We’re inching closer and closer to the knockout round of the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League tournament. As we count down the days til the best football clubs worldwide retake the pitch, let’s preview the remaining field.
Who are the odds-on favorites to win? What are the juicy matchups ahead? Will this be Messi’s last UCL with Barcelona? All those questions, plus more, will be answered in this in-depth preview.
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, Bayern Munich finds themselves as THE wagering favorite to win the Champions League. Bookmakers are giving them, give or take, +275 odds to win the title — for non-bettors, that means a hundred dollar bet their way would net a profit of $275 (and for comparison sake, the tourney’s biggest underdog has a betting line of +15000).
Though, winning a second straight UCL trophy won’t be easy. Only one club — the Ronaldo-led Real Madrid teams of 2016-2018 — have repeated as champions over the last three decades. While history may not be on Bayern Munich’s side, recent events certainly are.
Simply put, Bayern is firing on all cylinders. They’re currently tops in the Bundesliga table and went 5-0-1 during the UCL group stage. Even more, the group is led by, perhaps, the world’s best footballer today, Robert Lewandowski, who would’ve won the 2020 Ballon d’Or if it had not been cancelled due to the pandemic. Either way, watch out for Bayern in the games ahead.
Per usual, the English Premier League clubs are having a strong showing thus far. Sans Manchester United (who bowed out in the group stage), three EPL teams remain in the thick of it — Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City — and pose the biggest risk to take out the favored Bayern.
Liverpool has overcome one injury after another — none bigger than defender Virgil van Dijk — to not only remain competitive this season, but just as good as before. Then there's Man City, who haven’t lost a single game since late November. Lastly, Chelsea has made significant strides in manager Frank Lampard’s second campaign.
Returning to the topic of betting, the second and third best odds of winning the 2021 UCL crown are Man City (+400) and Liverpool (+550), respectively. Chelsea isn’t nearly as close at +1400, but are in the conteiton mix. Either way, these three are great options for bettors that don’t like taking odds-on favorites.
The two GOATs, Ronaldo and Messi, met once again in the UCL group stage finale as Juvenus rolled through Barcelona 3-0. Many left that match wondering if this would be the last time the two rivals would duel against each other, especially under these high stakes. Not only that, but is time running out on their careers to hoist another Champions League trophy?
Ronaldo has five such titles in his collection but will turn 36 years old in a matter of weeks. Thus far, his Juventus side has looked rather shaky. They currently sit fifth in Series A standings, seven points behind the leaders — which threatens to snap its nine-season streak of winning the domestic league.
And then there’s Barcelona and Messi’s souring relationship.Rumors of his pending departure
at season’s end have been a giant distraction all-year long and a solution doesn’t appear likely. Messi will be 34 later this year, but his best chance at another UCL title is probably elsewhere at this point.
The draw for the UCL knockout round took place in mid-December and coming out of it, three matchups immediately jumped out the page — Barcelona vs. PSG, Juventus vs. Porto, and Atletico vs. Chelsea. Why these three? Well, they all feature familiar returns.
For one, Neymar returns to Camp Nou as part of PSG, and the last time these two clubs met in the Champions League, an instant classic ensued. Then there’s Ronaldo playing Portugal-based Porto. And finally, there’s the “Diego Costa derby” involving his current and longtime team, Atletico, versus his last, Chelsea.
As you can already tell, the plot thickens in the next Champions League round. The action kicks off come February 24.