Champions League 09-10: The favourites

By Online Editorial

Barcelona are reigning champions

With their sensational summer signings, you might have expected Real Madrid to be the main challengers to Barca’s European crown. Not so, says Matthew Walton as he takes an early look at this year’s winner market.

Compared to last year, there is a familiar feel to the outright winner market for this season’s Champions League – nine of the 10 sides which head the current 2009-10 list on Betfair also featured in the top 10 for the 2008-09 competition.

However, despite this lack of variety amongst the elite of European football, one thing likely to change this season is the name on the cup.

No side since 1990 has retained European football’s biggest prize.

That, in itself, is an important statistic but the first point to note about this year’s market is Barcelona [5.3] are much shorter than this time last year when, this very same week 12 months ago, they traded at 8.0.

Any number of reasons could explain the even greater confidence behind the Catalan club:

1. They were simply over-priced last season and so the market has merely re-adjusted itself.

2. This side, with only minor changes – swapping Ibrahimovic for Eto’o for example – has proved it can win the competition and is just as strong this season.

3. If anything, their opposition has got weaker over the past 12 months.

The other big movers in the market are Real Madrid, going from 13.5 in August 2008 to just 5.6 in August 2009. The reason being two-fold. Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. Maybe three if you include Xabi Alonso.

For a side that hasn’t even made the semi-finals since 2003, and has changed their manager yet again in the close season, this price seems hard to class as ‘value’. Money alone doesn’t buy the Champions League trophy.

Just ask Chelsea. The Londoners have been big-spenders in recent seasons but still have no Champions League trophy to show for it. However, for the first time since Jose Mourinho left, they have a manager with a proven pedigree in European club management (which Luis Felipe Scolari, notably, lacked) and with a settled squad, Carlo Ancelotti’s side at 7.6, compared to 6.4 this time last year, look a backable proposition.

The same can’t necessarily be said about the next team in the market, Manchester United. Their drift from 7.2 to 10.5 is hard to justify in terms of track record. As finalists in each of the last two years, they have the experience but the market reflects their loss of big players such as Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

Inter Milan are Italy’s best bet but having been 7.6 at this stage last year the Nerazzurri now trade at 12.5. This is symptomatic of the fact that Serie A grows weaker year on year, something borne out by Kaka’s move to Spain. And losing in the first knock-out round in each of the last three seasons, it’s hard to make much of a case for Inter being value to win the competition for the first time since 1964-65.

The same could be said for Bayern Munich. The Germans have moved from 22.0 to 38.0 this year and struggling even to dominate on home soil it’s understandable to see them slide. Their last trophy came in 2000-01.

The rest of the teams remain much the same one year on. Each of Liverpool 13.5, Arsenal 14.0 and Juventus 24.0 lie in similar positions in the market – reliable and respected – whilst AC Milan 28.0 fill the spot above fellow Italians AS Roma 29.0.

Viewed collectively, it’s interesting to note these top ten clubs made up 89% of the market in 2008-09 and this year that’s risen even higher, to 93%. All these sides come from either England, Spain, Italy or Germany and these four countries have provided the winner in nine of the last 10 seasons. The chances are one will do so again this year.

Which one? That question sadly won’t be answered until next May.

But in terms of pure value – who to back now – ask yourself who has a better chance of winning than last year, at a bigger price? Chelsea 7.6, maybe surprisingly, look the pick. Twelve months on they have the total package – proven manger, settled side, track record and pedigree, bigger price – whilst other teams are all lacking in one or more areas.

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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