Champions League Tipsheet: Can anyone knock Real Madrid off their perch?

Klopp's side are no flash in the pan
Can Klopp and Liverpool go one better?
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This season's Champions League feels like the most open in a long time, says James Horncastle...

Tuchel and Klopp's last encounter at Anfield was a seven-goal thriller in the Europa League, an extraordinary night when Liverpool came back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 in the last minute.

The Champions

The exchange fancies Man City most to be crowned Champions of Europe in Madrid next May. Trading at [5.7], the price is understandable when you consider the performance levels this team is achieving in the Premier League. But Pep Guardiola hit the same heights with Bayern Munich and that didn't guarantee success on the continent.

Indeed it's curious that the Catalan hasn't reached the final of this competition since he last won it in 2011 with Barcelona.

Speaking of Pep's old club, the Spanish champions are pitched as second favourites @ [6.8] despite consistently disappointing in recent memory. Incredibly for a team with Lionel Messi in its ranks, the Blaugrana have left the competition at the quarter-final stage in each of the last three years.

Naturally there's a lot of expectation around Juventus now that Cristiano Ronaldo is in black and white. Finalists in two of the last four years, the Old Lady hopes the Champions League's all-time top scorer will help her end a 23-year wait for this trophy.

The Italians are a decent price @ [9] - the same odds as PSG who look a much more dangerous proposition under Thomas Tuchel. Financial Fair Play muzzled PSG in the summer and the sales they were obliged to make have left the midfield looking thin. But only Liverpool have as devastating an attack as the Parisiens in this year's competition.

The Reds look great value @ [12] especially after their summer in the transfer window. Nobody on the continent, perhaps with the exception of Juventus, upgraded as aggressively and as well, and Jurgen Klopp has a great record of making finals.

No one is better at winning them though than holders Real Madrid. Losing Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo explains why they are down @ [11], a little long for my liking given the know-how within the team, the potential of Marcos Asensio and Dani Ceballos, and stars like Gareth Bale who now have the chance to step out of Ronaldo's shadow.

The Golden Boot

Cristiano Ronaldo has finished Champions League top scorer in every one of the last six seasons. However, the Portuguese isn't the favourite to be the most prolific goal scorer in this year's competition. That's Lionel Messi at 4/1, hardly an out-there choice and relatively straightforward to justify for reasons that go beyond his extraordinary talent.

No longer at Real Madrid, Ronaldo needs time to get to know his new teammates at Juventus. The culture he is walking into is completely different to the one he found in Spain. While Ronaldo and Juventus share the same work ethic, his new club is uncompromising when it comes to its identity. Juventus believe in conceding one goal fewer than their opponent rather than scoring a goal more and you wonder how much of an impact this will have on CR7's Champions League numbers.

The 33-year-old is an appetising 7/1 at this stage along with Manchester City sicario Sergio Agüero. But I'd argue there is more value to be had elsewhere.

Mo Salah is 12/1, Sadio Mane 33/1 and Roberto Firmino 50/1 which is astonishing given they scored 10 goals a piece in Liverpool's run to the final last season. The Senegal international looks like the value pick considering how well he has started the campaign.

Sticking in Group C where the goals are expected to come thick and fast, it's surprising to see Kylian Mbappe as long as 16/1. Perhaps it reflects PSG's recent history of failing to get out of the Round of 16. But maybe things will be different this time around under Thomas Tuchel.

Last but not least there's the Ronaldo-shaped hole at Real Madrid. After playing second fiddle to the five-time Ballon d'Or winner for years, pulling away defenders and creating the space for Ronaldo to do damage in with great altruism, Karim Benzema is reminding everyone that he is more than good enough to be the main man at the Bernabeu. The Frenchman has five goals in four appearances for Madrid this season and deserves serious consideration at 25/1.

The Tie of the Round

The Champions League kicks off with a bang at Anfield as last year's runners' up Liverpool prepare to take on Paris Saint-Germain in what everyone expects to be a shootout between the continent's most lethal attacking tridents.

Storylines aren't exactly in short supply as Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel square up in a meeting of minds which pits master against his pupil. Both teams boast perfect records since the start of season and begin their Champions League campaigns brimming with self-confidence.

Tuchel probably has the most to think about though in the build-up to this game. Speaking after Friday's 4-0 deconstruction of Saint Etienne, the German confessed he is still undecided on what system to play on Merseyside.

PSG are without the suspended Marco Verratti and look threadbare in the middle after sacrificing Javier Pastore and Giovanni lo Celso on the altar of Financial Fair Play. Thiago Motta has retired, Blaise Matuidi left for Juventus a year ago and Lassana Diarra is too inconsistent to be trusted in a game of this magnitude. He was hooked at half-time on Friday night.

Tuchel has taken to moving centre-back Marquinhos into midfield but the Brazilian is still learning the ropes in a new position. Problems at left-back also impact on the composition of PSG's midfield.

For instance, if Presnel Kimpembe moves out there, Tuchel doesn't have another centre-back with the requisite experience to give him the assurances he needs. For all the hype around Thilo Kehrer, Marquinhos would have to drop back in.

So Tuchel has two options to cover for Layvin Kurzawa who underwent surgery on a herniated disc during the week. The first is to play deadline day signing Juan Bernat and hope he gets up to speed in a hurry. The Spaniard acquired from Bayern hasn't played since the end of April and is lacking match fitness. The other idea is to place more faith in teenager Stanley Nsoki who featured regularly under Tuchel in pre-season.

Whoever it is will have to be on their toes because PSG's left is where Mohamed Salah is going to be active.

Make no mistake, this game has the makings of a classic. PSG have scored three or more goals in all six of their competitive outings this season. Tuchel rested Kylian Mbappe and Neymar at the weekend but their absence wasn't felt.

Each component of his back-up trident still managed to get on the scoresheet. Angel di Maria looks reborn under new management and one suspects the reason Tuchel is still mulling over what formation to go with has a lot to do with his desire to fit the Argentine in somewhere.

Tuchel and Klopp's last encounter at Anfield was a seven-goal thriller in the Europa League, an extraordinary night when Liverpool came back from 2-0 and 3-1 down to beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 in the last minute. A subtle variation of that spectacle would be very welcome indeed. As such why not back Liverpool-PSG to finish Over 6.5 goals @ [9.2].

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