After one of the most exciting races of the Premier League era and winning a domestic treble last season, only one meaningful trophy has eluded Pep Guardiola since his 2016 arrival at Manchester City.
The one that Manchester City’s ownership group led by Sheikh Mansour wants above all others. The one that provides global legitimacy for winning the world’s most difficult club tournament. The one that gives a permanent title ahead of the club’s name when said.
Ol’ Big Ears.
Guardiola and the Cityzens again have designs on winning the UEFA Champions League, a quest stopped in heartbreaking fashion last spring by domestic rival Tottenham Hotspur in the quarterfinals. The London club would reach the finals, where they would lose out to another English rival in Liverpool, the same club City pipped by one point for the Premier League title as they won their final 14 league matches.
All three sides are in the mix to reach the 2020 final in Istanbul – site of Liverpool’s great comeback against AC Milan in 2005 that resulted in the fifth of their now six European titles. Yet there are challengers across the continent capable of winning it all in what feels like a more open competition than years past.
Per FanDuel’s sportsbook, City are the favorites to win at +430, and Guardiola’s side is staggeringly deep as it also bids to become the first team to “three-peat” as Premier League champions since Manchester United since 2007-09. The Cityzens are two-deep at almost every position with a first-team international player, and even losing high-scoring winger Leroy Sane for a prolonged period with a torn ACL may not slow them down all that much.
Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne comprise the most fearsome and balanced attack in Europe – five players had at least 10 goals and 10 assists in all competitions last season, with the Argentina international Aguero leading the way with 30 goals. City also made two key signings that weakened other top European sides, poaching defensive midfielder Rodri from Atletico Madrid and right back Joao Cancelo from Juventus.
Barcelona, whom Guardiola guided to two Champions League titles, crumpled in the second leg of last season’s semifinals at Anfield as Liverpool stormed back from a 3-0 first-leg deficit. The Blugrana are tipped at +550 to get the job done this year, and like City, have added some of the world’s best players from other top clubs. The first is winger Antoine Greizmann from Atletico, and the France international’s speed and nous should serve him well teaming up with superstar Lionel Messi and savvy forward Luis Suarez.
The other marquee signing is 22-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who was the linchpin of the Dutch Ajax side that stunned both Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout rounds en route to the semifinals, where they lost in soul-crushing fashion to Tottenham at home in the second leg.
Reigning champions Liverpool are +700 to become the first repeat champions since Real Madrid reeled off three straight titles from 2016-18. Jurgen Klopp’s club has been in the Champions League final the last two seasons and stayed pat during the summer transfer window. Their depth has been challenged quickly as No. 1 keeper Alisson suffered a calf injury that will sideline him in August and give him little recovery time ahead of the opening group match in mid-September.
Liverpool still have an imposing front line led by Egypt international Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino. The back line is anchored by towering central defender Virgil van Dijk, who many expect to be in the running for the Ballon d’Or as the player of the year.
And what of Cristiano Ronaldo, you ask? The seemingly ageless Portugal international and all-time leading scorer in Champions League play with 126 goals again makes storied Italian side Juventus a threat to win it all at +800. The 34-year-old had 28 goals in all competitions with the Bianconero as they won the Serie A scudetto for the eighth straight season.
Ronaldo, though, has a new coach in Maurizio Sarri, who returned to Italy after one season and a UEFA Europa League title with Chelsea. The superstar forward should have little trouble acclimating to Sarri’s 4-3-3 formation, flanked by Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala up front. Juve also claimed one of Ajax’s budding superstars, signing central defender Matthijs de Light to pair with veteran Giorgio Chiellini in the spine of an airtight defense.
Tottenham are more of a sleeper pick this season at +2200, but underestimate Harry Kean and company at your own risk. If the Three Lions talisman remains healthy, Spurs boast an impressive attack that includes Lucas Moura and underrated South Korea international Heung-Min Son. Mauricio Pochettino also has a pair of clever playmakers in Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli and got some long-sought help in the transfer market with the signing of midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.