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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Will Arsenal, Chelsea, City or United bring the Champions League trophy back to England?

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The draw for the last 16 in the Champions League takes place on Monday with most of the favourites firmly through as group winners, but who will be triumphant come May?

Holders Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been the bookies' best bet from day one - and nothing has happened to change that. Bayern are 5/2 at Bet Victor, Barca are 5/1 at YouWin and Real are 11/2 at Sky Bet. There is then a huge gap to 14/1 for Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern were the team to beat in Group D but Man City almost overtook them in the final game of the group stages. Two down after 12 minutes, City fans would have been forgiven for thinking the worst, but they fought back and were only one goal away from toppling the holders. However, Pep Guardiola's men are one hell of a force to be reckoned with and nobody will want to face them in the last 16. They have pace, skill and winning mentality throughout the squad and will not give up their crown easily.

Barcelona, even without Messi, destroyed Celtic in the final group game and are currently riding high in La Liga. The Catalan giants are desperate to make amends for last season's annihilation in the semi-final and look to have that hunger and determination back needed to win trophies. With Messi, Neymar, Xavi and Iniesta, Barca will be there or thereabouts when the silverware is handed out.

And what about Real Madrid? Not only do they have the goalscoring freak of Ronaldo, they also boast the most expensive player in the world in Gareth Bale. The Welshman is starting to find his feet in Spain and would love to end his first season at the Bernabeu by landing the biggest prize in club football.

Surprisingly Manchester City are the most fancied English team in the draw, even though they have never reached this stage before. Most of that must be down to the tactical nous of Manuel Pellegrini. He may be struggling to win away from home in the Premier League but victory over Bayern at the Allinz will have given everyone at the Etihad a massive lift.

Last season's beaten finalists Borussia Dortmund meanwhile only sealed top spot in their group in the final match as Arsenal lost at Napoli, but they remain hugely popular on the betting front. With Lewandowski leading the charge, Dortmund will fancy themselves to go one better than last season.

2012 Champions League winners Chelsea are 16/1 but Jose Mourinho has been very damning on his stars in recent weeks. Defensively they look poor and offensively the strikers are failing to fulfil their main obligation. Hazard, Oscar, Ramires, Mata and Lampard are all doing their jobs, but Mourinho demands more from his players. In saying that though they will face one of the lesser fancied sides in the last 16 and after that anything could happen.

Big spending PSG are also at 16/1 and Zlatan Ibrahimovich will be looking to win the Champions League to forget about the heartache of missing out on the World Cup in Brazil. 

Atletico Madrid and Premier League champions Manchester United are next up at 18/1 and 20/1 respectively. Both Atletico and United were the only sides in the Champions League group stage not to lose and both conceded only three goals during the whole campaign. However, that's where the comparasion must end. Atletico are joing top of La Liga while United under David Moyes are struggling in England. Maybe winning the competition will be the only way United will be back here again next season.

Then it's England's fourth competitor, league leaders Arsenal. Had Wenger's men managed a point in Naples on Wednesday the Gunners would have finished top and be looking at possibly a game against - no offence - Galatasary, Olympiakos or Zenit. Instead they must face one of either Bayern, Barca, Real Madrid, Atletico or PSG. Youwin is currently offering best odds of 22/1 on the Gunners to win the Champions League.

After that you have Italy's sole representatives in the competition AC Milan on 70/1, Bayer Leverkusen at 150/1 and Galatasary at 250/1.

Calling all football fans: Who do you think will be hoisting aloft the biggest prize in European football come May? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Antony Melvin



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