Now the Champions League groups have been decided I thought I’d take a look at the outright market and, after two recent near misses, could it be Atletico Madrid’s year?
No team has ever successfully defended Europe’s top prize in its current guise and given the noises coming out of the Bernabeu, namely that La Liga is the priority, I’m going to rule holders Real Madrid out of the running.
Barcelona are the favourites at 16/5 but Los Rojiblancos dumped them out last season and when it really counts Diego Simeone seems to be able to find a way to get the best out of his side. Atletico also overcame 4/1 shots Bayern Munich last term, albeit by the virtue of the incredibly cruel but probably unavoidable away goals rule.
Fate has thrown Atleti and the German giants together in the same group this year but with PSV Eindhoven and Russia’s Rostov joining them in Group D I can’t see the Madrid side falling at the first hurdle.
What about the English sides? Manchester City (11/1 if you fancy it) have an incredibly hard group so advancing is by no means assured, and I’m not sure Leicester and Spurs (both 40/1) have the strength in depth to mount serious challenges both domestically and in Europe. 28/1 hopefuls Arsenal could be worth a look but they haven’t reached the latter stages for some time, as such I couldn’t get behind them with any real confidence.
I genuinely feel this could be Atletico Madrid’s year and at 12/1 they’re a great price. Teams from Spain have won both European cups in each of the last three seasons – in fact only once has a non Spanish team (Juventus in 2014-25) contested the Champions League final during that time – and it could be the same again.
Avoiding Real might be key for Atleti and if they don’t meet their illustrious neighbours Simeone could get his hands on the one title that has so far proved elusive after final defeats in 2014 and 2016. The each way option is available but a standard 12/1 outright bet on Atleti is my Champions League winner top bet.