The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious competition in club football. While FIFA operates a regular Club World Cup competition, it’s the Champions of Europe who tend to be viewed as the world’s best club side no matter who walks away with the trophy from that worldwide competition. The 2020/2021 tournament has already been as dramatic as any we’ve seen in recent years, and almost any of the sixteen teams still in the competition could win it.
As there’s now a short break until the next round of fixtures in February 2021, this is a good time to take stock of who’s left in the contest and what their prospects of victory might be. In doing so, we’re aware that we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Predicting the outcome of this competition is often as fruitless as trying to predict the outcome of an online slots game – and less rewarding, too! There are many football-themed online casino – “Football Glory,” for example – that simulate the look and feel of a tournament competition, and it’s easy to see why. The machinations that determine winners and losers might be harder to follow with online slots than they are on a football field, but the results are frequently no less surprising.
Will this year’s winner be a team that’s lifted the famous trophy many times before, or could it be a newcomer? Let’s look over the sixteen teams and the fixtures they’ve been handed and see if we can reach any conclusions.
RB Leipzig vs Liverpool
The contrast between these two teams couldn’t be bigger. RB Leipzig didn’t even exist until 2009, whereas Liverpool won their first European Cup in 1977. That was their first of six victories to date, with the most recent coming in 2019 with a memorable win over fellow English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in the final. Leipzig has already exceeded expectations in this competition by dumping out Liverpool’s great rivals Manchester United to make it this far and go into the game as underdogs, but Liverpool’s injury crisis means the result isn’t as certain as it might otherwise have been. That being said, we still expect the English club to come out on top.
Barcelona vs Paris Saint Germain
This should be a fascinating pair of games to watch. Barcelona have had a miserable three years both domestically and in Europe, eclipsed by Real Madrid and Atletico at home and humiliated by both Liverpool and Bayern Munich in high-profile Champions League games. PSG, who are expected to win the French league comfortably every year, are also struggling and have recently parted with manager Thomas Tuchel. The general feeling is that both teams are in the middle of ‘rebuilding’ projects, and neither is fancied to win the tournament. PSG are probably favorites here, which speaks volumes about Barcelona’s fall from grace.
Porto vs Juventus
Porto last won the Champions League in 2004, which was the trophy win that launched the career of coach Jose Mourinho. It was their second time lifting the trophy. Amazingly, that puts them level with Italian giants Juventus. Everyone assumes Juventus have won the trophy many times, but they’ve been to the final and lost on seven occasions. They’re predicted to win it every year but haven’t done so since 1996. This might be their last chance to do so with Cristiano Ronaldo. They should have too much for Porto, but their prospects later in the competition might not be as favorable.
Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund
German giants Borussia Dortmund spent most of the summer fending off attempts by Manchester United to sign star player Jadon Sancho, and although they won that battle, they might have lost the war. They’ve been dreadful in their domestic league and appear to slip further behind Bayern Munich every season. Sevilla, on the other hand, are far better known for their Europa League success than their Champions League achievements. Given Dortmund’s struggles, this might be Sevilla’s coming out party.
Lazio vs Bayern Munich
Serie A isn’t the league that it was in the 1990s when it comes to quality, and Lazio is far from the best team in the division. At the time of writing, they’re eighth in the table. It could perhaps be considered surprising that they’ve made it this far, and only the most optimistic of supporters would seriously believe that they have any chance of overcoming reigning champions Bayern Munich. Big shocks sometimes happen in football, but Lazio putting Munich out of the tournament would be the biggest possible surprise in this round.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Atletico Madrid is a team with so much firepower that they’ve just seen fit to release Diego Costa on a free transfer partway through the season. Chelsea, on the other hand, have started to stutter in the Premier League after a strong start. It was a surprise that they qualified for the tournament last season, and perhaps another surprise that they made it beyond the group stage this year, but the odds say that they’re unlikely to go any further. This should be relatively comfortable for the Spaniards.
Borussia Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
On paper, this is another mismatch. Monchengladbach rarely qualifies for the Champions League and have excelled themselves by reaching the last sixteen. Manchester City has financial resources that most clubs can only dream about and have been overdue to win their first-ever Champions League trophy for a long time. They’ve performed below expectations in the English Premier League thus far this season, but they’ve recently rediscovered their best form and ought to overwhelm their German opponents.
Atalanta vs Real Madrid
Two years ago, this would have been a big mismatch. Given the fact that Real Madrid were exceptionally fortunate to qualify for the last 16 this year, it isn’t a mismatch anymore. Zinedine Zidane’s golden touch in the Champions League appears to have deserted him, and although Real Madrid are performing well domestically, their form in Europe gives their fans reasons to be worried. They should still beat Italian side Atalanta, who draw as often as they win in Serie A this year, but it could be a close-run thing, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the result go the other way.
Assuming that all of our predictions are correct, we’d be left with a ‘final 8’ of Liverpool, Paris Saint Germain, Juventus, Sevilla, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, and Real Madrid. Of those eight, Liverpool and Bayern Munich appear to be the most likely to eventually come out on top, with Manchester City the best ‘dark horse.’ Anything can happen in football, though, and we’ll be watching closely to find out whether we were right.
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