Champions League 2017-18: Real Madrid the team to beat as Zidane looks for third crown

With the Champions League final qualifying round draw to take place on Friday, Europe’s top club tournament is set to come firmly into focus for 2017-18.

While it is still the early stages of the competition, all eyes will be on this season’s eventual final in Kiev next May, with Spanish giants Real Madrid the team to beat.

Zinedine Zidane’s men have swatted all-comers aside over the last 24 months, becoming the first club in the Champions League era to retain the crown.

A dominant 4-1 win over Juventus in last season’s final ensured Madrid’s place in history, with all the major clubs in Europe ready to fight the Santiago Bernabeu outfit for the continent’s top prize.

Despite other big clubs splashing the cash this summer, Madrid are the favourites with online bookmakers to win the crown in 2017-18 again, at odds of around 11/2.

As always, Catalan giants Barcelona will be one of Los Blancos’ biggest challengers, both domestically and on the continent, but it has been a summer of upheaval at Camp Nou.

Ernesto Valverde has been named as the Blaugrana’s new head coach, while the club’s supporters have been shocked by Neymar’s desire to leave the club.

With the Brazilian joining Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record deal, it remains to be seen who will replace him in the Barcelona team, with the Catalans expected to make a big-money signing before the transfer window ends.

Despite Neymar’s defection, the Camp Nou side still have an array of world-class stars, with Lionel Messi’s new contract at the club a reason for delight among the supporters.

Barcelona retain short odds to win the Champions League in 2017-18, with some bookmakers even matching Madrid’s 11/2 offering for Valverde to win the biggest prize in his first season at the club.

Neymar has spoken of his desire to bring the biggest titles in the game to his new employers and PSG certainly have an eye-watering forward line after his capture.

While success in France has happened since the current Qatari owners took over at the Parc des Princes five years ago, the Champions League has eluded the Parisian outfit.

PSG have odds of around 11/1 to win the trophy in 2017-18, which look all the more enticing after their latest lavish expenditure.

Of the other contenders, Bavarian powerhouses Bayern Munich are never far away from the top of the pile and will surely be in the running again this season.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have added yet more top quality to an already impressive squad, with Germany’s finest offered up at short odds of 6/1 to become European champions in 2017-18.

Looking at other sides, there is certainly value to be had in placing bets on an alternative side to rise to prominence.

Manchester United return to the top table and are at odds of 16/1 to win the Champions League after the summer signings of Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku.

Finally, Atletico Madrid have been beaten in the final twice in the last couple of seasons, with Diego Simeone’s men agonisingly close to be named as Europe’s best.

For the Argentine boss to take the Spanish side to the very top of the continental game, usurping cross-town rivals Real in 2017-18, odds of 16/1 are available.

Champions League 2017-18: Real Madrid the team to beat as Zidane looks for third crown

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