The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is less than a week from today. While a lot can happen between now and the final on May 30th, enough has happened in domestic league play to start drawing some conclusions as to how the tournament could play out.
Just a few weeks into the campaign, FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer probabilities favor the usual suspects.
We agree with that top five for the most part. FiveThirtyEight probabilities have their flaws. They seem to habitually overvalue Bayern Munich and undervalue Liverpool. And on a game-by-game basis, match probabilities don’t weigh luck heavily enough into the potential outcome. However, they do recognize under-the-radar clubs well that oddsmakers over-look (Ajax last year, and RB Leipzig this year).
With that out of the way, barring some fringe contender making a Virgil van Dijk-esque January impact transfer, these are the only five teams (in order of likelihood) that can win this season’s Champions League.
Manchester City (+300)
More than anything else in the world, Manchester City’s ownership wants to
violate Financial Fair Play regulations suppress human and women’s right win the Champions League.
It’s a priority. It’s not all that matters (winning Carabao Cups are adorably still a big deal to them), but it matters the most.
While all of the above is true, so is this: City have the most complete total squad in the world. Yeah, they’re the first $1B team. But they’ve spent that billion dollars wisely. The squad is so deep that the loss of star center-back Aymeric Laporte will only impact them against teams with heavy offensive weaponry like Liverpool, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich. It would take another Kevin de Bruyne injury AND either Sergio Aguero or Raheem Sterling to miss time to start dampening City’s chances.
Will City probably bottle in the quarters again? Yes. Regardless, even though they’re only Oasis’ and American band-wagoners’ favorite team, they should be UCL favorites.
They won it all last year. They made the finals the year before. Domestically, they only lost one game last season. This season, they’ve lost none.
Despite all of this, Liverpool are only third favorites at +700. Oddsmakers do realize Anfield is a fucking fortress, right?
Making three UCL finals in a row is difficult. Winning two in a row is even more so. But Real Madrid just did it. And they’re an abject disaster now. So why not Liverpool?
City may have the most talent top to bottom than any other club in the world, but Liverpool has the most cohesive and best starting XI. That XI is currently the fifth best team of all-time.
Ask any athlete or successful team: learning how to win is a thing. Once you do, winning becomes easier. It becomes a habit. And for the truly great teams, it begets a hunger for more winning.
That’s where Liverpool are at today. Doubt them at your own peril.
Bayern Munich (+1100)
Mostly a gut call here, but even in spite of adding Philippe Coutinho, Bayern feel like a giant ready to roar back this UCL campaign.
Their opening matchday draw is already a distant memory. They’re second in the Bundesliga with the best goal differential. They’re talented, ruthless, and clinical.
Bayern ran into the Liverpool buzzsaw last year in the Round of 16. A little better luck this go-around and they’re set for a major run.
Without Messi, things are a mess right now. Barca sit 8th in La Liga. They have a difficult group to navigate. They’ve blown huge aggregate leads going into Leg 2 showdowns in consecutive years. Their manager is suspect. However, if Messi is back and fully fit by October, Barcelona have the talent to breakthrough and win their first UCL since 2015.
Offensively, they’re going to be deadly. Watching Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, and Messi carve up teams will be exhilarating. Their defense is vulnerable, but Marc-André ter Stegen covers up a lot of holes.
Barcelona’s kryptonite though will be from Premier League sides. If they have to face Manchester City or Liverpool at any stage, they’ll struggle (obv, everyone will). Even Messi recently admitted how difficult traveling to England can be in the Champions League.
It’s even more difficult when you have to travel there and face the two best teams in the world.
Still, Barca has been sooo close the past few years. A little luck can see them go all the way.
RB Leipzig (+5000)
Yep, we’re all in on RB Leipzig this year. They have the easiest group. They’re surging in the Bundesliga, currently at 100% and atop the table.
Their team is young but not too young. They’re hitting their primes at the right time. Led by Timo Werner, Marcel Sabitzer, and Yussuf Poulsen, RB Leipzig are dynamic, aggressive, and potent. This will be a fun team to watch.
A key for the energy drinks will be making it out of the group round in 1st. Despite being a Pot 4 team, they’re favored to do so. A favorable Round of 16 opponent could build momentum for a deep UCL run. Liverpool made the finals from Pot 4 and won it all from Pot 3. RB Leipzig are not Liverpool, but they are dangerous.
What about others.
We had be remiss not to at least mention a few other favorites and why they won’t win.
- Atlético Madrid: We love the squad and think they’ll contend for a La Liga crown, but they’re a year away from serious Champions League contention.
- PSG: Just too much drama and too leaky of a backline.
- Juventus: We’re not sure they even make it out of the group round. Enough talent to make the quarters, not enough to win.
- Real Madrid: Los Blancos have the talent but are utterly dysfunctional right now. Of all the teams on the outside, this is the one that could leap into the contenders group if they stabilize.
- Tottenham: nothing to say about them.
- Chelsea: How funny they are
This year’s final will be held at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans.
The Reds claimed their fifth Champions League in 2005 at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium, in a dramatic penalty shootout win over AC Milan, while also adding this year’s Uefa Super Cup across Istanbul at Vodafone Park against Chelsea.
Entering as defending champions, Liverpool are third favourites to win the competition with most bookmakers, behind Manchester City and Barcelona. Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain round off the top five favourites to go all the way.