Dimitar Berbatov: This could be Atletico's year to win the Champions League

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone
Will Simeone steer Atletico to Champions League glory?
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The Champions League returns next week and two-time finalist and Betfair Ambassador Dimitar Berbatov is swerving the favourites with his bet. He also backs his old club this weekend...

"I'm backing United to win a close match and, as they've only kept one clean sheet so far, will go with 2-1 as the score."

Pep wants it badly but Klopp looks to the league

The Champions League is Manchester City's priority this season. Pep Guardiola is the best coach in the world and, having failed to win this competition during his time at Bayern Munich, he will be desperate to win it with City. If Guardiola blows it again, his critics will be reminding him that it's a long time since he won the world's best club competition with Barcelona.

For Liverpool, the opposite is true. In the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp will need to keep his players motivated. They have been so successful in this competition over the past couple of seasons that they could become complacent. It's possible to think: "I won this last year, so it's no big deal if we lose." Liverpool want so badly to be champions of England and the Premier League will be their prime focus.

I can't back last season's finalists Spurs to repeat their heroics as consistency continues to be a problem for them. Chelsea are improving under Frank Lampard but I don't see them as contenders for the Champions League.

Pain of past defeats will drive Simeone


Barcelona's start to the season has not been as convincing as expected and there are signs that they are not the force they once were. I like the look of this new Juventus team under Maurizio Sarri, so could they win it? What about Paris Saint German? Pah, I'll skip the usual suspects and look elsewhere for a Champions League bet.

Atletico Madrid fit the bill. I love Diego Simeone as a manager. He has taken Atletico to two Champions League finals and lost them both. That is fucking painful, I can tell you because it happened to me as a player at Bayer Leverkeusen and Manchester United. I'd back Atletico to reach the final and, because I think Simeone deserves it, I'm going back them to win it.

Leverkeusen, for whom I played in my first final in 2002, have a really tough group against Atletico, Juventus and Lokomotiv Moscow. Mind you, in 2001/02, we were in a group with Barcelona and Juventus and we topped it, so perhaps it's worth backing them to qualify from Group D.

United will want to win the Europa League

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the bench 1280.jpg

When people ask me if United will try to win the Europa League, I think, why wouldn't they?

United need to win a trophy this season. The club's high standards demands that they go all out to win every competition they enter so I expect them to try to win the Europa League. It would be a great achievement and an invaluable experience for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his young players.

It might also be United's best hope of qualifying for next season's Champions League and, while playing on Thursday can have a consequences for a team's Premier League form, they should use all their power to try to win this competition.

United must get back on track against Leicester

Harry Maguire looks over shoulder 1280.jpg

United have a tough match against Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday. It could be a particularly difficult one for Harry Maguire who joined them from Leicester in August.

Playing against your old club is shit. It's very difficult to spend two seasons somewhere - as Maguire did at Leicester and I did at Spurs - showing what you can do then get a big move and have to play against your old teammates with whom you're probably still in touch. As hard as you try to be professional, friendships can sometimes get in the way.

United's performance against Southampton last time out was not what I want to see from United. They need a win but that can make for a tense atmosphere and prevent you playing good football.
It will be interesting to see which United players go looking for the ball on Saturday. I really hope they start as if they're desperate to win. An early goal would ease the tension but Maguire and his teammates will need to keep it tight at the back, as they failed to hold on to the lead at Southampton.

I'm backing United to win a close match and, as they've only kept one clean sheet so far, will go with 2-1 as the score.

England attack will get better and better

Gareth Southgate big smile 1280.jpg

England's front three of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho are extremely good and deserve all the praise they're getting, after scoring goals for fun against Kosovo on Tuesday night. They're all young enough to improve and playing at clubs where they will be helped to fulfil their incredible potential.

I'm a big fan of Marcus Rashdord but Sancho is probably ahead of him in the England pecking order after scoring two goals against Kosovo. But whoever Gareth Southgate picks, things are looking very promising for England ahead of next summer's European Championships.

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Saturday 3 August, 1.00pm

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