Champions League 2019-20 Betting Preview : Liverpool are the team to beat
- 17 Sep 2019 - 30 May 2020
- Live on BT Sport
The Champions League gets back into full swing this week with the group stage beginning across Europe, but which of the continent’s giants will be celebrating with the enormous trophy next May?
The group stage drew threw together some massive clubs which should make for some great ties before we reach the knockout rounds. Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are together in Group A, Juventus and Atletico Madrid are both in Group D, while Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan are all in the horribly tricky Group F.
The bookies fancy Man City to prosper
Whichever team prospers come the end of the season, they will have come through some serious tests to do so, and the bookmakers believe that team will be Manchester City. The Premier League champions are certainly one of the most feared sides in Europe, but they have not yet proven themselves as a team capable of winning the Champions League.
Since Pep Guardiola took charge at the Etihad in 2016, City have not been beyond the quarter-finals in the Champions League, being ousted by Monaco, Liverpool and Tottenham. While they have managed to dominate domestically they have not been able to translate this to the bigger stage under the guidance of the Spaniard. In fact, it has now been a long time since Pep triumphed in the European stage.
Guardiola’s three seasons at Bayern Munich yielded three runs to the Champions League semi-finals, but nothing further. He did win two Champions League titles as Barcelona boss but the last one was way back in 2011, meaning that his previously glowing European record is closing in on a decade without a title. With all this in mind, City at a price of around 3/1 are not a very tempting proposition at all.
What we want is a team that has shown consistency in the competition and a manager that has proved he can get his hands on the trophy in recent years. Two teams fit that bill – Liverpool and Real Madrid.
Reds and Real have the pedigree
Liverpool are the defending champions in the competition this season after their fabulous run to the title last year, beating Tottenham comfortably in the final. They handily saw off Bayern Munich in the round of 16 and their stunning comeback against Barcelona in the semi-finals will live long in the memory. Jurgen Klopp’s men thoroughly deserved their success after coming so close the year before.
In the 2018 final, Liverpool were undone by Real Madrid, mainly thanks to the calamitous goalkeeping of Loris Karius, something they have remedied by signing the excellent Alisson Becker in goal. Klopp has now reached three Champions League finals since Guardiola was last in one, proving he can win the big one in June this year.
However, Real know they can do it under manager Zinedine Zidane as well. That victory over Liverpool was their third consecutive Champions League title, all won under the guidance of the Frenchman. Zidane was not around last season when they crashed out in the last 16, but he is back and will want to keep up his sensational European record.
The problem for Real is that Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer there, as he was when they claimed their European hat-trick. The Spanish giants may have spent big since his departure but they are just not the same threat without the Portuguese sensation, as their disappointing last campaign proved and their shaky start to this season continues to illustrate.
Undoubtedly they have a side that can go a long way in this competition and a manager who knows how to get it done in Europe, but there is some uncertainty hanging over the Santiago Bernabeu at the moment. New signings like Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic are yet to settle in and make any kind of impact, while Zidane is trying to reintegrate previously marginalised players such as Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez.
There is much more to like about the stable and consistent force that Liverpool have become and have shown themselves to be yet again already this season. The Reds have begun their Premier League campaign with five straight wins, and although their defence doesn’t look quite the rock-solid affair it was last season, they are scoring more than enough themselves to make up for it. It is also all relative, as Liverpool may not look at their best defensively, but after five league games no side in the Premier League has conceded less goals than them.
Klopp may have not done much by way of new signings over the summer, but there was little need to fix a squad that was not broken. He also has the added options of the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana making welcome returns from injury. There is no shortage of competition for places in most positions in the Reds team and any additions would mostly be back-up for their superb starting XI.
No one can deal with Salah, Mane and Firmino
Nowhere in world football is there a more potent and reliable front three than Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Their movement and understanding has become a thing of beauty over the last two seasons and all three are liable to do damage at any given moment. Perhaps Liverpool lack goal threats from elsewhere on the pitch, but it doesn’t seem to matter when Klopp has that trio at his disposal. Divock Origi has also regularly proved himself to be a very useful understudy as well, especially in the Champions League.
Having made the last two finals, there really seems little reason to believe Liverpool cannot do the same again. The only concern is that Klopp will be absolutely desperate to win the Premier League for the first time this season, and given the choice of prioritising one competition, he would choose the domestic league. However, he handled his squad beautifully last season and showed that, although they didn’t win the Premier League, they did more than enough to in almost any other season, while triumphing in Europe.
Such is the quality that Liverpool possess as a team, you would fancy them over two legs against any other side on the continent. Other contenders not mentioned include Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, two of which the Reds beat last year and PSG remain something of a weak force at the highest level.
Klopp’s remarkable spell at Anfield can continue this year, possibly with Premier League and Champions League trophies to his name.
- Jurgen Klopp has reached three Champions League finals
- Pep Guardiola as not won the Champions League since 2011
- Man City have never been to a Champions League final
- Real Madrid have won the Champions League/European Cup more than any other side (13)
- AC Milan have seven titles with Liverpool third on the list with six
- Barcelona have not reached the final since 2015
- Juventus have not won the Champions League since 1996
- PSG have never reached the Champions League final
- Man City have won less than 50% of their Champions League matches
- There has been an English or Spanish team in the final for each of the last six seasons