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A guide to following the Champions League

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Football fans worldwide are excited by the return of UEFA’s Champions League competition which got underway in September. If you are a follower of the beautiful game, you’ll be up to speed on just how important and entertaining the competition is. It brings together fans of Europe’s best teams in a mutual love of the sport. 

With coronavirus restrictions beginning to lift across the continent, matches are played at stadiums with a capacity crowd with thousands packed into the venues to cheer on their favourite teams and players. Millions more watch the action live on television, supporting from the comfort of their homes or a sports bar. 

In addition to enjoying the talent on show, many football fans like to ramp up their interest by having a financial interest in the game or the competition outright. The leading online betting sites and apps offer generous odds and promotions on the winner of the Champions League and each game. This allows you to make your predictions and target a profit while watching the big match. 

In this article, we give our readers a brief introduction to the Champions League. Find out the format, when the final is, who the best teams are and which side is expected to go all the way and win the trophy, becoming champions of Europe.

Format and final

The 2021/22 Champions League is the UEFA competition’s 67th season and the 30th since it was rebranded and changed to its current format from the previous European Champions Club Cup. The early qualifying rounds run between June and August before the competition proper begins in September. 

The group stages divide 32 teams into groups of four for a round-robin format, with each club playing every other team in their set twice, once at home and once away. The team with the most points on the board from each group progresses to the knockout rounds, accompanied by the runners up. The third-place team drops into the Europa League, UEFA’s second string competition.

Following the completion of the group stages, the Champions League enters the knockout rounds where teams are drawn against each other and play two games, again once at their home stadium and then the home of their opponent. Aggregate scores over the two legs come into play, and there are no draws here with extra time and penalties available. 

This continues through the rounds, whittling down the teams until we are left with two who face off in the final match to be crowned Champions League winners. The final is a one-off game with extra time and penalties again available if needed. The next Champions League final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, Russia, on 28 May 2022.

Top teams and players

As you would expect from a competition to crown the champions of Europe, the Champions League has the continent’s biggest teams and most famous players. Not all of the sport’s best players ply their trade in Europe, but most do, meaning this competition is an opportunity to see them all in one place. The games come thick and fast in the group stages but only the cream of the crop make it to the knockout rounds, where we are often treated to the best against the best.

The world’s biggest bookmakers have had their say on the teams they expect to be successful this season, with traders at all major firms picking last year’s runners up Manchester City as favourites to go one better this season. They are prefered to big-spending PSG with new signing Lionel Messi, the French club second in line. Others near the head of the market include Bayern Munich if German football and last season’s champions Chelsea of the English Premier League.

As is the case in most seasons, the two best players to keep an eye out for are Cristiano Ronaldo, now on the books at Manchester United, and Lionel Messi who is now on the books of PSG following his summer transfer from Barcelona.

Trends and stats

Chelsea is the current champion after defeating Man City in last season’s all-English final. The Blues beat the Cityzens 1-0. The most successful Champions League team in history is Real Madrid with 13 times with AC Milan winning seven titles six for Bayern Munich, and Liverpool. Spain is the most successful nation with 18 champions ahead of England on 14 and the dozen of Italian football.

David Smith
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