Champions League 2012/2013 preview
With just over a week to go until the start of group stage round of the Champions League, we’ve taken a look at the main contenders to lift the trophy at Wembley. Prove you know your football by entering our free Champions League predictor here: Champions League Predictor. Test your mates European football knowledge and set up your own private leagues! If you are after more Champions League content take a look at our review of every final in the Champions League format here: Champions League Finals.
Barcelona – 13/5 with Betfair
Despite the absence of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona remain favourites to win the Champions League under Tito Vilanova in his first full season in charge. But before you rush to put all your money on another Catalan triumph it is worth noting that in the Champions League era no team has managed to defend its European title. Barcelona have spent carefully over the summer; Alex Song provides cover for Busquets and can drop in at centre back, while Jordi Alba is the left sided defender Barcelona have needed for some time. Their domestic form hasn’t been sparkling and key players like David Villa and Carles Puyol aren’t getting any younger, it would be some achievement if Barcelona lift La Orejona.
Real Madrid – 9/2 with Betfair
Real aren’t far behind Barcelona in the betting to win the 2013 Champions League and if I was to back any team it would be Mourinho’s men. After suffering a 5-0 humiliation at the Camp Nou in his first year in charge, Mourinho has realised that with the calibre of players at his disposal playing defensively and hoping to grab a goal on the break isn’t reliable enough. Inter Milan and Chelsea have eliminated Barca in recent competitions this way, but these were due to large swathes of luck rather than outplaying your opponent. Madrid effectively won the league last year with their 2-1 win in Barcelona and showed this result was no fluke as they claimed the Spanish Super Cup on away goals last month.
Manchester United – 10/1 with Betfair
Sir Alex Ferguson will have been delighted with the draw for the group stages of the Champions League; Galatasaray, Cluj and Braga, but the United boss must have been thinking that last year, only to be eliminated at the group phases. FC Basle, Benfica and Otelul proved too much for United to overcome in the 2011/12 campaign and after making it to the final the year before United have a point to prove. Robin Van Persie completes one of the most potent forward lines in European football and if they avoid another injury crisis (especially in defence) then the red half of Manchester will be aiming for Wembley. Shinji Kagawa will come into his own on European nights and will unlock opposition defences now that Paul Scholes has dropped back.
Manchester City – 10/1 with Betfair
Manchester City, like United, have also drawn a group comparable to last year and it is fair to say that Roberto Mancini has landed in the ‘group of champions’ this time around. After failing to see off Napoli, Bayern Munich and Villerreal the English champions will face Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax, all domestic champions last year. Reinforcements came late but they have added players of Champions League calibre; Javi Garcia was superb in Benfica’s run last year and two dodgy performances against Gareth Bale should not taint the reputation of Maicon, a snip at £3 million. The first year of European football is always a tough ask and if Carlos Tevez decides to play Man City should be able to escape their group.
Bayern Munich – 12/1 with Betfair
Bayern Munich must bounce back from reaching another Champions League final, generally dominating play but eventually losing, after Chelsea repeated what Inter did to the German side in 2010. The Bavarians responded (as they normally do) by splashing the cash. In have come Javi Martinez, Dante, Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizzaro for a combined fee of €70 million, but surprisingly no cover at full back. Bayern have a fairly comfortable group and should have enough to beat Valencia to finish top. They are a greater goal threat than last season and if the defence stays sound and injury free they could challenge for their first European title since 2001.
Chelsea – 15/1 with Betfair
The defending champions Chelsea are next up in the betting and at virtually 15/1 I think they represent great value. There has been €100 million worth of investment in the side that just managed to win its first ever European title so the price surprises me, especially after their impressive start to the Premier League. They rode their luck and defended when they had to during their remarkable run last year, now with the adition of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Moses and a firing Fernando Torres their attacking options are extremely capable. Back them here before they drop.
Juventus – 19/1 with Betfair
Italian champions Juventus return to the competition having missed out last season and they have spent well this summer, reinforcing a strong squad. Mauricio Isla, Kwadwo Asamoah and Sebastian Giovinco have come in at midfield and whilst new loan signing, Nicklas Bendtner, wasn’t the marquee signing fans were looking for up front, their depth elsewhere makes up for this. If Pirlo can continue to impose himself on games then the Old Lady could challenge.
Arsenal – 23/1 with Betfair
Arsenal have been a mixture of old and new this season: spurning a number of chances in early games, before finally seeing of Liverpool and surprisingly owning the most resolute defence in the league. Santi Cazorla has taken instantly to the Premier League and will be crucial to Arsenal’s chances in Europe. If Jack Wilshire gets back to full fitness a central three of Wilshire, Diaby and Cazorla looks exquisite. Topping their group so they don’t have to face a European heavyweight would be a good start and their play is always suited to continental football.
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