier League side Chelsea are in a tough group here along with Ajax, Valencia and Lille. There is just no clear picture as to who the top two are going to be in this one. Chelsea were beaten at home by Valencia in their opener, which was a major setback for them. That does leave them scrambling a bit, as dropping points at home always does. There just doesn’t appear to be an easy game for any of the teams in this one. It looks like a group which could go down to the wire on Match Day Six.
Only Manchester City and Bayern Munich out of the key contenders were able to produce 100% winning starts over the first couple of rounds of action. Does that indicate that this is going to be an unpredictable Champions League?