This year’s Champions League will prove to be an attractive prospect for any potential gamblers out there. This year’s competition, unlike previous, may be the most open for a long long time. 

Barcelona of course, will attract the most attention from punters, having strengthened significantly with Jordi Alba and Alex Song. A resurgent David Villa having recovered from a broken leg will only add further potency to an otherwise already incredible attacking line up.  A best price of 9/4 with most bookmakers will draw a lot of interest.

Second favorites Real Madrid, on the back of La Liga success, may prove to be the strongest competitor to Barcelona to win the Champions League trophy. Any team with Cristiano Ronaldo will be a threat, and with the arrival of Luka Modric expect lots of goals. However there will always be question marks over the Real Madrid defence. Arguably Sergio Ramos is amongst the top 5 defenders in the world, but Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao, Arbeloa and Pepe to an extent leave a lot to be desired from a defensive point of view.  Still, the Madridistas are as short as 7/2 with Ladbrokes.

Outside the big two in Spain we look to England for a winner for a second consecutive year. Chelsea, perhaps fortunately last year, defied all odds to take the crown in a thrilling penalty shoot out. With a new look attacking line up with Eden Hazard and Oscar, a superb Juan Mata, and an in form Fernando Torres, 14/1 is brilliant value for money. After disappointing last year, Manchester City will be looking to go a few stages further this time around. Although the team as a whole has very little Champions League experience, players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and David Silva have all played in more than one campaign, with Toure a winner in 2009. Goals will be guaranteed with this side, but much like Real Madrid, aside from Vincent Kompany, questions over the quality of the defence will always be present. SkyBet and Betfred offer best price on City at 16/1.

Elsewhere in England, perhaps with the biggest summer signing, Manchester United look a force to be reckoned with. Robin Van Persie adds another dimension to an already star studded attack which also contains the talented Shinji Kagawa. If the former can stay fit, alongside Wayne Rooney it may be difficult to stop them. 10/1 with William Hill and SkyBet reflects this. Arsenal have started the season well, and two wins out of two in the group stages against Montpellier and Schalke prove that they still have the European pedigree to mix it with the best. Losing the most talented striker in world football will always hinder your chances in the best club competition, but the excellent Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, as well as a steadier defence could make the Gunners the dark horses this year at 16/1 with Coral, SkyBet and BetFred.

The Bundesliga could contain this year’s winner, and Borussia Dortmund certainly showed that they are no pushovers with an excellent display against Manchester City at the Etihad. Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowsi and Mats Hummels are all world class players, and should they overcome the unenviable group of death, the German Champions are a match for anyone on their day. Betfred and Coral have a similar opinion, and 20/1 is a very good price. Very few teams can boast the attacking options of Bayern Munich, and with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mario Gomez, Mario Manduzkic, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, I doubt there are many teams that will be able to live with an outfit this strong. The signing of Javi Martinez improves them further, so check out 12/1 with Betfred and Ladbrokes.

The outstanding achievement of going unbeaten last season by Juventus is hard to be ignored, and an impressive display at Stamford Bridge shows that the Old Lady may be returning to their old dominance- 18/1 is a very reasonable price, especially with the mercurial Andrea Pirlo. AC Milan appear to have been made significantly weaker following the big money sales of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, despite the high price of 40/1 with coral, fail to show any real value for money without a world class striker and a real playmaker.

Now for the big money spenders in world football – PSG and Zenit. Both teams, backed my rich owners invested heavily in world class talent in the form of Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and for Zenit, Hulk and Axel Witsel. Both deals set back their clubs a hefty €70m+, but it remains to be seen whether the players can gel in time to have a successful campaign. I think this season may be too premature for both sides to have any major impact on the tournament, however with odds of 25/1 with William Hill for PSG and 150/1 with Coral for Zenit, surely its worth a flutter.

Top goal scorer is always a topic that causes great controversy, and the markets present a great deal of value for a few players. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are clearly the frontrunners at 11/8 and 6/4 respectively, but David Villa at 50/1 with William Hill, Fernando Torres at 33/1 with Coral and Karim Benzema at 20/1 with William Hill are all very promising odds.

Alex Hayes

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