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Champions League: Man City, Liverpool rise as top contenders

The most prestigious club competition in world football, the UEFA Champions League has finally reached the knockout phase and it’s approaching its critical stage. As we draw close to the second leg matches of the tournament’s round of 16 – which will take place on March 8, 9, 15 and 16 – it’s time to start projecting the top contenders for this year’s title. 

The round of 16 draw took place on December 13, 2021, although there were some irregularities: Manchester United were erroneously placed in the draw for Villarreal’s opponent (both were in Group F), and were therefore picked; another ball was then pulled, and Manchester City were chosen instead. In the next match, Liverpool was incorrectly inserted in the draw for Atlético Madrid’s opponent (both were in Group B), while Manchester United was incorrectly removed. Later the same day, UEFA declared the initial draw null and invalid, and the round of 16 was completely redrawn.

The 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Final was supposed to be contested at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, before the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the 2020 Final had to be hosted at Estádio do Drago in Porto, Portugal, this year’s final would be held at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. However, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the final was moved to Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, France, and will be played on May 28.

Ahead of the conclusion of the round of 16, Manchester City are the clear favorites to claim the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League title, at +225 odds, according to sportsbooks and specialists on bettingnews.com. Liverpool are the second favorites, at +400 odds, with Bayern Munich close behind at +450 odds. Paris Saint-Germain and the defending champions Chelsea are also among the top contenders, at +600 and +800 odds respectively.

 

Manchester City

Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City’s free-flowing offense has always been mesmerizing, but the Catalan manager has taken things to another level this season. The team has been performing at a high level, and currently lead the Premier League six points ahead of Liverpool. 

In the round of 16, the Citizens face Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, and in the first leg match, Man City came away with an astounding 5-0 win at Estadio Jose Alvalade, in Portugal. The second leg match will be played on March 9, at the City of Manchester Stadium.

 

Liverpool

The side with the most European titles among English clubs, Liverpool cruised through the group stage without even dropping a single point. The Reds finished Group B ahead of Atletico Madrid, Porto, and Milan, and are looking for their second Champions League title in three years.

The Merseyside club takes on the reigning Serie A champions Inter Milan in the round of 16. In the first leg match, played on February 16 at San Siro, Liverpool won 2-0 with great performances by Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. The second leg will be played at Anfield on March 8.

 

Bayern Munich


Despite all of their restrictions due to injury and COVID-related absences this season, Bayern has been pretty easy sailing in terms of results, and if they continue to build on these performances, they will certainly be strong contenders in the knockout phase.

After winning all of their matches in the group stage, Bayern faces Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg in the round of 16. On February 16, at Red Bull Arena, Bayern prevented Red Bull Salzburg from achieving a historic triumph with a 90th-minute equalizer by Kingsley Coman, as the match finished on a 1-1 tie. The second leg will be played at Allianz Arena, on March 8.

 

Paris Saint-Germain


Despite finishing second in their group behind Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain is still one of the top contenders for this year’s trophy. The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League runners-up certainly have everything required to take things further this season, especially after the addition of Lionel Messi. With the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, and Di María, PSG poses an offensive threat to any defense in the tournament.

In the round of 16, the Parisian side takes on Spanish giants Real Madrid, in what is undoubtedly the most intense contest in this stage. In the first match, playing at home in Parc des Princes, PSG came away with a 1-0 victory. The second leg match will be played on March 9 at Santiago Bernabéu.

 

Chelsea


The defending UEFA Champions League winners, Chelsea have been through some ups and downs this season. The Londoner side has recently won the FIFA Club World Cup, but last week, lost the League Cup title to Liverpool on penalty shootouts. In a shocking turn of events, club owner Roman Abramovich announced that he would hand over the stewardship of Chelsea to the trustees of the charitable foundation and disclosed his intentions to sell the club.

Despite that, the Blues remain one of the favorites to lift the trophy and claim back-to-back titles. Led by Jorginho, the 2020-21 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year, Chelsea faces Lille OSC in the round of 16. The Blues won 2-0 the first leg match, which was played on February 22 at Stamford Bridge. The next game will be held on March 16, at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, France.

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