WHO’S GOING ALL THE WAY?
Manchester City are the favourites to win their first ever trophy on Europe’s grandest stage. Pep Guardiola’s side smashed countless records on their way to winning the Premier League last season, and they have a great chance of landing the continent’s biggest prize. If the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and David Silva can stay clear of injury, City have the players and style of football to beat any team in Europe.
The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place at the Etihad Stadium, and this is the final frontier for the Blues. It’s a huge moment in Guardiola’s career, after he failed to taste European glory at Bayern Munich following two triumphs with Barcelona.
His old club are second favourites with the bookmakers, and it’s impossible to count out any team that contains Messi.
The same could certainly be said of the Argentine’s eternal rival Ronaldo. The Portuguese made a slow start to life in
Italy by his own exalted standards, but the Champions League’s record goalscorer has hit his stride. He’s lifted the famous trophy in five of the last 11 seasons, and Juventus spent big on a man well into his thirties in a bid to win this competition for the first time since 1996. The Old Lady have lost in the final five times since then, including in two of the last four campaigns.
Last season’s beaten finalists, Liverpool, are certainly in the mix. Jurgen Klopp’s side are much stronger defensively this season, with Virgil van Dijk marshalling their back line and Brazil No.1 Alisson between the sticks. The injury Mohamed Salah sustained in Kiev last May hampered his World Cup campaign with Egypt, and seemed to affect him in the early stages of this season. However, Salah is back to his best after scoring the goal against Napoli to send the Reds into the knockouts, and that makes Liverpool a genuine contender.
Providing they’re kept apart in the draw, it’s not hard to see the Spanish trio of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid all in the semi-finals. Diego Simeone’s Atleti are one of the best teams in the world when it comes to knockout football, despite losing in the final twice to bitter rivals Real in recent seasons. This year’s final is being held at their own stadium, which can only serve as added motivation.
“Paris Saint-Germain scored more goals than any other team in the group stages” TOP:Manchester City are the favourites to win this season’s Champions League — Pep Guardiola has been there beforeABOVE / LEFT:Paris Saint-Germain have a fearsome forward line and will be dangerous in the knockout roundsBOTTOM LEFT: Schalke stands in the way of Man City - the favourites.