WHO’S GO­ING ALL THE WAY?

Soccer 360 - - Champs League -

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.

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