With the first match week of Champions League football complete, there were plenty of upsets and talking points in Europe’s elite club competition. The World Cup has meant games will be coming thick and fast, and sides will have to try and build on any momentum they might have picked up after a bright start. From Liverpool’s struggles to Haaland’s goals, Real Madrid up and running to Chelsea stalling at the first hurdle. There’s a reason the football betting odds struggle so much with the Champions League — because it is so unpredictable.
There’s still plenty of time between now and the final in Istanbul, but there’s always the possibility of an upset along the way. With that in mind, read on as we take a look at some of the sides we think are capable of an outside shot at the Champions League this season.
Considering how well Liverpool played against Real Madrid in Paris despite losing last year’s final to Real Madrid, they were a pale imitation of that side against Napoli, who dispatched them 4-1 in the opening group game with a fiery performance. Luciano Spalletti, who saw the core of his side leave over the summer, did a fine job with recruitment and has seen his team make a bright start to Serie A, which was reflected by thrashing Jürgen Klopp’s side in Naples.
It’s still early doors and you wonder if this current crop at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium will have the consistency to become the first Italian side to win the Champions League for 13 years, but after Juventus’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain, and AC Milan’s stuttering draw, Napoli look to be flying the flag for the Serie A in Europe. If they can beat the big teams again, they could make it to the Atatürk.
Champions of Spain just a couple of years ago, Atlético Madrid have built a reputation of being especially hard to beat in European ties. They have an exceptional record defensively under the disciplined system of Diego Simeone, and despite sometimes struggling in front of goal, you really have to earn the right to progress if you come up against the side from the Wanda Metropolitano. It took Manchester City a torrid two legs to beat them last season, narrowly making it to the semi-finals after a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Twice finalists, Atléti were unlucky not to have picked up that maiden Champions League final already, losing twice to Real Madrid in 2014 and again in 2016 via penalties. But after beating Portuguese champions Porto in their opening group game, they’re off to a flying start and could easily go all the way this time around.
Despite losing Erling Haaland last season to Manchester City, Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund are hardly struggling for goals in his absence, and started their Group G campaign in fine fettle with a resounding 3-0 win over Copenhagen. Their next task is to gain a measure of revenge over Pep Guardiola’s side by topping the group. It will feel all the sweeter if Jude Bellingham finds the net, especially considering his goal against the Premier League champions was ruled out rather softly the last time the two sides met.
Dortmund look to be building a great side again in Edin Terzić’s second stint at the club, and while they might not have the squad depth to challenge Bayern Munich domestically, the experience they have in their squad is designed for tournament football, and a nice draw in the knockout stage could lead to an underdog story redolent of their 1997 Champions League win at the Olympiastadion all those years ago.
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