The 2020-21 UEFA Champions League returns this week with four first leg matches from the Round of 16.
One of the biggest ties of the round takes place from Camp Nou on Tuesday night as Barcelona host last season’s runners-up Paris Saint-Germain. Defending Premier League champions Liverpool travel to RB Leipzig in the other game the same night.
24 hours later sees FC Porto hosting Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus, and Borussia Dortmund travel to Sevilla.
The two pre-season favourites with the bookmakers have a similar price ahead of the knockout stages as they did back in August, as Bayern Munich (16/5) and Manchester City (7/2) are arguably the two most impressive teams around Europe so far this season.
Pep Guardiola’s team are on a 15-game winning streak in all competitions, which includes their 3-0 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League to open up a seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
City face Borussia Monchengladbach in their Round of 16 tie with the first leg taking place in Germany on Wednesday 24 February.
The Spaniard’s former side were 1-0 winners over PSG in last season’s final and have hit form in the German Bundesliga in recent weeks, opening a gap between themselves and RB Leipzig, who are the only team who could realistically catch them in the final 13 weeks of the season.
Bayern Munich are also in action next week, travelling to Lazio for the first leg of their tie on Tuesday 23 February. Both favourites are widely-expected to progress to the quarter-finals with ease.
The German side has invested very well in recent seasons, culminating in last season’s Champions League glory. Bayern are now looking to win the title back-to-back for what would see them lift the trophy for the seventh time.
Heading into last season the Bavarians spent big money to upgrade their squad, with Lucas Hernandez (€80m) arriving from Atletico Madrid, Benjamin Pavard (€35m) joining from VfB Stuttgart, Philippe Coutinho being loaned from Barcelona and Michael Cuisance (€10m) signing from Gladbach.
This summer the defending champions’ only big money signing was Leroy Sane in a €50 million deal from Manchester City.
According to the research conducted on Champions League finances by Betway (infographic below), Bayern Munich have the second most expensive squad in terms of value among the teams still in the Champions League, behind only Liverpool’s €1.1 billion squad and Manchester City’s €1.06 billion.
Chelsea (€247.2m) were the only one of the 16 sides to have spent more than Manchester City (€171.8m) this season, with Barcelona (€119m) next on the list. At the other end of the scale, Real Madrid are the only team left that didn’t spend a single penny during the two transfer windows.
Zinedine Zidane’s side are struggling to keep themselves in a domestic title race and made a tough job getting out of their Champions League group, finishing just two points ahead of both Gladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk, taking 10 points from a possible 18.
Will Real Madrid regret not strengthening their squad when they had the chance? It looks like the Spanish giants are some distance behind both favourites Bayern Munich and Manchester City, who have invested well over the past season or two.
Although attending games will be unlikely this season, you can always watch all Champions League games live online. The second leg of the Round of 16 concludes on 17 March, with the quarter-finals in April and the semi-finals towards the end of April / start of May. The final is scheduled for Saturday 29 May at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Will the team that have spent the most this season – Manchester City, win it again, or will the sextuple-champions Munich defend their title?