Can Real Madrid become the first team to retain the Champions League?
The UEFA Champions League has been running in its current guise for 25 years now, and yet no team has ever managed to defend their title. Real Madrid will be looking to change that this season, but can they do it?
Victory on penalties over rivals Atletico made it two titles in three seasons, and five in total since 1997, but Real have never won two on the spin, or even reached two straight finals.
The last side to do it in the old European Cup format was AC Milan in 1990, some 26 years ago.
But if Real are to make history, they’ve got plenty to do.
We make them 5/1 shots to retain their crown, third-favourites behind Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
It’s highly likely Real will need to face one or both of those sides at some point.
Challengers to Madrid’s title aren’t solely confined to the usual suspects however.
Monaco are the continent’s top-scorers this season, and boast a devastatingly quick attack, while many are tipping up Sevilla as dark-horses for the tournament.
And Madrid’s last-16 opponents Napoli must be considered a threat too, with the Serie A side arguably the most potent side in Europe over the past two months.
And as the Champions League returns, it’s a bad time for Real to lose their form.
The La Liga giants have failed to win four of their last seven fixtures – a run which began with Sevilla ending their 40-game unbeaten run last month.
And that’s not all. Zinedine Zidane has seen injuries blight Gareth Bale’s campaign, while Karim Benzema has lost his way, netting just one goal in his last nine league games.
Plus, a series of fixture dilemmas in La Liga has left Real sweating on the need win two games in hand, adding to the pressure over the next few months.
Had we written this feature a month ago, perhaps we would have had more confidence in Real pulling this off.
But they’ve been proven mortal in recent weeks, and we now say the Champions League curse of champions will go on for another year.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing