European football’s elite club competitions finally returned this month following their annual three-month hiatus, and there were a number of eye-opening results across the continent. After the first legs of the round of sixteen, a number of clubs have stood out from the crowd. Oddschecker, which compares football odds and free offers, have made Manchester City the favourites to take home the crown for the first time in the club’s history this season.
But Pep Guardiola’s side has known nothing but heartbreak in club football’s premier tournament. Last year, they were stunned by eventual champions Real Madrid in the semifinals, conceding two goals in injury time after seemingly having one foot in the final. They endured a difficult trip to RB Leipzig in the second round this time around and had to settle for a 1-1 draw following a late equaliser from Croatian defender Joško Gvardiol. But who are the other contenders for glory, alongside Pep Guardiola’s Blues?
The second-favourites for the crown this season are Bayern Munich. Unlike Manchester City, the record 32-time German champions have tasted success in the tournament before. They have won the tournament on six separate occasions, and their most recent triumph came back in 2020. That year, they defeated Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon courtesy of Kingsley Coman’s second-half winner.
They met the Parisians once again in this year’s round of sixteen, and lightning stuck twice. Coman once again scored the only goal of the game in the second half as the Bavarians headed back to Germany with a one-goal lead.
Bayern have been somewhat inconsistent so far this season. Since returning from the World Cup-enforced winter break, Julian Nagelsmann’s men have picked up just two wins from their six games. As such, they have seen their lead at the top of the Bundesliga standings evaporate, and a whole host of clubs are hot on their heels. They will be hoping to return to form as soon as possible, before turning their focus towards Europe.
Following their victory over Liverpool in the Stade de France last June, Real Madrid entered this year’s competition as the reigning champions. They once again met the Reds at Anfield in the round of sixteen in a repeat of last year’s showpiece and were immediately in trouble. Goals from Darwin Núñez and Mohamed Salah gave the hosts an early 2-0 lead.
However, the visitors responded like champions. Los Blancos bagged FIVE unanswered goals thanks to braces from Vinícius Jr. and Karim Benzema, as well as a header from centre back Éder Militão. Carlo Ancelotti’s men head back to the Bernabéu with a three-goal lead to protect, and they should safely pass through to the quarter-finals.
Domestically, Real Madrid have been disappointing this season. They were aiming to become the first team in seven years to successfully retain the Spanish title, however, they’re a mammoth eight points behind archrivals Barcelona.
One team that isn’t struggling domestically is Napoli. They’re a whopping 15 points clear of second place Inter Milan in Serie A, and they have picked up 20 wins from their 23 wins so far this season. As such, they’re odds-on favourites to pick up a first Scudetto since the days of Diego Maradona over three decades ago.
Their dominance domestically should allow them to rest some of their key men and place extra emphasis on the Champions League. They defeated the reigning Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt by two goals to nil in the first leg of the second round, and they look a sure-fire bet to reach the last eight. As such, bookmakers have slashed odds on the Azzurri lifting the famous ‘Big Eared’ trophy for the first time in their history this season.
In Victor Osimhen, the Serie A leaders have one of Europe’s most in-form strikers. He bagged in Germany to take his tally to 20 for the season, and he will be aiming to fire his club to a historic double this term.