Michael Lintorn explores the likelihood of the Champions League delivering a first-time winner in 2015/16...
"Chelsea are the only new recipients this century, and they and Borussia Dortmund are the sole sides to join the elite 22-team club of former winners in the past 22 years."
One of the most interesting Champions League betting markets is on whether the last team standing in this season's edition will be a former champion or a first-time winner, with more of the same the convincing 1.331/3 favourite and a new name on the trophy a 3.953/1 outsider.
The old guard are slightly outnumbered, with seven been-there-done-thats in the last 16 compared to nine never-been-crowned-befores, but given that their ranks include frontrunning trio Barcelona 3.412/5, Bayern Munich 4.216/5 and Real Madrid 6.611/2, they are clearly the superior pool.
Even ignoring their four companions - and Chelsea, Juventus, Benfica and PSV are a decent support act - those three behemoths have won the competition 20 times between them, taking turns to pose with old big ears in the last three years and prevailing in nine of the 16 instalments this century.
The pure numbers further promote the view that a former winner delivering again is actually a value bet at 1.331/3, as Chelsea are the only new recipients this century, and they and Borussia Dortmund are the sole sides to join the elite 22-team club in the past 22 years. This indicates that while the tournament expansion has let more participants in, the prize itself has become even more exclusive.
So history is against the nonet of prospective first-time champions of Europe, yet there are a couple of reasons to believe that this could be one of those rare years where a less decorated club breaks through at 3.953/1.
The most compelling is that while the top three in the winner betting are established continental forces, the next three are all awaiting enthronement, meaning that half of the top six in the market are representing the would-be-first-time-winners gang. They all have substantial pedigree too.
Atletico Madrid at 12.5 are fuelled by four years of European excellence, lifting the Europa League in 2011/12, the UEFA Super Cup in 2012/13, reaching a Champions League final that they were moments away from winning in 2013/14 and consolidating with a quarter-final venture last term.
Paris St-Germain at 13.012/1 have the momentum of three successive quarter-final appearances since returning in 2012/13 and Manchester City at 19.5 are gaining in experience and have the benefit of what is perceived to be one of the most favourable round-of-16 draws against Dynamo Kiev.
Arsenal, Wolfsburg, Zenit St Petersburg, Roma, Dynamo and Gent complete the group of potential new champions, and the odds project five of them making the quarter-finals. Once they are there, all it will take is two of the past kings being drawn together and the aspirants will be in the ascendancy.