The UEFA Champions League is, without doubt, the most enjoyable and exciting club soccer tournament in the world. Some loyalists and hipsters might claim the Copa America is more entertaining, but nothing can rival the Champions League in terms of the quality of both individual players and the teams that participate in the tournament.
Originally known as the European Cup, it was rebranded in 1992. In that time, there have been 13 different winners, with the clubs coming from seven different nations; Italy, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany, France, England and Spain. Yes, there are some teams who have dominated the tournament for a few years, but overall it is an incredibly open competition, with each of the 32 teams who enter it at the beginning of the season hoping they will be the ones to lift the trophy at the end of the campaign.
The current holders of the Champions League are Chelsea, who lifted the trophy for the second time in their history in June 2021, defeating Manchester City in a tense 1-0 final. Chelsea wasn’t a traditional European superpower, but since they were taken over by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2004, they have invested huge amounts of cash to reach the top. As long as Abramovich is still interested in investing in his club, you imagine they’ll be contenders to win the Champions League for the foreseeable future.
The previous champions were the German side Bayern Munich. They rightly claim to be one of the greatest European sides of all time and have lifted the Champions League on six separate occasions. The most recent, in 2020, saw them take down Paris Saint Germain in the final, with a goal from French winger Kingsley Coman deciding the outcome.
Other traditionally big teams who have been successful in the Champions League are the Italian side AC Milan, who have won the tournament seven times. Their last victory came in 2007, and after a few years of struggles they find themselves back in the competition again, for the first time since 2014. In their group are Liverpool, another European great. They have won the competition six times, with the most recent coming in 2019. Whenever any of these sides play in the Champions League, fans will use Fanduel sportsbook to find the latest odds, to see if they can potentially win some money by betting on these teams.
Spain has produced two of the greatest European sides of all time, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Both teams are participating in this year’s tournament, as well as Atlético Madrid, Villareal and Sevilla. How will these sides fare in this year’s Champions League? Let’s analyse each team, to see how far we think they might go.
It is safe to say that Real Madrid loves the Champions League more than anyone. They have won it a staggering 13 times, which is six more than the next closest team. They had a fabulous run where they won it four times in five years, including three years in a row. They are the greatest side in the history of the tournament.
This year they have been drawn in a group with Inter Milan, Shakhtar Donestk and Sheriff. They have already played the hardest game on paper, away to Milan, and came away with a 1-0 win. They should ease through the group with no difficulties and will be one of the sides everyone will want to avoid in the knockout stages.
For years, Barcelona was not only the best team in Europe but in the entire world. They won the Champions League four times in ten years and had some of the best players around in Leo Messi, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. However, they have fallen on hard times since the glory days, and have real problems both on and off the pitch.
In their first Champions League game this season, they were humbled 3-0 at home by Bayern Munich. It is a worrying sign of what might be to come. Ordinarily, they should be easing past the other two sides, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv, but it is quite possible that they don’t make it out of the group stages for the first time since recent memory.
Atlético Madrid is in a very tough group, with AC Milan, Liverpool and Porto. It really could be any two from those four who make it into the knockout stages. If Atlético plays the way they are capable of, they can qualify, but it will not be an easy run for them.
Sevilla is in a group containing Red Bull Salzburg, Lille and Wolfsburg. It is certainly one of the weaker groups in this year’s competition, so Sevilla will be hoping they have enough to get into the last 16.
Villareal qualified by winning the Europa League last season and started their campaign with a draw against Atalanta. If they can win their home and away ties against Young Boys, and take a point or two off of Manchester United, they may well make it into the next stage of the competition.