Twenty-six teams qualify for the Champions League Group Stage, but only one can go on to win the trophy. Liverpool were that side in the 2018/19 season, overcoming Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid to lay claim to Europe’s biggest prize for a sixth time.
Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield natives will need luck on their side once again if they are to make it lucky number seven, though, as the Reds are currently seen as the underdogs, while their Premier League nemesis Manchester City get the backing of Sports Betting Dime and Sporting Life.
The Champions League has not been favourable for the Etihad Stadium side in recent years, and it remains the one trophy to escape their clutches, despite dominating the English landscape to become the first men’s side to record a domestic treble.
Liverpool know all about suffering heartbreak on the continent, too, having seen their hopes of a sixth European crown shattered in Kyiv, when Loris Karius had a night to forget. But dropping the German for Brazilian summer signing Allison Becker changed the Reds’ luck for the better, and Klopp finally held aloft his first major trophy in charge of the Merseyside outfit.
The Reds still had to ride their luck during their mission to Madrid, mind, as Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli were thrust into their path in the Group Stage. Bayern Munich and Barcelona then followed, with their clash in Catalunya leaving their dream in tatters.
No one would have expected what was to come on May 7, as a Divock Origi double inspired one of the greatest comebacks of all time, to send Lionel Messi’s Barcelona crashing out of the Champions League in shambolic fashion.
Yet one fairy-tale moment was not enough, as Tottenham travelled to Amsterdam the following night chasing a one-goal deficit, and things only got worse when Matthijs de Light and Hakim Ziyech fired past Hugo Lloris. Pochettino’s men would stun the giant-slaying youth of Ajax, though, as Spurs clawed their way back into the tie with Lucas Moura catching the hosts cold, only to better his efforts as stoppage-time expired to shatter the local’s hearts.
But it was not to be for Spurs, as Liverpool went on to lift the trophy in Madrid thanks to a Mohamed Salah penalty and a late strike by Origi. They now have to wait until September before they can go again, and face an even greater challenge to reach back-to-back Finals.
Their opposition in last year’s Round of 16 Borussia Dortmund are one of many European heavyweights to strengthen this summer, with Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard brought to the Signal Iduna Park for less than they sold fringe star Christian Pulisic to Chelsea for. The Bundesliga runners-up are also slightly favoured by Sports Betting Dime in the stakes, whilst narrowly falling short of German rivals Bayern Munich.
Bayern last won a continental honour in 2013, and even the work of Guardiola failed to see the Bavarian side add their number six. Niko Kovac is in charge now, and has brought youth and talent to the Allianz Arena to replenish an ageing defence in Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. Liverpool had the better of them in last season’s Round of 16, and they will be longing for better results in the future alongside Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.
PSG are desperate to take a European honour to justify their high-spending summers acquiring the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, but the Champions League is the one competition their money cannot conquer, and Thomas Tuchel will be getting hot under the collar if they collapse on the continent again following March’s debacle at home to Manchester United.
The German will have to hope his luck is in, even if it means hitting the market again to find the winning formula. One that was evidently not there against the Red Devils.
Fans can test their luck throughout the tournament, as well, by backing the side they feel can go on to lift the trophy in Istanbul, and not just through traditional bets, but football-themed online slots. It is always best to find new slots sites through websites which compare different bonuses, though, as they provide a wider range of choice and the best rewards. And who knows, you too could be celebrating the result in Turkey, like Chelsea were in Azerbaijan when they lifted the Europa League.
The Blues are now chasing a new manager following Maurizio Sarri’s return to Italy, though, yet cannot be ruled out from putting on a show in the Champions League once they find their next leader.
A show is always guaranteed when it comes to the 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid, who were a shadow of themselves in their latest quest having lost Cristian Ronaldo. But a new Los Blancos is on the horizon as young superstar Luka Jovic descends on the Santiago Bernabeu alongside Ferland Mendy and the £150million man Eden Hazard.
Europe has been where Real Madrid have shown their true colours in three of the past four seasons, and cannot be overlooked when it comes to their chances of adding a 14th crown to their collection.
Manchester City may be the favourites, but the Citizens’ struggles to turn domestic dominance into continental glory will ensure there is no easy ride for Guardiola and his men. It is the missing piece of their masterpiece, and one that needs to be filled sooner rather than later, yet it could easily continue to be a black hole with so many giants standing in their way.
Liverpool, too, once again face a mountain in front of their European mission, and it will be no easy route to another Champions League triumph. Klopp has the winning ingredients in his locker, but will have to play his cards right to see the desired results again. One thing’s for sure, though, the Champions League will be full of fireworks once more.