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Champions League is back with Manchester City unlikely favourites | Paul Wilson


Pep Guardiola’s team have yet to reach a Champions League final but the bookmakers fancy them to halt Real Madrid’s hot streak and outpace Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United

The Champions League is back this coming week, and easily the most striking aspect of the competition before the group stages commence is that Manchester City are the favourites to win it. With all respect to Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled side, this seems odd. City have yet to even reach a Champions League final, yet bookmakers give them a better chance of carrying off the spoils this season than Real Madrid, who just happen to have won the last three finals and are looking to extend their record to four.

Perhaps there are reasons for this lack of confidence in the standout European performers of recent seasons, the team who have shown they can win in any number of ways from the inspired to the intimidatory. Cristiano Ronaldo, a one-man winning machine if ever there was one, has departed, and any unstoppable free-kicks or sumptuous volleys will this season be delivered on behalf of Juventus. Zinedine Zidane has gone, too, with an impeccable record in one particular competition that leaves posterity to ponder how much of his input went into three successive Champions League triumphs and how much was down to a supremely talented and streetwise set of players.

Related: Champions League group-by-group guide: English quartet well placed

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