The 66th edition of the Champions League/European Cup kicks-off tonight (Tuesday) with 32 managers all prepped for the glitz and glamour of the group stages.
Come the knockout stages the number of managers will be sliced in half, and so on through each round until we eventually have a victor on 29th May 2021 - providing the season runs smoothly.
Below we’ve taken a look at what the odds are saying before the fight for Europe’s elite gong gets underway, with the managers split into three categories...
The Main Contenders
Defending champ Hansi Flick, who has five trophies to his name in less than a year at Bayern Munich, has the chance to become only the second manager in the Champions League era - after Zinedine Zidane - to lift the trophy in consecutive campaigns.
The German giants were simply unstoppable last season, and with the strongest team led by a manager who has quickly become accustomed to winning, Bayern look a decent price at 9/2 (Betway) to reach Europe’s summit, again.
Pep Guardiola, 9/2, capitulated once again last season, with the Champions League appearing to eat away at the Spaniard, year after year. There is some sort of mental block when it comes to a competition he’s not won since 2011.
Come May it will be 10 years since one of the best bosses of his generation last got his mitts on the coveted trophy.
Jurgen Klopp, 7/1, was crowned victor in 2019, while he’s reached the final on two other occasions. Liverpool have been severely hindered by the news that Virgil van Dijk is likely to miss the rest of the season, but while that’s a hammer blow they have enough in their locker to mount a serious challenge. Especially if their fabled front-three peak at the right time.
So long as last year’s beaten finalist, Thomas Tuchel, still has the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in his ranks then PSG will be bang in the mix to end their pricey wait to lift the trophy for the first time in their history. You can back the German coach at a tasty 10/1.
Which manager will lift the #ChampionsLeague trophy this season?— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) October 20, 2020
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Elsewhere, it seems strange to see both of the Spanish giants, Zidane’s Real Madrid (12/1) and Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona (14/1), start a Champions League in double figures for odds, but while neither side are anywhere near their former heights, it’s a long old season. And in this case, a peculiar one, where seemingly anything can happen. It’s also worth noting that this could well be Lionel Messi’s final season at Barcelona.
Juventus now have rookie coach Andrea Pirlo (14/1) in charge, who will be looking to replicate the feat of another football legend, Zidane, by winning the competition in his first season in the dugout. With Cristiano Ronalo leading the line, the Italian has every chance of making his debut campaign a dazzling one.
Best Bet: Hansi Flick @ 9/2 (Betway)
Tonight, Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo makes his #ChampionsLeague managerial bow— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) October 20, 2020
Over in the opposite dugout will be Dynamo Kyiv's 75-year-old boss Mircea Lucescu, the manager who gave Pirlo his Serie A debut at Brescia aged just 16 😃 pic.twitter.com/INbIrVHhSa
The Next Cluster of Contenders
Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid lead the next batch of contenders at 22/1. Simply put, they can never, ever be written off. They’ve reached the knockout stages in six of their seven Champions League campaigns under the Argentine, appeared in a couple of finals, and last season they stunned Liverpool at Anfield. No one will enjoy the prospect of facing them, especially with Luis Suarez now involved.
Within this group we have Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at 25/1. The Blues boss, who lifted the trophy with the club as a player, has an envious assortment of attacking players at his disposal but has yet to convince from a defensive perspective. Unless he sorts out his backline, Chelsea are unlikely to be taken too seriously.
Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund can be backed at 30/1, while Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan - Europa League finalists last season - and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Man Utd can both be found at 33/1.
Can Atalanta conjure up another stunning story? Gian Piero Gasperini developed into one of the key managerial talking points last term after orchestrating a superb charge into the quarter-finals. His free-scoring, entertaining side captured attention and won widespread plaudits, and they can be backed at 35/1 to conjure up another memorable journey, which this time ends in silverware.
Tasty Bet: Diego Simeone @ 22/1 (Paddy Power)
The Rank Outsiders
We’ll be honest, if any manager other than the ones we’ve already mentioned goes on to win the competition it will be a staggering shock. But, as we’ve said, this season will be full of surprises. After all, who expected Aston Villa to spank Liverpool 7-2.
It was fantastic to see an emotional Julen Lopetegui win the Europa League with serial-victors Sevilla, and now his next task is to establish the club in the Champions League; something that’s proved difficult for former managers.
Sevilla beat the likes of Man Utd and Inter en route to their success, then pushed Bayern all the way in the Super Cup. At 50/1 they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Other managers to keep an eye on include the innovative young German Julian Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig, 66/1), Simone Inzaghi (Lazio) and Erik ten Hag (Ajax), who are both at 100/1, whereas Sergio Conceicao’s Porto are out at 200/1 to repeat the club’s famous feat of 2004; under then boss Jose Mourinho.
If you’re after a monster price then you can find each of Club Brugge (Philippe Clement), FC Midtjylland (Brian Priske), Ferencvaros (Serhiy Rebrov) and Dynamo Kiev (Mircea Lucescu) at 2000/1...
Not to be overlooked: Julen Lopetegui @ 50/1 (Bet Victor)
FC Midtjylland are set to play in the Champions League group stage for the first time, and boss Brian Priske is pleased about the the money it will bring to the club...— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) October 1, 2020
"I've been promised a fence around our training pitch so we don't have to pick up all those f**king balls" 👀