The Champions League kicks back into action with the start of the knockout stage, and we can be sure to see some epic battles! Who are the favourites to win this year’s edition? Let’s find out with STATSCORE.
Liverpool – the unstoppable machine
The Reds are returning to the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, where several months ago they celebrated their sixth European Cup triumph in history, to face Atletico Madrid. The Jürgen Klopp’s team is unstoppable in the Premier League this season leading the table by a jaw-dropping 25 points (with 25 victories, and 1 draw)! With such a comfortable situation at home, they can fully focus on defending the Champions League title.
The group stage of the Champions League didn’t go that smoothly for Liverpool, starting with a defeat against Napoli, which seemed to be one of the very few teams that had any ideas on how to defy the Merseyside team. The other teams in the group, Red Bull Salzburg and Genk, also managed to put up fights against the Reds.However, thanks to their amazingly strong form in the Premier League, the CL title defenders are topping the power rankings, and are among the bookmakers’ favourites to win the competition. With Jürgen Klopp’s tactical prowess, Alisson’s excellent goalkeeping, fantastic defensive players, Jordan Henderson’s leadership, and, of course, the amazing front trio of Salah, Mane, Firmino – it couldn’t be surprising to anyone if they managed to defend the title.
Manchester City… or Real Madrid
The clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid is one of the most anticipated events of the Champions League season, as both of these teams could be expected to reach the final of the competition.
To add to that, the Citizens, who have been seen as one of the frontrunners in this year’s competition, are currently facing a 2-year ban from taking part in European competitions for serious breaches in their financial dealings.
The question remains about how it will play out from the psychological point of view. With no real chances of winning this year’s Premier League title, and with the UEFA’s ban – the Pep Guardiola’s team may feel some extra motivation to prove their value by beating Real Madrid and advancing to the final stages of the competition.
But, of course, we should never underestimate Real Madrid, the most successful team in the history of European cups. And any of players such as Ramos, Benzema, Modrić, Varane, and Kroos, can make a difference in that game!
Barcelona – depending on Messi?
Barcelona is, as always, counted among the favourites to win the most important European competition. They finished the group stage with 14 points in Group F, four ahead of the second-placed Borussia Dortmund, after beating Inter Milan and Slavia Prague.
So will reaching the final of the competition be an easy task? Well, not really. The first challenge will be to outsmart Napoli, who, despite numerous problems, are not going to quit without putting up a fight.
In fact, Barcelona has had its own share of problems, and the gossip that has been spreading about Messi willing to leave the Blaugrana is surely not helping to create a positive atmosphere before the upcoming games. Add to that Luis Suárez’s injury, and it doesn’t look that bright. Unless… if not Messi nor Suárez, then who knows if it won’t be the teenage sensation Ansu Fati to make the difference?
Juventus – hungry for success
Despite some weaker performances put up lately by Juve, they still seem to be one of the teams with the strongest will to win the Champions League this year.
And yes, they have Cristiano Ronaldo who is able to win some games by himself, and who is highly motivated to add a new trophy to his collection. If that’s not enough, let’s add Szczęsny, Chiellini, de Ligt, and Dybala to the equation, and we’ll know what they are capable of.Though the team is not always shining, it’s still possible that they’ll come to the boil at the right time!