The 28th edition of the Champions League kicks off on Tuesday with Manchester City the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the trophy for the first time.
When City appointed Pep Guardiola at the beginning of the 2016-17 season it hoped he would be able to deliver a first Champions League crown after winning it in 2009 and 2011 with Barcelona.
The Spaniard has delivered back-to-back English Premier League titles so far and transformed City into arguably the best side in Europe, but continental success has proved frustratingly elusive.
In Guardiola’s first season, City bowed out in the round of 16 on the away goal rule after drawing 6-6 on aggregate with Monaco. The following year they came unstuck in the quarterfinals, losing 4-1 on aggregate to Liverpool and last season they were again knocked out in the quarterfinals by an English side.
With the scores tied at 4-4 on aggregate against Tottenham Hotspur, Raheem Sterling’s late goal in the second leg looked to have put City through to the semifinals only for the video assistant referee (VAR) to intervene.
The Premier League champions will be desperate to atone for that disappointment this season and have landed a relatively easy group, in which they will face Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian Serie A side Atalanta and Croatian team Dinamo Zagreb.
According to Oddschecker, Manchester City is a 16/5 favorite to win the Champions League, followed by Barcelona and Liverpool at 11/2.
The two teams met in the semifinals last season, with the La Liga outfit cruising to a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead in the first leg, only for the Reds to engineer a miraculous comeback in the second leg.
The momentum generated by the 4-0 thumping of Barcelona in the return leg carried on into the final, as Liverpool beat Spurs 2-0 to secure a sixth European Cup.
The Reds haven’t added any major signings this summer but have picked up where they left off last season and have already opened a five-point gap at the top of the Premier League after just five games.
Liverpool meets Serie A team Napoli in the group stages for the second consecutive season, but the rest of the pool is far easier than a year ago.
Neither Belgium’s Genk nor RB Salzburg of Austria should pose too much of a threat for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will be looking to rectify last season’s calamitous defeat in the semifinal, which came a year after the Catalans relinquished a three-goal lead in the quarterfinals against Italian team Roma.
The Spaniards haven’t won European soccer’s biggest prize in five seasons and will hope the addition of Antoine Griezmann can help them lift the trophy again.
A group containing Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, Serie A’s Inter Milan and Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic could test the Spanish champions’ credentials from the start.
Barcelona’s main rivals, Real Madrid, is a 17/2 shot. The 13-time European champions have spent over $300 million on players this summer in a drastic overhaul, but injuries have so far hampered Zinedine Zidane’s side.
The Frenchman won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell in charge of Madrid, but adding a fourth title looks far from a straightforward process.
Real finds itself in a testing group containing Paris Saint-Germain, Turkish team Galatasaray and Belgium’s Club Brugge.
Meanwhile, PSG is a 12/1 outsider. For all its lavish spending, Europe has proved a constant source of disappointment for PSG, who came undone against Manchester United in the round of 16 last season.
The French champions won 2-0 at Old Trafford but lost 3-1 at home, collecting another dismal capitulation two years after they lost 6-1 to Barcelona to relinquish the 4-0 lead from the first leg.
First-round schedule (All times ET)
Tuesday, September 17
- Olympique Lyon vs Zenit St. Petersburg—12.55 p.m., B/R Live, Galavision
- Inter Milan vs Slavia Prague—12.55 p.m., B/R Live, TNT, UniMas, TUDN
- Napoli vs Liverpool—3 p.m., B/R Live, TNT, Galavision
- Borussia Dortmund vs Barcelona—3 p.m., B/R Live, UniMas, TUDN
- Chelsea vs Valencia—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Ajax vs Lille—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Benfica vs RB Leipzig—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Salzburg vs Genk—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
Wednesday, September 18
- Olympiacos vs Tottenham Hotspur—12:55 p.m., B/R Live, TNT, UniMas, TUDN
- Club Brugge vs Galatasary—12:55 p.m., B/R Live, Galavision
- PSG vs Real Madrid—3 p.m., B/R Live, TNT, UniMas, TUDN
- Bayern vs Red Star Belgrade—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Dinamo Zagreb vs Atalanta—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Atletico Madrid vs Juventus—3 p.m., B/R Live, Galavision
- Bayer Leverkusen vs Lokomotiv Moscow—3 p.m., B/R Live, TUDNxtra
- Tour Championship 2018 Latest Odds, TV Channels, Tee Times, Predictions: Who Will Win the FedEx Cup 2018?
- Who will win Dancing On Ice 2019? Latest odds for the upcoming series of the skating show
- Who will win The Voice 2019? Latest odds with Nicole Dennis as the favourite
- Masters 2019: Live stream, TV schedule, Tigers Woods score, where to watch (Saturday, Round 3)
- When and where is the Champions League final 2019?
- Masters 2019: Live stream, TV schedule, Tigers Woods score, where to watch (Friday, Round 2)
- Masters 2019: Live stream, TV schedule, Tigers Woods score, where to watch (Final Round, Sunday)
- College Football Championship 2019: Latest Odds for Alabama v. Clemson
- Who will win at the TV Baftas 2019? Latest odds and predictions