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The Champions League belatedly gets underway on Tuesday with Bayern Munich the betting favorites to retain the title.
This group stage will be like none we've ever seen before. Beginning a month later than usual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with each team slated to play all six group matches in a 51-day span. While the crammed schedule makes for terrific viewing for fans, it will test the depth of the participating clubs as they look to balance the competition with their domestic duties.
Here's how the Champions League oddsboard looks before the start of the group stage:
|Red Bull Salzburg||+30000|
Manchester United (+2000)
The Red Devils can field one of the world's best midfields on any given night, and with an abundance of attacking options there are no shortage of goals in the side. There are questions about both the manager and the centre-backs, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might not have a lot of time left on the job and a new boss could help solve those defensive issues. If Manchester United can sort themselves out at the back, the rest of the pieces are in place for the club to return to its past glory.
Borussia Dortmund (+3000)
It feels like stealing, getting a top-five club in Europe at the 11th-shortest price. Dortmund were just narrowly beaten out by eventual finalists PSG in last season's competition, and they return the entirety of one of the world's most lethal attacks after holding onto Erling Haland and Jadon Sancho in the transfer window.
The signings of Emre Can and Thomas Meunier provide more invaluable Champions League pedigree to the side, while Jude Bellingham's arrival strengthens the club in midfield. There's not a weak spot in Dortmund's starting XI, who possess both the depth and experience needed to make a deep run in the competition.
Red Bull Salzburg (+30000)
Admittedly a long shot, now is the time to buy Salzburg as their odds will only get shorter. The Austrian outfit got their feet wet in their foray into Champions League football last season, and are now poised and full of belief as they get set to take on Europe's top clubs once again.
This is a side that went to Anfield last season and was unlucky to lose 4-3, while their recent European resume includes wins over Napoli, RB Leipzig, Dortmund, Marseille, and Lazio. Armed with a plethora of bright attacking talent - headlined by Patson Daka and Dominik Szoboszlai - Jesse Marsch's side is capable of making some real noise in the competition.
Bayern Munich (+400)
Looking to defend their crown, Bayern have a Thiago-shaped hole in midfield. There's still plenty of evidence to suggest the Bavarians are the club to beat in this competition, and with Leroy Sane joining the attack, they can outscore just about anyone, but at such a short price I'd rather pass in a wide-open field.
Losing Virgil van Dijk for eight months is a crippling blow to Liverpool's hopes of winning the competition for a second time in three seasons. As dynamic as the Reds are on the front foot, a centre-back pairing of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip just isn't going to cut it at this level. There's little else behind the duo, either, as defensive depth could prove a real issue until Jurgen Klopp can address it in the January transfer window.
A club of Barcelona's stature is always going to garner attention in the futures market, but this is not the time to invest. The club is very much in transition following a tumultuous period, and while they're on the right track with Ronald Koeman in charge, it will take another couple of transfer windows before the Blaugrana are ready to compete again at the highest level.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.