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The 7 Most Likely Winners of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League

| October 7, 2020 1:25 pm PDT
Likely Winners of Champions League in 2020/21

Two months is a long time in soccer. But it feels like Bayern Munich’s victory over PSG in last season’s UEFA Champions League final only happened last week, doesn’t it?

The dust has barely settled on the 2019/20 campaign. But less than 60 days after the previous season ended, the 2020/21 Champions League gets underway on Tuesday, October 20.

Bayern and Manchester City are the bookies’ favorites, with Liverpool also expected to challenge. But who are the most likely winners of the 2020/21 Champions League?

I take a look at Europe’s top teams and discuss this year’s Champions League frontrunners.

Bayern Munich

It only makes sense to start with the defending champions, right?

The Bavarians secured their sixth European triumph last season, putting them level with Liverpool on six UCL crowns. Only Real Madrid and AC Milan have won more, and if Hansi Flick’s men pick up where they left off the last term, Bayern Munich could easily add to their already bustling trophy cabinet. 

The German giant has been drawn in Group A, alongside Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg, and Lokomotiv Moscow. We all know that Atletico is capable of causing an upset, but there is no denying that Bayern should finish top of their group.

With Robert Lewandowski leading the team, you’d be foolish to bet against Bayern going all the way again. The lethal striker bagged 15 goals in ten Champions League appearances last season and posted a ludicrous tally of 55 goals in 47 games in all competitions.

Leroy Sane and Douglas Costa have been signed to bolster Flick’s attacking options, with world-class wingers Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry already at the club. Canadian sensation Alphonso Davies also looks set to enjoy another hugely successful campaign on the European stage. 

In my previous Champions League post, I predicted that Bayern would retain their title. If you’re interested in betting on the winner of this season’s UCL, I recommend checking out that post.

Liverpool

Liverpool is up against Ajax, Atalanta, and Midtjylland in Group D. This is arguably the most intriguing UCL group this year, but I’m confident the English side will avoid any potential slip-ups and advance to the knockout stages without any real problems.

The Reds were almost unstoppable over the last two seasons, losing just four of their 76 EPL games during that period. Jurgen Klopp’s men got their hands on the Champions League trophy in 2018/19 before winning the Premier League title in 2019/20, so they clearly know what it takes to win silverware.

However, Liverpool’s defense has been far from convincing in the early stages of the new campaign. The team let in seven goals in a remarkable thrashing to Aston Villa recently, meaning the Merseysiders have conceded 11 goals in their opening four league games this term.

Of course, one shock result doesn’t make Liverpool a bad team. But having clinched an abundance of trophies in recent years, complacency is almost inevitable. 

Having said that, you simply can’t write Liverpool off. The Reds will be desperate to bounce back after bowing out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 last season, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Klopp’s side will be ready for the fight. 

Real Madrid

Following last season’s La Liga triumph, Real Madrid has started the defense of their domestic crown in impressive fashion. Zinedine Zidane’s side kicked things off with a draw against Sociedad before seeing off Betis, Valladolid, and Levante to maintain an unbeaten start to the campaign. 

It could be argued that Real has overtaken Barcelona as Spain’s strongest team, at least for the time being. But it’s also fair to say that Los Blancos’ domestic success has coincided with a downturn in form on the European stage.

Needless to say, Zidane’s men will be eager to put that right.

Real Madrid has been eliminated in the Round of 16 in each of the previous two seasons. Considering the club won an astonishing four Champions League titles in five years between 2013/14 and 2017/18, it’s pretty obvious that Real’s recent UCL efforts have been well below par.

Gareth Bale is gone, but if Eden Hazard can fulfill his potential at the Bernabeu this season, Real could yet reach another level. At the other end of the pitch, Los Blanco’s backline – led by the ageless Sergio Ramos – has a new-found solidity. 

Ultimately, when it comes to talking about possible Champions League winners, Real Madrid must always be in the conversation.

Manchester City

It looked as though Manchester City was destined to go all the way last season. With heavyweights like Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Juventus falling in the Round of 16, Pep Guardiola’s star-studded team could not have dreamed of an easier route to the semi-finals.

Only French outsiders Lyon stood between the Cityzens and a place in the last four. They simply had to win, didn’t they? 

Unfortunately, Man City supporters suffered déjà vu as they watched their team implode in the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the third year in a row.

City has now been a mainstay at Europe’s top table for the best part of a decade, competing in each of the past nine UCL campaigns. But the English side is yet to reach a final. In fact, the club has only made it to the semi-finals on one occasion (2015/16), so it’s difficult to disagree with the notion that Guardiola’s men are Champions League chokers.

Of course, we all know that Man City boasts one of the strongest squads in world soccer. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero. I could go on forever!

The question is: does Guardiola’s current crop of superstars have what it takes to break the club’s UCL spell?

Year after year, Man City is among the bookies’ favorites to lift the trophy. It is surely only a matter of time before the perennial underachievers shine on the European stage.

Juventus

Juventus has made five Champions League final appearances in the past 25 years. Pretty impressive, right?

Sure, Man City could learn a thing or two from the Italian powerhouse about going deep in the tournament. But given that Juve has failed to win Europe’s top prize since 1995/96, it’s safe to say the Bianconeri won’t be proud of their recent UCL record.

Indeed, five straight final defeats have left the Italians wondering if they will ever win the Champions League again.

Domestic domination has well and truly been achieved, with Juve claiming each of the last nine Serie A titles without any real competition. However, new head coach Andrea Pirlo will know that bringing the UCL trophy back to Turin is the hierarchy’s top priority.

The inexperienced coach will be happy with his side’s favorable group-stage draw, although Barcelona will obviously pose some problems. Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros are the other teams in Group G, so Juventus should cruise through to the Round of 16. 

Under Pirlo, Juve is somewhat of an unknown quantity. But let’s be honest, any team that features five-time Champions League winner Cristiano Ronaldo stands a great chance of securing the title.

Barcelona

It feels like the Catalans are still licking their wounds following last season’s 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich. Barcelona only suffered their shock quarter-final exit less than two months ago, but a new Champions League campaign is already just around the corner.

So far, the early signs under new manager Ronald Koeman are promising. Barca recorded big wins over Villarreal (4-0) and Celta Vigo (3-0) in their opening two outings this term before drawing with Sevilla to extend their unbeaten start to three games in La Liga.

But if Koeman wants to be viewed as a managerial success at Camp Nou, winning the La Liga title won’t be enough. Having made over 250 appearances for the club as a player, the Dutchman knows that a manager must also win the Champions League to earn the Barcelonistas’ respect.

The Spanish side is by no means the most likely winner of UCL this season. But with megastar Lionel Messi committing his future to the club and teenage prodigy Ansu Fati seemingly improving with every passing game, there is no way you can completely disregard Barcelona.

PSG

PSG finally made it to their first Champions League final last season, only to fall at the last hurdle. Thomas Tuchel’s men gave an excellent account of themselves throughout the 2019/20 campaign, yet they weren’t strong enough to overcome Bayern.

It’s difficult to predict what kind of impact last term’s final loss will have on the club. On the one hand, the players could use their past failures as motivation to go one better this year. But they will no doubt still be hurting after getting so close back in August.

Personally, I think that PSG’s run to the final can only be a good thing for the club going forward. The Parisians’ know-how is likely to stand them in good stead for the upcoming campaign, so I’m expecting Tuchel’s side to reach the business end of the tournament again. 

The group-stage draw wasn’t exactly kind to the French giant. Istanbul Basaksehir shouldn’t cause PSG any problems, but Manchester United and RB Leipzig both stand a decent chance of qualifying from Group H.

Still, Kylian Mbappe and co. will be confident of reaching a second successive Champions League final and ending up on the winning side this time around.

Final Thoughts

In my eyes, there are seven clear frontrunners to win the 2020/21 Champions League. But with so many top teams participating in this year’s tournament, we could easily get a surprise winner.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid can never be overlooked, while Chelsea, Man Utd, Borussia Dortmund, and Inter Milan will all fancy their chances.

Don’t forget, the Champions League returns on Tuesday, October 20. You can find my views on who will qualify from the group stage here, and you can keep up to date with all the latest UCL betting tips in our soccer picks section.

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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