UEFA Champions League 2015-16: Countdown to the Climax

FC-Barcelona

Could Barça lift the trophy for a 6th time?

This is arguably the best football one can get to see on the planet. The cream of footballing talent from all continents pit their skills into this great extravaganza that has enthralled lovers of the game since it commenced in 1955. The UEFA Champions League is truly a playground for the champions and is watched by no less than 350 million viewers worldwide. The 32 teams that take part in the championship each year comprises of the top four teams of the English Premier League (England), La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany) and Serie A (Italy), the top 3 of the French League and top 2 teams of leagues of countries like Holland, Portugal, Belgium, Turkey, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and so on. There are entries from Cyprus, Greece, Israel and faraway Kazakhstan as well. (For the first time in the history of the championship, five teams from Spain are taking part in the 2015-16 tournament).

The teams are divided into 8 groups/clusters of 4 each. Each team plays a total of 6 games in the Group stage. The first two teams on the points table of each group qualify for the Round of the 16 that kicks off from February each year. This is the elimination/knockout stage where each team plays a home and an away match. The stage is set this year for a very exciting Round of 16 phase commencing February 17. The line-up is as follows:

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
Gent v Wolfsburg
Roma v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Barcelona
Juventus v Bayern Munich
PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid
Dynamo Kiev v Man City

Interest in the tournament is already reaching fever pitch. Blogs and forums are abuzz with fans speculating on which teams that will make it to the round of 8. It’s season time for top bookmakers like William Hill online and the betting odds by such experienced hands are pointers for match outcomes and are followed with immense fervor. The 3 most keenly watched encounters from the pack of 8 matches in the Round of 16 will be the Paris Saint-Germain/Chelsea, Arsenal/Barcelona and Juventus/Bayern Munich clashes. With the exception of Chelsea, all the other 5 teams are current League leaders in their respective countries. Even Chelsea were last season’s English Premier League champs. So, imagine the quality of football at play here. Odds favor Paris Saint- Germain, Barcelona and Bayern Munich to prevail in these exciting matches and move into the round of 8.

Barcelona look poised to progress into the Round of 8 and go all the way in fact. Bolstering their famed attack is a much improved defense marshaled by the likes of veterans, Pique, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and the brilliant goalkeeping import in the form of 23-year old German, Marc-André ter Stegen. The results have shown. The Blaugrana conceded just 4 goals in their 6 Group stage matches. Despite Real Madrid’s formidable UEFA record and tremendous Group stage form and a rampaging Bayern Munich, Messi & Co. are fancied to take the title for the sixth time.

William Hill odds seem to reflect such an outcome. It’s really a close call between Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But ten-time UEFA Champions winner Real Madrid cannot be ruled out despite lower odds. Los Blancos won all their 6 cluster matches, fired in as many as 19 goals and let in just 3 (the best performance by any team in the Group stage by far). And with Cristiano Ronaldo around, glory can never be far off.

Odds to lift the championship title

Barcelona: 9/4
Bayern Munich: 11/4
Real Madrid: 5/1
Man City: 10/1
Atletico Madrid: 12/1
Paris Saint-Germain: 14/1
Chelsea: 16/1
Arsenal: 33/1
Juventus: 33/1
Wolfsburg: 40/1
Zenit St Petersburg: 66/1
Roma: 80/1
Benfica: 100/1
Dynamo Kiev: 100/1
PSV Eindhoven: 150/1
Gent: 300/1

About Aaron

My name's Aaron and I'm a great Barça fan. I like to tell it like it is and if there is something I don't like about the club or something that needs addressing, you'll know!

}