Champions League Outright Preview : Barcelona have become the dark horses of the competition
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Champions League Outright Preview
Ahead of the knockout stages, the favourites to lift the tournament are Manchester City (9/2 with Sun Bets), followed by Paris Saint-Germain (5/1 with Coral), two teams that in their entire histories have a grand total of zero European Cups of Champions League titles.
The astronomical investment in both playing squads appears to be paying off on the continent’s biggest stage and both sides also seem to have their domestic titles wrapped up months before the season comes to a close.
As impressive, entertaining and capable as these two powerhouses are, it is not quite time to write off the more established names on the European scene.
Rule out Real, United and Juve
Real Madrid are having a very poor season by their standards, Manchester United are struggling to find their identity and Juventus just don’t seem quite capable of winning this one. However, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are still very much in the race for the Champions League this year.
Bayern are always a force and have a straightforward last 16 tie against Besiktas. They have goals guaranteed from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller and their manager Jupp Heynckes has led them to European glory before.
They don’t quite have the air of invincibility they once had, though, with Manuel Neuer on the long-term injury list and 34-year-olds Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben still being relied upon. They are comfortably winning the Bundesliga this season, but they have lost twice, which is something of a surprise for the might of Bayern.
Barcelona have not lost this season. Not in La Liga or the Champions League. They have scored 60 goals and conceded just 11 in their 23 league games and conceded just once in their European group stage. A defence that does not look as strong as it once did on paper is proving to be very effective indeed.
The loss of Neymar has not been felt too keenly, with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi continuing to work their magic, whilst Paulinho has turned out to be a surprise hit in the middle of midfield.
Barca below the radar
Considering they topped their group stage, are leading La Liga and have some of the biggest names in the world game, Barca seem to be sliding under the radar this season. They have become dark horses, despite spending hundreds of millions and almost every member of their squad owning trophy cabinets the size of Kent.
Chelsea have caused Barcelona problems in the past, but they don’t look likely to this season and the Catalans should ease into the last eight. Once they are there, and thanks to having being in a comfortable position in La Liga, you would not back against them against anyone.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain look excellent, but neither side has ever been beyond the semi-final of this tournament. Of course, both are expected to at some stage, but coming up against the experience of Barcelona could be too much for either of them at this stage of their development.
It is not only too early to write off Barcelona, it is the time to back them as they look tremendous value to win the Champions League at 6/1 with Paddy Power.
Barcelona are currently on the longest unbeaten run in European football (23)
- Philippe Coutinho cannot play for Barcelona in the Champions League as he is cup-tied
Cristiano Ronaldo leads the Champions League scoring charts after the group stage (9)
5 players are joint second (6) – Kane, Ben Yedder, Firmino, Cavani, Neymar
Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez covered the most ground in the group stages (72,181m)
Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen has the highest Champions League pass completion rate of any player to make 200+ passes this season
Juventus have been European Cup/Champions League runners-up more than any club (7)
Benfica and Bayern are joint second for most runners-up finished (5)
Lionel Messi can become the second man to reach 100 Champions League goals this season – he is currently on 97 – Cristiano Ronaldo has 114
Today's Main Tip
Glamorgan to beat Middlesex at Evens with Ladbrokes.
Ladbrokes have enhanced odds for the match between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
888Sport have an offer related to the Champions League final.
Betfair have enhanced odds for the Champions League final.
BetVictor's version of customised betting is called PriceItUp.
William Hill's odds For England to win the World Cup.
Coral's odds for Harry Kane to be the World Cup top scorer.
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