Can Bayern Munich defend and win the Champions League this season?

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – The Champions League is Back!

So, where do you start?

The draw for the Champions League group stages is always one of the most exciting of the season and this was no different.

Eight groups, each comprising Europe’s elite and each with their own allure.

There is only one place to begin, of course, and that is the battle between the two best players in the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus meet Lionel Messi’s Barcelona and both Group G encounters should be compelling spectacles, with or without fans.

Champions League fans around the world will be thrilled to see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo face again in a competitive match

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will face each other in the Champions League group stage

The executive committee of UEFA has decided to allow a partial return of spectators for matches where local laws permit, following what the governing body is calling a ‘successful pilot match’ – last week’s UEFA Super Cup Final in Budapest.

The grounds will be capped at 30 per cent capacity and there will be no away fans but if some make it to either of these fixtures, they should be in for a treat.

It is true, the classes of 2020 are not the finest Juve or Barca have ever produced.

But a meeting between these two giants of Italian and Spanish football is always one to savour in any era.

The prospect of Messi and Ronaldo – for so long direct rivals in Spain and vying to be the number one footballer on the planet – puts the icing on the cake with both clubs expected to progress after they were drawn alongside Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros.

Put simply, this is the renewal of the greatest individual rivalry in world football with the players winning 11 of the last 12 Ballon d’Or awards between them, Messi has a record six, Ronaldo five.

Ronaldo, though, leads the way in Champions League successes, winning the trophy five times compared to Messi’s four triumphs.

Elsewhere, one of Ronaldo’s former clubs, Manchester United, have received the most difficult task of the four English clubs.

As well as facing last season’s beaten finalists Paris St Germain – who they famously knocked out in dramatic fashion 18 months ago – last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig await, along with Turkish champions Basaksehir.

The other English sides have more attractive opponents, although few can be underestimated.

Chelsea meet Europa League winners Sevilla, who accounted for United and Wolves on their run to the final in Cologne, where they saw off Inter Milan. Both clubs will be hopeful of progressing given the other sides in Group E are Russian newcomers Krasnodar and French side Rennes who recently sold goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to the west Londoners.

After being surprisingly knocked out at the quarter-finals to Lyon in August, Manchester City begin their latest pursuit of Euro glory after they drew, on paper, the favoured top seed, Porto, plus Olympiakos and Marseille, two sides they have never met before.

Premier League winners Liverpool face another club with a magnificent European history, Ajax, who they have remarkably only played in one other tie, back in 1966, when the Dutch side came out on top over two legs.

The surprise and refreshing package of the past two seasons, Atalanta, and Danish minnows Midtjylland complete Group D.

Holders Bayern Munich, fresh from winning the trophy little more than a month ago, have Atlético Madrid, Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow to contend with in Group A.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico have been the ‘nearly men’ of the competition in recent seasons but will be keen to try again with a new forward pairing of Diego Costa and Luis Suarez.

Bayern and Atletico actually faced off in the 2016 semi-finals when Simeone masterminded an away-goals victory to secure Los Rojiblancos a place in the final.

 

It could also be a reunion for Lucas Hernandez against his previous team, although the French defender has struggled to establish himself with the Bavarians after his injury troubles.

Elsewhere, the most wide-open pairing to me seems to be in Group F where top seeds Zenit St Petersburg have been joined by the exciting young Germans of Borussia Dortmund, Lazio – returning to the top tier of European competition for the first time in 12 years – and Belgians FC Bruges.

Aside from the clashes between Juve & Barca and PSG-United, the other meeting that appeals to me will be in Group B.

Record European champions Real Madrid, managed by Zinedine Zidane, against free-spending Inter Milan, coached by his former Juventus teammate Antonio Conte.

With serial qualifiers, Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Monchengladbach – playing attractive football and finishing in the top four in the Bundesliga under Marco Rose – Champions League highlights surely await whichever way you look.

All you need to do now is look at the Sbotop Champions League betting odds and get busy!

 

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