Champions League Tips: Back favourites Bayern but take a chance on a few outsiders

Thomas Mueller celebrates
Bayern are rightly favourites to win the Champions League again.

Alex Keble inspects the Betfair odds in a search for the best bets in this year's Champions League. Bayern Munich are justified favourites but don't write off a surprise win...

"There is too much instability around Europe to deny that Bayern are the worthy favourites. Back them to win the Champions League."

The Champions League gets back under way on Tuesday less than eight weeks after Bayern Munich beat Paris Saint-Germain in last season's final, which can only be a good thing for the Parisians who are desperate to keep momentum after coming so close.

In fact at the beginning of the 2020/21 campaign only Liverpool and Manchester City split the two finalists at the top of the betting, although that could simply reflect that the final in Lisbon is so recent in memory.

Besides, football has gone a little bit mad recently. The Premier League is in chaos, with all of the big clubs shipping goals, while there were 41 goals in Serie A last weekend and both Barcelona and Real Madrid have made poor starts to their La Liga seasons; There are a lot of issues around Europe, as highlighted in our club-by-club guide.

It could be the year for a surprise winner, then. Here's a look at this season's favourites:

Bayern Munich - 5.79/2

Bayern begin as favourites to win their fourth Champions League title of the 21st century and record their first back-to-back wins since they lifted the trophy three times in a row between 1973 and 1976. It is obvious why. Hans-Dieter Flick has created a brilliant and dynamic side that swept the floor of their opponents in the Champions League last season, and Bayern have only got stronger over the summer.

Leroy Sane adds a new dimension to their attack, replacing something that was lost when Arjen Robben slowed down. However, Bayern were thumped 4-1 by Hoffenheim earlier this season to show the world they are far from invincible, and over two legs perhaps they don't have quite the same advantage as during that mini-tournament.

But I will back them to win the Champions League.

Ask yourselves, who can realistically stop them? There is too much instability around Europe to deny that Bayern are the worthy favourites and there is enough in the price to take the plunge.

Manchester City - 5.95/1

Pep Guardiola is under a lot of pressure to win the Champions League. He may even walk out of the club in May should he fail to take City to the latter stages of the tournament following their humiliating exit at the hands of Lyon last season. In that game, he was guilty of some classic Guardiola over-thinking, playing a bizarrely cautious system against the seventh-best team in France.

The shadow of that result hangs over him and City, and most likely more unusual decision-making will undermine them again. After all, this Man City team is significantly more vulnerable than previous iterations, even if the arrival of Ruben Dias means a more solid defence this season.

They should comfortably reach the knock-out stages, but at that point one would back most of the other favourites on this list to outperform an ageing City side that lack the bite and ruthlessness that was once there.

Raheem Sterling UCL QF 1280.jpg

Liverpool - 7.87/1

Liverpool's chances of winning the Champions League have been dealt a major blow by Virgil van Dijk's ACL injury. At the very least he will be out until March but most likely a lot longer, meaning Jurgen Klopp's side will remain defensively fragile throughout this campaign.

A high defensive line mixed with poor pressing in central midfield has undermined their tactics ever since Watford burst the psychological bubble with their 3-0 win in February. Since that day, teams are emboldened to hit the flanks early and counter-attack fiercely; working out how to counter that will be a massive problem now Van Dijk is out.

All of which suggests good counter-attackers like Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, or Bayern will find ways to tear holes in the Liverpool back line.

Paris Saint-Germain - 11.010/1

Thomas Tuchel has proved doubters wrong by taking PSG so close to winning their first Champions League trophy. He has seemingly found a way to play with enough caution through defence and midfield to allow Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to roam freely in attack, and despite no new signings this summer PSG are among the frontrunners.

But they probably shouldn't be. PSG remain exposed to the counter-attack despite the lack of pressure on their goal during their run to the final, in which Tuchel only had to overcome a surprisingly below-par Atalanta and RB Leizpig after beating Borussia Dortmund in the second round. They were outshot by Dortmund in both of those games.

It seems probable that one of the elite clubs will find a way to break at speed through Tuchel's ultra-attacking team. Their journey to the final last year was an important symbolic moment, but it does not mean they are any more defensively solid than in previous years.

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Real Madrid - 1514/1

Zinedine Zidane is in for a difficult season.

Real Madrid have an alarmingly lopsided squad this season as 32-year-old Karim Benzema leads the lines flanked by young wingers who are a long way short of the superstars we have seen in years gone by. Zidane has a good record of motivating Galacticos to playing their natural game, but when the individual quality is lower his tactical deficiencies come to the fore.

A poor start to their La Liga season suggests as much.

Real are currently a team held together by 30-somethings but without a discernible direction.

That is not a recipe for Champions League success, and there are clubs in this competition considerably more cohesive and talented than Zidane's side.

Juventus - 15.5

Andrea Pirlo hasn't made the best start at Juventus, confirming many people's fears that this inexperienced manager has been given the job far too early in his career. Pirlo is learning on the job, and while that worked for Zidane - who won the Champions League in his first season, and with Cristiano Ronaldo too - it would be a huge surprise if Pirlo can do the same.

Juve aren't of the same strength as that Real, for a start, with obvious flaws emerging in a central defence containing 33-year-old Leonardo Bonucci and 36-year-old Giorgio Chiellini. The age of this team suggests most of Europe's biggest clubs would beat Juve in the knockout stages this season.

The Rest

Barcelona, at 15.5, are at crisis point and show little sign of moving in the right direction before we reach the final stages of the tournament. Lionel Messi cannot do it all on his own, and throughout Ronald Koeman's managerial career he has struggled to play in anything other than a cautious and conservative manner, which is surely won't endear him to the Barcelona supporters as the season progresses.

Dortmund are exactly the sort of tactically intelligent, young, hungry side who could spring a surprise in a season when all the elite clubs have major flaws and are worth a small wager at 32.031/1. The same can be said of Atalanta, at 32.031/1, while Atletico Madrid 25.024/1 and Inter Milan 36.035/1 are both managed by reactive managers who may benefit by being the sanest teams in a wild and open Champions League season.

UEFA Champions League: UEFA Champions League (Winner 2020/2021)

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Tuesday 20 October, 5.55pm

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