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The annual calendar for European soccer clubs is best described as controlled chaos. Top teams play in their domestic leagues, like the English Premier League or Serie A (Italy), and one or more domestic cups, such as the FA Cup (UK) or Copa del Rey (Spain).
For the best of the best, there is the UEFA Champions League. This season’s edition was played around the 2022 FIFA World Cup, meaning there was a break from November 2 to February 14 between the group stage to the knockout rounds.
Sixteen of the original 32 teams remained after the first stage of the knockout round, and the cream tends to rise to the top as this tournament progresses. Teams play home-and-home series with opponents between the round of 16 and the semi-finals, with the winner determined by the aggregate score across both matches.
The rest of the tournament occurs from mid-March until the final match on June 10 at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Turkey. By March 16, the field will have been whittled down to the final eight teams. Chelsea, Benfica, Bayern Munich, and AC Milan are already among them.
As the path to hoisting the 2023 Champions League trophy becomes clearer for the quarterfinalists, we’ll assess how the remaining teams stack up within three months until the final clash in Istanbul.
First, let's take a look at the 2023-24 Champions League odds from over at Caesars Sportsbook as of June 16.
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Spanish titan Real Madrid won their record-extending 14th UEFA Champions League title over Liverpool in late May 2022. It marked the fifth time since 2013 that the famous club was on top of European soccer and is their first UCL trophy in that span without Cristiano Ronaldo.
Los Blancos were +1400 to win the title last season at the quarterfinal stage. Those who took advantage would have cashed a healthy future bet.
Liverpool (+200) had been the second favorite to Manchester City (+185) at the time. However, the Cityzens marked another year of disappointment under Pep Guardiola in 2021-22. They fell to Real Madrid following a 3-1 defeat during their second-leg match in the semifinals.
Speaking of Manchester City, they are the current favorites again in 2023. German club RB Leipzig stands in the way of their quarterfinal berth after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
According to the odds, German champion Bayern Munich is the top challenger to Man City. They defeated Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain team in the round of 16 by an aggregate score of 3-0.
The defending champions, Real Madrid, are the third favorites after thrashing Liverpool 5-2 at Anfield on February 21. The Reds have a massive hole to climb from on March 15 if they hope to advance.
The top team in Serie A, Napoli, rounds out the top four teams on the odds sheet to win this year’s Champions League Final. They are 15 points clear in the top flight of Italian soccer and have a 2-0 lead heading into their second-leg match with another German club, Eintracht Frankfurt.
Just beyond the top teams is Chelsea FC, the 2020-21 champion that defeated Borussia Dortmund to advance to the quarterfinals. The Blues are already joined in the last eight teams by Portuguese club Benfica, who routed Belgium’s Club Brugge in the round of 16 by a score of 7-1.
The reigning Portuguese Premeira Liga champions, FC Porto, can advance to the quarterfinals during a March 14 home match against Inter Milan. Porto lost 1-0 away in the first leg and is +10000 to win this year’s Champions League.
Inter is listed at +2500 ahead of that match. The three-time champions of this continental cup last won in 2009-10 and have yet to appear in a quarterfinal since the following season.
AC Milan advanced following their round of 16 victory over Tottenham by an aggregate score of 1-0. However, the 2021-22 Serie A champions played to a nil-nil draw with Spurs in the second leg and will need to score more goals to compete with better clubs.
The other clubs listed as long shots are unlikely to see the quarterfinal round. RB Leipzig has the best hopes, given they only need to win by a goal, but doing so away at Etihad Stadium is challenging. Man City also hosted Leipzig in September 2021, and the Cityzens won 6-3 on home turf.
Frankfurt and Liverpool must win by significant margins away from home if they intend to continue in this tournament. Frankfurt will need to score at least three goals, while Liverpool needs four at minimum.
After carefully breaking down each team, we found one favorite and one long shot to back for our 2023 best bets. Both of these teams have the capability of getting hot and taking home the hardware.
Los Blancos still have to withstand what will be a mighty effort from Liverpool on March 15 to advance, but a three-goal lead on five away goals should be enough of a cushion.
Unlike Man City, Bayern Munich, Napoli, and the other favorites, Madrid is unlikely to win their domestic league, with Barcelona returning to form this season. Man City and Munich are both entrenched in close battles at the top of the table within their leagues.
Although Napoli has a comfortable lead in the Serie A table, they are vying for their first Italian title in over 30 years. That’s a lot of pressure.
Madrid can focus on extending their Champions League title record rather than exert maximum energy in their other competitions. We expect them to factor heavily in the final result of this tournament, as they have done numerous times before.
The defending champs in Serie A have taken a step back this season. Domestically, they are jockeying with AS Roma to remain in the top four and make another Champions League appearance in 2023-24.
Their back line has let them down at times, and the team has allowed the 10th-most goals in their league this season. That said, one encouraging sign of a turnaround is that they’ve kept clean sheets in five of their last six matches.
That stretch includes two against Tottenham, the club they just eliminated during the round of 16. If AC Milan has improved defensively, they’re worth a flyer to make a deep run in this year’s Champions League.
The 2022-23 Champions League wrapped up with Manchester City lifting the trophy for the first time in club history as the Cityzens triumphed over Inter Milan 1-0.
Man City’s only previous appearance in the Champions League Final was in 2021 when they lost to Premier League rival Chelsea by the same score. The last four finals have all ended 1-0, dating back to Bayern Munich claiming their sixth UCL title over Paris Saint-Germain in 2020.
Man City were the +210 favorite when our original piece was written just before the round of 16 concluded. Our best bets, Real Madrid and AC Milan, made it to the tournament's semifinals before losing to City and Inter, respectively.
Looking at all-time Champions League victories, Real Madrid are still the standard among Europe’s top clubs. Los Blancos have won 14 times, including five times since 2014, and lead the next closest club, AC Milan, by seven.
German giants Bayern Munich and English power Liverpool have each won six trophies, and Spain’s Barcelona is the only other club to win five or more titles. Barça first triumphed in 1992, won in 2006 with Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o, and then captured three titles with Lionel Messi starring in the midfield.
According to the early odds for 2023-24, Man City are again the favorites at +200, with Bayern Munich (+700), PSG (+900), Real Madrid (+1000), and Barcelona (+1200) rounding out the top five.
If you're new to watching or betting on soccer, you're bound to have tons of questions about the UEFA Champions League. We've compiled some basic questions and answers about this elite soccer league. Our goal is to help you quickly find the information you need.
The first Champions League soccer title, known at the time as the European Cup, was won by Real Madrid in the 1955-1956 season. They went on to win the competition for the next four consecutive years as well, establishing themselves as the dominant force in European club soccer at the time.
The Champions League, which was originally known as the European Cup, was created in 1955 by French sports journalist Gabriel Hanot. Hanot proposed the idea of a pan-European club competition to determine the best club team in Europe, inspired by the success of the South American club competition, the Copa Libertadores.
The competition was designed to provide a platform for the top European clubs to compete against each other and to showcase the best club soccer talent in Europe. It was also intended to foster greater international understanding and cooperation through sport in the aftermath of World War II.
Since its inception, the Champions League has grown to become one of the most prestigious and lucrative club soccer competitions in the world, attracting millions of viewers and generating significant revenue for participating clubs and the sport as a whole.
It's difficult to definitively identify one player as the most dominant in Champions League history, as the competition has seen so many great players over the years, each with their own unique strengths and accomplishments. However, there are several players who could be considered among the most dominant in the history of the competition.
One such player is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the Champions League five times and has scored more goals in the competition than any other player. Ronaldo's dominance in the competition is evidenced by his numerous individual awards, including the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award, which he has won multiple times.
Other players who could be considered among the most dominant in Champions League history include Lionel Messi, who has won the competition four times and is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, and Paolo Maldini, who won the competition five times and is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders in the history of the sport.
Real Madrid is the team that has won the most Champions League titles, having lifted the trophy a total of 14 times as of the end of the 2022 season. Real Madrid has a long and storied history in the competition, having won the first five editions of the tournament (when it was known as the European Cup) and then adding eight more titles in the years since.
Other teams that have enjoyed success in the competition include AC Milan, which has won the tournament seven times, and Liverpool and Bayern Munich, each of which has won the tournament six times. However, Real Madrid's 14 titles make them the undisputed kings of the Champions League.
Teams qualify for the Champions League based on their performance in their respective domestic leagues and, in some cases, also through a qualifying competition. The specific qualification criteria vary depending on the country. Still, generally, the top teams from the most competitive leagues in Europe are given automatic qualification for the group stage of the competition, while others must go through a qualifying round.
For example, in the English Premier League, the top four teams at the end of the season qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. In other countries, such as Spain, the top four teams also qualify, but the teams that finish fifth and sixth must go through a qualifying round. In some countries, the winner of the domestic cup competition is also given a spot in the Champions League.
Once teams have qualified, they are placed into a group with three other teams, and the group stage consists of a round-robin tournament in which each team plays the others in their group twice. The top two teams from each group then advance to the knockout stages of the competition, which culminates in a one-off final to determine the champion.