By Lee Dover | Champions League
If football was a sport once enjoyed by the Greek gods and goddesses, we are confident that the Champions League would have taken place on the summit of Mount Olympus.
32 of the most decorated football teams in Europe are clearing their heads and focusing their attention on clinching the most decorated trophy in club football – the prestigious European Cup.
Chelsea proved last season that the impossible is possible when it comes to the Champions League.
In their 2011/12 Premier League campaign, The Blues were all over the place as they struggled to put a run of form together – even the likes of Wolves and Wigan Athletic were heading to Stamford Bridge with quiet confidence of travelling home with at least a point in the bag.
However, booting out Andre Villas-Boas and giving Roberto Di Matteo the reigns proved a blessing in disguise, as Chelsea became untouchable in the Champions League and lifted the European Cup against all odds.
Fans who were kicking themselves for not having faith in The Blues may want to check out Paddy Power’s odds of 14/1 for the team to retain the trophy this season, in order to avoid having egg on their face again come May 2013.
Mind you, it won’t be easy for Chelsea – it never is in the Champions League. Di Matteo’s men face off against Italian giants Juventus in their opening group game.
However, the form is definitely in The Blues’ favour. For one, Chelsea have not lost a Champions League group stage tie at home in 26 matches, while Juventus have been defeated in their last six Champions League away games in England.
All of a sudden, the evens price for Chelsea to start their 2012/13 Champions League campaign with a win sounds oh so tempting. Juventus are 13/5 to break their hoodoo in England, while the draw is a tasty 23/10.
Blue Moon rising
Manchester City finally turned a corner last season when they clinched their first Premier League title, with The Sky Blues surely eager to add a European Cup to their growing trophy cabinet
Roberto Mancini’s men are 10/1 with Paddy Power to achieve glory in the Champions League in 2012/13, but boy do they face a stiff challenge right out the blocks.
Manchester City’s first game in the tournament is an away day at the Santiago Bernabeu to take on last season’s La Liga champions Real Madrid.
Most teams would be quaking in their football boots at the prospect of playing the Spanish heavyweights, but Manchester City have the swagger at the moment where they believe that nothing is unattainable.
Fergie eyes up number three
Sir Alex Ferguson must be sick of hearing his noisy neighbours making a fuss. He has a chance to take back some bragging rights this season though, by clinching the European Cup with Manchester United.
The Red Devils are 7/1 third favourites to clinch the illustrious trophy – only Barcelona and Real Madrid have shorter odds – and have been given a favourable group draw.
Manchester United are joined in Group H with Braga, CFR Cluj and Galatasaray.
No offence to the other three clubs – it takes extraordinary might to get into the Champions League group stages after all – but we think a manly hug between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand has more chance of happening than the Red Devils missing out on qualification to the Champions League knockout stages.
Gunning for glory
Arsenal round up the English clubs battling it out for the European Cup this season, as Arsene Wenger looks to bring the fun back to the Emirates.
It has been more than seven years since the club won a football trophy – a website has even been set up highlighting this fact and asking fans to Tweet their personal achievements during that period.
However, Arsenal have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the past nine seasons and have proven themselves one of the most resilient teams in the tournament’s history.
Reckon The Gunners can blast their way to the European Cup this season? Paddy Power has a price of 20/1 on offer for anyone who wants to put their money where their mouth is.