The most anticipated
The Liverpool youth squad did a great job of securing the club their advancement in the FA Cup and with the winter break coming to a close end, and Liverpool bagged yet another win in some Premier League action over the weekend against Norwich.
Other than the usual English football fixtures, there’s one game that fans and critics alike are anticipating more than most; the return of Liverpool to Champions League competition. Atletico hasn’t had the greatest season in La Liga thus far but, we should note that the Spanish side is renowned for its stubbornness and difficulty to defeat in European clashes.
Currently placed fourth in the Spanish La Liga and ten points behind league leaders Real Madrid, on the outside instantly fading Atletico may seem beneficial, but the stakes are raised along with the level of competition.
Is there any hope for Atletico?
The closer Liverpool edge towards lifting the Premier League title can only produce a healthier, more focused Liverpool when they compete in the Champions League. With no other clubs dominating their division like Liverpool are, they’ll not only have the advantage of defending Champions but, all other variables will be favouring the reds if their current form continues.
Liverpool’s odds to defeat Atletico are giving them a 44% chance of winning the away fixture in Spain, whilst Atletico’s chances are just 29%. This is considerably high considering the first leg will be played away from home for Liverpool.
That said, Jurgen Klopp and his men won’t be taking any team for granted at this level of football, It’s highly doubtful that a team with a 1% chance of winning the Champions League trophy will defeat the defending Champions Liverpool.
The unpredictability of the Champions League
We should take notice of the level of football that is being played in the Champions League tournament. It’s the highest level of the game and a team’s domestic success doesn’t always say what they’ll accomplish in the tournament. Let’s take Tottenham for example; they were not expected to defeat Ajax in an amazing comeback to go on and reach an all-English Champions League final against Liverpool. Spurs had breezed past Manchester City and Ajax, based on their away goals tally. This, in reality, seemed incredibly lucky for the North London side at the time. The Champions League becomes that time of year when the best clubs on the planet put in all their efforts to prove they’re the best team in the world; domestic success should become an after-thought whilst predicting the outcomes.
Tottenham wasn’t’ the only side to defy the odds, the trophy holders Liverpool were defeated by Spanish giants Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg, left with no hope heading into the reverse fixture at Anfield. A 4-0 win at Anfield left the nation speechless and Liverpool would progress to the final, eventually beating Tottenham 2-0 and becoming the champions of Europe.
As expected, and rightfully so; Bayern Munich and Liverpool are most favoured to win this year’s tournament. Munich should have no worries with their first fixture against Chelsea, given the current form of the Premier Leagues heavyweights in blue. Liverpool should have the tougher task in travelling to Madrid but still, they’re also in a favourable position to advance with not too many problems. It’s surprising to see Manchester City as third favourites; maybe the bookmakers are giving Pep Guardiola more respect than deserved because his full focus will be on the UCL if the EPL moves out of his grasp.
The outsiders of the tournament can’t be ignored especially given the fact that multiple managerial positions could be on the line if certain results aren’t provided, Diego Simeone and Quique Setien string to mind.
The moral of the story
Making predictions for this year’s Champions League may seem easy with the amount of data we’re able to collect from each club’s respective domestic season but, there’s more than meets the eye. It’s as simple as re-watching last year’s finals, the sporadic yet unpredictable outcomes were supplied in bunches. And, this year could be no different. Even once the first-legs of the first round of 16 are over, the reverse fixtures almost provided reserve results last year.
Lyon, Valencia, Tottenham, Dortmund just to name a few, are a few select outsiders that could also put thorns into the sides of the favourites. Jose Mourinho may not have had the best start at Spurs but as a two-time Champions League winner he’ll have the managerial experience advantage heading into the competition. Liverpool is joint-favourites with Bayern Munich but, let’s take this with a pinch of salt until we can at least witness how each club fares in their first leg match-ups.
If you’re a betting man, your best bet is to stay away and enjoy the hostilities.