Has the balance of power in European football shifted? The Bundesliga provided both finalists in the Champions League last year with the Primera Liga‘s big guns both coming up short and showing that having a brilliant attack alone is not enough if they concede too many goals.
There were certain salutary lessons to be learned at Barcelona and Real Madrid – but have they been addressed? Madrid look on the verge of capturing Gareth Bale for a world-record fee and he’ll grace the Bernebeu with his skills. But they’ve lost centre-back Raul Albiol and replaced him with a right-back in Daniel Carvajal and may still be vulnerable under pressure. Real, now under Carlo Ancellotti, will still have high hopes of ending their wait for another European triumph at 11/2 with BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Skybet while Barcelona are pinning their hopes on Neymar to climb back to the top. The Brazilian looks a superstar but Lionel Messi has been picking up a few injuries lately and it could be the punishment that he takes, week-in week-out, is beginning to take its toll. Barca are 9/2 with Skybet to recapture the European crown but they’ll need to progress to dethrone Bayern Munich.
The German champions were deserving winners last season after several near-misses. They’ve strengthened again with the younger Mario Gotze looking an excellent replacement for the departed Mario Gomez and Pep Guardiola has raided former club Barcelona for Spanish international midfielder Thiago. Bayern will be a threat to all at the general 7/2 while last season’s losing finalists Borussia Dortmund (25/1 with BetVictor, Boylesports and Skybet) will again be expecting Robert Lewandowski to fire them into the latter stages.
Chelsea are rated the pick of the Premier League teams this season under Jose Mourinho, despite only finishing third in their domestic league last season. They’ll be harder to beat this season and having been handed a good draw in the group stages. They are a best 11/1 with Paddy Power while Manchester City are 16/1 with bwin despite failing to make it past the group stages since returning to Europe’s top table and being paired with Bayern. English champions Manchester United are 14/1 with BetVictor and bwin but this year will be a steep learning curve for new manager David Moyes and Arsenal, so far, haven’t made the big signings everyone expected. The Gunners are 40/1 with Boylesports, Ladbrokes and Skybet to lift the Champions League.
French football is undergoing a renaissance and big-spending Paris St Germain are 18/1 with Skybet while Marseilles are available at 250/1 with bwin, Coral and Skybet. Juventus head the Italian challenge and are 20/1 with Paddy Power ahead of AC Milan and Napoli, and you can have 1000/1 with Skybet and William Hill on Celtic after the Scottish champions were drawn alongside Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax, though qualifiers Austria Vienna and Victoria Plzen are rank outsiders at 1500/1 with Skybet and Boylesports respectively.