I’d like to say that the 62nd edition of the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League will be a season for the ages. But, in all likelihood, the Spanish crema is going to rise to the top, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City also go deep again.
In order to make those deep runs, the powerhouses first have to get through group play, though, and some have tougher draws than others. Barcelona and Man City, for instance, have to battle each other in the group stage, while reigning champ Real Madrid
The first two teams from each of the eight quartets will advance to the knockout stage and keep their hopes alive of reaching the final at Millennium Stadium in Wales (June 3, 2017).
Let’s take a look at the odds to win each group ahead of the September 13 start-date.
2016-17 Champions League Group Winner Odds
Ludogorets Razgrad: +6600
Group A is a two-team race between PSG and Arsenal. PSG lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic but still have a powerful roster. Arsenal look vulnerable at the outset of the EPL season. The Gunners don’t have the stability to win the group, but they should advance to the knockout stage as runner-up. Basel and Ludogorets are overmatched.
Dynamo Kiev: +700
Napoli lost striker Gonzalo Higuain and may not have the dynamic offense they did last year. But they got a great draw and they’re clearly the best of the bunch.
Manchester City: +300
Borussia Monchengladbach: +1800
Everyone in Group C should be complaining about the draw process. The phrase “Group of Death” is overused, but it applies here. Barca are the favorites to win the entire tournament. Man City, now coached by two-time UCL winner Pep Guardiola, are the best the EPL has to offer. Monchengladbach are a dangerous squad that finished fourth in the Bundesliga. Celtic is no pushover.
The fact that Guardiola won his two UCL titles with Barcelona only adds intrigue to an already fascinating group.
Bayern Munich: -200
Atletico Madrid: +200
Bayern and Atletico and PSV in the same group? Yeesh, Group D is challenging Group C for the toughest of the bunch. Like Group C, this one also has a great storyline: Bayern will be looking to avenge last year’s semifinal loss to tournament runner-up Atletico Madrid. Bayern is now managed by Italian Carlo Ancelotti, who has won this tournament three times already (twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid).
Bayer Leverkusen: +225
CSKA Moscow: +700
Group E is the most balanced. There’s no true powerhouse, but every team is very solid. Tottenham leads the way largely thanks to their runner-up finish in the EPL. Whichever two teams advance, don’t expect deep knockout stage runs.
Real Madrid: -187
Borussia Dortmund: +225
Sporting Lisbon: +1600
Legia Warsaw: +8000
The defending champs have an easier road than their rivals from Barcelona, but it’s not a cakewalk. Borussia Dortmund put up a good fight against Bayern in the Bundesliga. Lisbon were two points shy of claiming the Portuguese crown. (You can cross off Warsaw.) That said, the health of Cristiano Ronaldo is a concern and he likely won’t be in the lineup to start the season.
Club Brugge: +600
FC Copenhagen: +1400
If life was fair, this is where Man City or Atletico would reside. All four of these teams look more like Europa League squads. Porto upset Roma, 3-0 on aggregate, in a playoff to reach the main draw. That’s largely why they’re the favorite. Last year’s EPL Cinderella story, Leicester City, are playing in the UCL for the first time. Don’t expect more miracles from the Foxes, they’re just 1-1-1 in their first three EPL matches.
Dinamo Zagreb: +6660
Juventus are aiming to win the Champions League for the first time since 1996. They got to the final two years ago, falling to Barcelona. They’re looking to top a motivated Sevilla side in the group stage for the second year in a row. Sevilla have won three straight Europa League titles, but will be hoping to stay and play with the big boys into the UCL knockout stage this year. In a group with Lyon and Zagreb, they ought to reach the Round of 16, at least.
Photo Credit: Too V-I (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].