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5 teams that can win the Champions League

15 Sep | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
5 teams that can win the Champions League

Europe's elite club competition makes a welcome return this week - but which sides are capable of lifting the iconic trophy at the San Siro in May?

3/1 – Barcelona

It is surprising that the Champions League in its current guise has never been retained considering the calibre of previous winners.

The best of the lot was arguably the Pep Guardiola-led Barcelona side that triumphed in 2008/09 and 2010/11, but they were knocked out in the semi-finals in each of the two following seasons.

There is an opportunity this year, then, for current manager Luis Enrique to outdo his former Camp Nou team-mate, the man with whom he has been compared so frequently since delivering a treble-winning campaign of his own last season.

The club’s transfer ban – which will be lifted in January – should not stop the Catalan side progressing from a group containing Roma, Bayer Leverkusen and BATE Borisov, while it is both obvious and pertinent to highlight the merits of a side that features Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in attack.

Favourites and rightly so.

4/1 – Bayern MunichundefinedThe financial superiority that Bayern enjoy in Germany and the ease with which they have won the last three Bundesliga titles means that Guardiola’s time as manager will only be judged as a true success if he wins the Champions League.

In the last year of his contract and with a move to Manchester City next summer long mooted, this campaign could well be the Spaniard’s final opportunity to do so.

Despite reaching the semis in his first two seasons, Bayern’s comprehensive losses to Real Madrid and former club Barcelona – both sides that went on to win the competition – emphasised just how far away they were from triumphing.

So while their high defensive line is unlikely to encounter danger against Arsenal, Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos in the group, Guardiola is probably going to have to adopt his adventurous style against superior Spanish opposition if he wants to improve on a last-four finish.

Is the man renowned for a stern belief in his principles prepared to do that, though? It is unlikely.

11/2 – Real MadridundefinedConsidering he won Liverpool’s fifth European Cup using players such as Steve Finnan, Djimi Traore and Djibril Cisse, Rafael Benitez is presumably feeling reasonably optimistic about delivering Real Madrid’s 11th.

While Real struggle to keep up with Barcelona over a 38-game La Liga season (one title in seven years compared to their rivals’ five), their consistency in Europe’s premier club competition since 2010/11 is commendable (four semi-final appearances and one win).

Injuries to key players such as Luka Modric and the indifferent form of Gareth Bale – who already says he feels “more involved” under Benitez – hindered Los Blancos’ title defence last time out.

And then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, whose five goals against Espanyol last weekend moved him closer to overtaking Raul as the club’s all-time leading scorer.

The games against Shakhtar, Malmo and a Paris St Germain defence featuring error-prone David Luiz should give the Portuguese ample opportunities to do so.

14/1 – Paris St Germainundefined“I already have them,” was Zlatan Ibrahamovic’s answer when asked in a recent PSG-uploaded YouTube clip what superpowers he would like to possess.

The reply, said with a glint in his eye, was typical of a player renowned for his assurance and who probably has more awareness than he is given credit for.

And while the Swedish striker has won 12 league titles in four countries, there is one trophy still eluding the man who turns 34 next month: the Champions League.

Laurent Blanc’s side, who have been grouped with Real, Shakhtar and Ibrahimovic’s first-ever club Malmo, should really progress further than the quarter-finals of the previous three seasons.

The addition of Angel Di Maria – providing it is the player of Madrid and not Manchester – will help. The aforementioned paranormal talents of their charismatic No. 10 won’t go amiss, either.

18/1 – Manchester UnitedundefinedTheir neighbours are certainly contenders, but the returning Manchester United have a manager in Louis van Gaal who boasts a plethora of European experience.

The Dutchman led an unfancied Ajax to victory in 1995/96 and came close to retaining their title by reaching the final the following season.

Van Gaal was a runner-up again with Bayern Munich in 2009/10, while his leading of the Netherlands to the semis of last summer’s World Cup demonstrated his ability to navigate the rigours of tournament football.

If United can top a group featuring CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven and Wolfsburg, their recycling of possession – so turgid in the Premier League – and new-found defensive organisation could benefit them in tense, two-legged encounters.

The Red Devils’ best performances of Van Gaal’s otherwise underwhelming tenure have all been against top-class opposition. They just might surprise a few people this season.

Champions League betting

READ: Manchester City poised to prove European credentials against Juventus

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