According to the bookmakers, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two teams to beat, despite the fact that the Champions League final will be staged at Wembley next May. The Catalan club are a best price 5/2 (William Hill free bets) to make amends for last season’s semi-final exit at the hands of Chelsea and go all the way.
Barca clearly possess a world-beater in Lionel Messi although Tito Vilanova is unproven as a club manager and might struggle to follow in the rather large footsteps of Pep Guardiola, with Cesc Fabregas cutting a disgruntled figure at the Nou Camp at the moment.
Real Madrid probably offer more value at odds of 9/2 (Coral) when you consider that Joe Mourinho will feel this is his time to claim victory in this competition with a third different club. He has achieved success with lesser squads at FC Porto and Internazionale, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric ready to deliver the goods.
Real are up against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at the group stage which has seen their price lengthen a touch, although they are still warm favourites to come through Group D and have an ideal chance to steal a march on City when facing the English champions on Tuesday night.
Roberto Mancini will secretly feel a sense of injustice that they have a tougher group draw than their other three Premier League counterparts, although there are now world-class players in all positions at Eastlands and they are 10/1 to go all the way.
Sergio Aguero is on the comeback trail from injury, with Carlos Tevez enjoying a new lease of life at the club and there are reinforcements in the form of Scott Sinclair and Javi García, a Spanish international who made waves with Benfica last season.
Manchester United are also priced at 10/1 (BetVictor) although the Red Devils are as short as 7/1 elsewhere and the signing of Robin van Persie is a clear statement of intent when it comes to the Champions League, with Shinji Kagawa also expected to offer something different in this competition.
Even so, Sir Alex Ferguson is left scratching his head over a defence which are shipping lots of soft goals at the moment and Rio Ferdinand might be nearing the end of a career which could see Jonny Evans become Nemanja Vidic’s first-choice central defensive partner.
Chelsea are the reigning champions and can be backed at an eye-catching 16/1 although Roberto Di Matteo’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of a Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid suggests that they won’t be winning consecutive Champions League titles.
Nevertheless, Roman Abramovich has bankrolled several new signings including Eden Hazard and Oscar, even if question marks remain over the central defence where John Terry’s pace could be exposed by Europe’s quickest forwards.
Arsenal are not really considered to be viable Champions League competitors despite several new signings in the summer which include Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. The Gunners have at least got themselves a group where qualification looks fairly routine and 25/1 looks a decent price.
Outside Spain and England, there is the threat of Bayern Munich and the German giants are a 14/1 chance although the bottom line is that Borussia Dortmund trumped them domestically last season and 40/1 about the latter on the outright market might seem like a decent shout if they can scramble out of a group which includes Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Juventus look like Italy’s strongest challengers although the Old Lady were always going to have a tough group due to their presence in Pot 3, with Chelsea and Shakhtar needing to be faced as a result.
Juve have many players that helped Italy reached the final of Euro 2012 and odds of 18/1 are available about the Italian champions, while AC Milan are a 33/1 poke and the Rossoneri haven’t been in with a sniff of victory for several seasons.
Carlo Ancelotti has a vast amount of managerial experience in this competition and will lead Paris St-Germain into battle this time around, with a substantial investment meaning that the French side are a top price 20/1 to claim the spoils.
Zenit St Petersburg are the other team to catch the eye after completing the signing of Hulk from FC Porto and odds of 80/1 are available about the Russian side.