The UEFA Champions League is finally back, with the 67th season of the premier international club tournament organized by UEFA, and this year’s edition will mark the 30th season since it was renamed from European Champions Cup to UEFA Champions League. The final was originally scheduled to be played at Allianz Arena, in Munich, Germany, but with the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on May 28, 2022.
This will also mark the first season since 1965 in which the away goals rule will not be used, as UEFA approved, in June 2021, a proposal to abolish the rule in all its club competitions. Therefore, in the knockout stage, if teams tie on aggregate score, the winner will be decided by 30 minutes of extra time, or penalty shoot-out if the draw remains after extra time. With the creation of the UEFA Europa Conference League, teams that were eliminated from the preliminary round and first qualifying round of the Champions League are now transferred to the Conference League instead of the Europa League.
Chelsea are the defending champions, after having defeated Manchester City in the 2021 final. However, according to pundits and sportsbooks on USGamblingSites.com, Paris Saint-Germain are the odds-on favorites to win the tournament, with +350 odds. Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United are also among the contenders for the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League title.
Could PSG finally achieve continental glory?
Since Paris Saint-Germain were acquired by Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the team has set its sights on winning the UEFA Champions League. But all they could accomplish was reaching the final in 2020, when they were defeated by Bayern Munich in a much contested match. For the 2021-22 season, however, things are starting to take shape for the Parisian side, especially after the club signed one of the two best players in the world, Lionel Messi.
PSG were seeded into Group A, one of the most challenging draws in the group stage, alongside Premier League champions, and 2021 Champions League finalists, Manchester City, as well as German side Red Bull Leipzig, and Club Brugge from Belgium. PSG currently lead Group A, after defeating City and tying against Club Brugge in their first two matches.
City targeting the continent
Another nouveau-riche among European clubs, Manchester City have been dominating English football since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, in 2016. After blasting through the Premier League last season, and racking up an impressive 86 points in the league’s table, the team returns to its quest for continental glory and is the second favorite to win the tournament, with +400 odds of doing so. Despite losing club legend Sergio Aguero in the offseason, City’s squad remains a major force, with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and recently-signed Jack Grealish.
Also seeded into Group A, City have had a weak start to the tournament, with a loss to PSG in Paris and a 6-3 win against Red Bull Leipzig, and currently place third in the group table. However, with one of the best squads in the tournament, City is keen on clinching a spot in the round of 16.
Bayern Munich on the rise
In April, Bayern Munich broke the world record for a managerial transfer fee by signing former RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann to replace Hansi Flick, who departed from the club to take up the position as Germany’s national team head coach. Under the new manager, Bayern had a terrific start to the season, which included a 12-0 victory against Bremer SV in the DFB-Pokal.
Ranked as the third favorites to win the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League, with +400 odds, Bayern Munich was seeded into Group E, alongside Portuguese side Benfica, Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev, and Barcelona. The team currently leads the group after two matches, which included a 3-0 blowout victory against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Reds back to the title race
Despite losing a few players in the offseason, including Georginio Wijnaldum who departed for Paris Saint-Germain, and only bringing in former RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konaté, Liverpool remains one of the strongest sides in the tournament, with one of the best managers in the world in Jürgen Klopp. This year, the Reds were also able to count on the return of Netherlands international Virgil van Dijk, who spent most of last season on the sidelines due to an ACL injury.
With just +800 odds to win the tournament, Liverpool was seeded into Group B, alongside La Liga winners Atletico Madrid, Portuguese side Porto, and Italy’s powerhouse Milan. After two matches, the Reds lead the group, with two wins, including a thrilling 3-2 victory against Milan at Anfield Road.
The defending champions
Despite being the defending champions, Chelsea’s odds at winning the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League are not that good, standing at only +800. But Thomas Tuchel’s side has already proven they can beat the odds and rise to the occasion. With some significant signings in the summer transfer window – including Belgium star Romelu Lukaku, who returns to the club after 8 years in a club-record transfer worth £97.5 million – the Blues seem ready to chase the back-to-back titles.
Chelsea were seeded into Group H, alongside Juventus, Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg, and Malmo FF from Sweden. With one win and one draw in the first two matches, Chelsea currently place second in the table, behind Juventus.
Before the start of the season, Manchester United weren’t among the favorites to win the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League. However, with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s returning after 12 years and two spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, the team rose in the predictions, and is now at +1100 odds to win the tournament. With a star-studded squad and one of the best players in the world, United is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the competition.
The Red Devils were seeded into Group F, against Italian side Atalanta, Young Boys from Switzerland, and Villareal, who defeated United in last year’s Europa League final. United, however, had a troublesome start to the Champions League, losing 2-1 to Young Boys in the first match, before defeating Villareal 2-1 with a last-minute goal by Ronaldo.