Football is the most popular sport in the world and the Champions League is the most prestigious domestic cup competition. Even though the tournament only concerns the best and brightest teams from Europe, it’s followed avidly all over the globe – the fact that all bookmakers available in Japan are giving competitive odds on the outcome of the tournament is testament to its international appeal.
So who is tipped to walk away with the trophy this time around? The final is scheduled for the 21st May and will be held at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium. But which two teams will be contesting the tournament’s finale – and which one will ultimately emerge triumphant? Here’s a rundown of the leading contenders for the 2020/21 edition of the Champions League.
Despite the world-class players found throughout the Manchester City team and their domination of the English Premier League in recent years (they look set to clinch a fifth title in 10 years come May), the club’s poor European performance has become something of a running joke in football circles. That will surely be a sore point for head coach Pep Guardiola, who has been accused of overthinking his approach on numerous occasions in the past. Will this be the season that Pep and City finally overcome their hoodoo and clinch Europe’s most coveted trophy? The bookmakers certainly seem to think so, with City ranked as firm favourites.
As reigning European champions, it would take a brave soul to bet against Bayern Munich retaining their title in Istanbul. That’s a tricky feat to pull off, for sure, with only one club (Real Madrid) managing it (twice in a row) since the tournament changed its name in 1992/93. But with Robert Lewandowski in typically imperious form and excellent support in the shape of Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane, Bayern certainly have the firepower to pull it off. Only time will tell if they can replicate last year’s triumph this time around.
PSG share much in common with Manchester City. Both are clubs who have benefited from being bought out by wealthy owners, both have had run-ins with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play mechanism and both have experienced incredible success on the domestic front – but disappointing results in Europe. PSG almost remedied that shortcoming last year when they narrowly lost out to Bayern in the final, but with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm (himself a loser in the Champions League final with Tottenham the year before), both manager and club could finally exorcise those demons and claim the top prize.
Anyone who has been paying attention to the English Premiership this season might brush off Liverpool’s European aspirations with a disdainful snigger. However, their poor domestic form has been offset with some impressive performances on the continent, epitomised by the ease with which they dispatched Bundesliga contenders RB Leipzig in the Round of 16. That, alongside the fact that Diogo Jota is fit and firing once more – and that the final of this year’s tournament is in Istanbul, where Liverpool have enjoyed Champions League success in the past – means they can’t be ruled out of the running just yet.