The Champions League proper begins once more on Tuesday evening with a double header from Eastern Europe as Zenit take on Club Brugge and Dynamo Kiev face Juventus. Six more fixtures follow from 8pm, including a blockbuster tie between PSG and Manchester United, before another eight are played out on Wednesday.
Holders Bayern Munich begin their defence at home to Atletico Madrid, with Real MAdrid, Inter Milan, Man City and Liverpool also in action on Wednesday.
To celebrate the occasions our experts at FST have dived into the stats to put together a juicy Champions League group winners acca, outright predictions for the Champions League winners and our top tips for the Champions League top scorer. Check it out, and remember to check back on Matchday 1 for all our Champions League predictions.
Champions League draw: Fixtures for 2020/21
The Champions League Group Stage draw always throws up a bunch of notable stories to follow over the course of the next few months, and the 2020/21 draw was no exception.
There’s a new money vs old money group of death, another year of easy pickings for a certain Manchester club and, last but certainly not least, the first ever Group Stage faceoff between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Undoubtedly the most important development was the announcement that fans could return to the Champions League stage in the group stages. Let’s take a closer look.
Stadium doors set to open once more
In an announcement following the Champions League draw, it was revealed that stadiums could start to open their doors to fans for UEFA matches for the first time since March.
This obviously depends upon local laws and regulations and fans will be capped at 30% of the stadium’s capacity, but it’s a major positive after a dreadful 2020 for football and the world as a whole.
Away fans will not be allowed to attend and social distancing will be required, but this comes after a successful pilot in which 15,000 fans were allowed to watch the UEFA Super Cup last month.
Manchester United face the dreaded Group of Death
While Manchester City and Chelsea fans rejoiced at their relatively easy group draws, Manchester United fans were overwhelmed by a looming sense of dread.
It all started when their name was paired with the “Group H” ticket and they were lodged in alongside beaten 2019/20 finalists PSG.
Pot 3 was no kinder to the Red Devils as semi-finalists RB Leipzig slotted in behind PSG and Manchester United, and yet more new money was added to the fold as Turkish Super Lig winners Istanbul Basaksehir made up the numbers.
12/5 for Manchester United not to make it out of Group H is suddenly looking very tasty, and it might provide a consolation prize for pessimistic Red Devils fans everywhere.
The return of Messi vs Ronaldo
It was noted prior to the draw that this was the first time that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could be drawn in the same group as each other in the Champions League, and after an excruciating hour of inane small talk in the studio that’s exactly what happened as Barcelona and Juventus were drawn together in Group G.
This marks the very welcome return of possibly the greatest individual football rivalry in history. Two of the most successful players in Champions League history, who have won 11 of the last 12 Ballon d’Or awards between them, will now face off in the group stages. But who will come out on top?
Juventus’s Ronaldo has won the Champions League an incredible five times and leads the way in the goalscoring charts, netting an incredible 130 Champions League goals in 170 appearances.
Messi hasn’t exactly been slacking off either, though, scoring 115 goals in 143 appearances and winning the competition on four separate occasions.
Champions League Group Stage draw in full
Group A: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, RB Salzburg, Lokomotiv Moscow
Group B: Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach
Group C: Porto, Manchester City, Olympiakos, Marseille
Group D: Liverpool, Ajax, Atalanta, Midtjylland
Group E: Sevilla, Chelsea, Krasnodar, Rennes
Group F: Zenit, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, Club Brugge
Group G: Juventus, Barcelona, Dynamo Kiev, Ferencvaros
Group H: PSG, Manchester United, RB Leipzig, Istanbul Basaksehir
57/1 Champions League group accumulator
Group A winners prediction: Bayern Munich
Reigning champions Bayern Munich were utterly unstoppable in the Champions League last season, winning all 11 of their matches on their way to being crowned the best team in Europe.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid may put up some resistance but they’re unlikely to come anywhere close to the top spot in Group A. They ended up six points adrift of Juventus in last year’s group stages and chances are they’ll end up a distant second again this time around.
Group B winners prediction: Real Madrid
Shakhtar Donetsk may be the second seeded team in Group B, but the biggest challenge to Real Madrid is likely to come from Italy as the ever-improving Inter Milan.
However, Antonio Conte’s team still have a long way to go and they only managed a third place finish in last season’s competition. Real Madrid are the most successful side in Champions League history and are expected to make their dominance count here.
Group C winners prediction: Manchester City
Manchester City enjoyed yet another favourable Champions League Group Stage draw on Thursday and are clear favourites to progress as Group C winners over Porto, Olympiakos and Marseille.
The Citizens have won their group three seasons in a row and their last failure came when they were drawn alongside Barcelona in the 2016/17 iteration. Porto are unlikely to pose a similar level of threat, so an easy win for Manchester City is predicted.
Group D winners prediction: Liverpool
2018/19 Champions League winners Liverpool are undoubtedly one of the best teams on the continent right now and are on a different plane when compared to the likes of Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland.
Ajax and Atalanta in particular are very good sides, but Liverpool are a class apart and have started their Premier League defence with three consecutive and comfortable victories. There’s no stopping them at the moment.
Group E winners prediction: Chelsea
Sevilla may have clinched an unprecedented 6th Europa League trophy in the summer, but their Europa League expertise has never quite translated over to Champions League success.
The Spaniards haven’t finished top of their group in any of their last three Champions League campaigns, last doing so in 2009/10. Chelsea, meanwhile, have topped their group in three of their last five Champions League campaigns and come to this season’s tournament with a wealth of new talent in the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, and last season’s finalist Thiago Silva.
Group F winners prediction: Borussia Dortmund
Zenit may have been the top seeds but they’re certainly not the favourites to top Group F. The Russians have only won their group once in their last five attempts and second seeds Borussia Dortmund have topped their group in five of their last seven attempts.
Lazio are the other big challengers to Dortmund’s chances, but the Italians are playing in their first Champions League group stage since 2007/08 and just don’t have the same level of quality as the Germans.
Group G winners prediction: Juventus
We expect Cristiano Ronaldo to emerge the winner in his latest battle with Lionel Messi, but it’s more to do with the state of play in Catalonia than anything Messi has done.
The 2020 Barcelona are a shadow of their formerly dominant selves and have endured a summer marred by humiliation and turmoil. Their last Champions League outing was a complete mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich and they have since let Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arthur leave the club, the latter of whom switched places with Miralem Pjanic in Turin.
Juventus have all the quality needed to take advantage of Barca’s strife.
Group H winners prediction: PSG
After years of quarter final failures, PSG finally took a step forward in the summer as they reached their first ever Champions League final. They may have lost that tussle with Bayern Munich, but there is no doubting their European credentials now.
Manchester United and RB Leipzig will be tough tests, but the French side have topped their group in each of the last three campaigns and have outperformed the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich in this period. They also have the added advantage of being so dominant domestically that they can afford to rest players ahead of key Champions League Group Stage matches.
Champions League outright winner tips
The favourites – Bayern Munich at 4/1
Bayern Munich and Manchester City have been made joint favourites to lift the Champions League this season, with the Citizens being cut from 9/2 following their favourable Group Stage draw, but it’s the Germans who come out on top for us.
The Bundesliga giants were on another level last season, winning all 11 Champions League ties including an 8-2 demolition of Barcelona. They stepped onto a different plane in the footballing world when Hansi Flick arrived, ending the season with 22 consecutive victories.
No other team even came close to their superiority in the latter stages of the 2019/20 season, and while they have lost Thiago they have gained yet more attacking talent in the form of Leroy Sane.
Back-to-back Champions League triumphs is a mammoth achievement but if any team can do it, it’s this Bayern Munich outfit.
The outsiders – Atletico Madrid at 20/1 eachway
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid are the nearly-men of the last decade of Champions League football. They have fallen at the final hurdle twice in the past six years, agonisingly both against arch rivals Real Madrid, while also making the semi-finals twice as well.
The last couple of seasons have seen them drop off the pace a little bit, but this could be the year they turn it around. A master craftsman in two-legged ties, Simeone has added a complete gamechanger to his already formidable squad this season. Luis Suarez has arrived from Barcelona on a free transfer and already has two Atletico Madrid goals to his name, while 20-year-old Joao Felix is starting to fulfil some of his potential at long last.
An eachway bet on the Madrid club pays out at 10/1 should they reach their third final in seven years, and that looks a price worth taking.
Champions League top scorer: Golden Boot odds and tips
Unsurprisingly, last season’s runaway winner Robert Lewandowski leads the way in the market ahead of all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe surprisingly sneaks in ahead of Lionel Messi.
*Odds correct as of 16:00 on Friday, October 2nd on bet365.com
- Robert Lewandowski – 7/2
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 6/1
- Kylian Mbappe – 6/1
- Lionel Messi – 7/1
- Erling Braut Haland – 8/1
- Mohamed Salah – 9/1
- Neymar – 12/1
- Serge Gnabry – 16/1
- Sadio Mane – 16/1
- Timo Werner – 20/1
- Raheem Sterling – 20/1
- Sergio Aguero – 20/1
FST’s prediction – Robert Lewandowski at 7/2
Robert Lewandowski sauntered his way to the Champions League Golden Boot last season with a phenomenal 15 goals in the competition. Only twice has this tally been better (Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013/14 (17) and 2015/16 (16)) and it’s made even more incredible by the fact that Bayern Munich only played 11 Champions League games.
The Poland international is now fourth in the all-time Champions League goalscoring leaderboard with 68 strikes to his name and his goalscoring ration in the competition (0.76) is identical to that of Cristiano Ronaldo. The only current player with a better ratio is Messi, but Barcelona’s torrid summer of strife and turmoil means that Bayern Munich are likely to play a few more games than the Spaniards in this season’s tournament.
Bayern’s leading man scored 55 competitive club goals last season and should find goalscoring success in abundance when he comes up against the attack-minded RB Salzburg and the underdogs Lokomotiv Moscow in the group stages.
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