Can Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid protect their crowns?
With a new season of European football set to kick off, some of Europe’s biggest clubs will be looking to retain their titles. Others, where nothing but silverware is good enough, will be looking to snatch them.
Manchester City enter the Premier League campaign as favourites after breezing to their third title in four years last season. They’ve added Jack Grealish to the striker-less system that swept everything before it aside in 2020/21; a 15-game winning run was the joint-longest in Premier League history and when it finally ended in March, left them 14 points clear with 11 games remaining. The title was all but sealed by then, but City will be looking over their sky blue shoulder for the chasing pack as things stand. Pep Guardiola doesn’t have the striker he wanted yet, and will have to rely on Gabriel Jesus or Raheem Sterling to lead the line at times after the exit of club record goalscorer Sergio Agüero. The possible arrival of Harry Kane could decide whether or not we have a title race.
Right now we have a Kane-less yet still formidable City, who will be well aware of the threats to their crown.
Last season’s runners-up, Manchester United, racked up 74 points, their second-best tally since last winning the title in 2013, dispelling some of the doubts surrounding manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And they’ve followed that up with a big transfer window. Make no mistake, the expectation will now be to compete. The indomitable Raphaël Varane, quick, calm, and experienced, is a huge upgrade in defence.
The thrilling Jadon Sancho will relieve Bruno Fernandes of some of his creative duties, but also offer a significant goal threat. The Englishman scored 37 goals and provided 42 assists over the past three Bundesliga seasons, directly contributing to a goal every 87.5 minutes. After a slow start and before a stuttering finish, United impressed last season, picking up 2.25 points per game from November 2 until mid-May. The same consistency (and more) is within reach given their new signings - and performing like that all season would have them on course for comfortably over 80 points. City won last season’s title with 86.
Speaking of points, Chelsea earned 38 from 19 games after Thomas Tuchel’s arrival last January. It wasn’t quite league-winning form, but the German had been thrown in the deep end and improved the team massively in the league, as well as leading them to an FA Cup final and the Champions League trophy, beating Guardiola’s City in the final. Those 19 league games under Tuchel saw Chelsea concede just 13 times, by far the best defensive record in the league, and the imminent arrival of Romelu Lukaku should go a long way to fixing what was a goal-shy frontline. Jorginho will not be their top scorer for a second season running. Lukaku is a good nod for the Golden Boot as well after scoring 64 times in 95 appearances during his two seasons in Italy.
Another contender is two-time winner Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian scored 22 in the league last season despite Liverpool’s struggles. He’ll have his eye on even more now that the team can worry a little bit less about holes at the back and focus a little more on taking the shackles back off. Liverpool lost Virgil van Dijk early in 2020/21 but he is fit again and joined by new signing and fellow man-mountain Ibrahima Konaté. With two superb defenders available, Klopp can allow his team to play further upfield again and stop having to focus on ways to protect two makeshift defenders. That, a first full season for Diogo Jota, and the blossoming midfield relationship between Fabinho and Thiago, makes Liverpool contenders, even if the mid-season interruption by the African Cup of Nations is set to hurt them more than any of their rivals.
Over to Germany, where retaining a title is much more straightforward. Bayern Munich are gunning for a tenth successive Bundesliga crown, now under new boss Julian Nagelsmann. Bayern had defensive issues in 2020/21 and have lost both David Alaba and Jérôme Boateng for nothing. However, they have added not just Nagelsmann, who coached RB Leipzig to the league’s best defensive record last season, but also Dayot Upamecano, who marshalled that very same Leipzig defence.
With Leipzig weakened on two counts (though strengthened by the arrival of highly rated defender Mohamed Simakan and Portuguese goalscorer André Silva), the onus will be on Dortmund to compete with Bayern. They are, once more, the most likely challengers to Bayern’s hegemony, but have not strengthened as much as they would have liked to this summer.
BVB reported losses of over €70m this week as a result of the pandemic and have only managed to bring in exciting forward Donyell Malen despite the big money that Sancho was sold for. Squad players have not been moved on despite the club’s best efforts, and that has restricted their ambition in the market. New head coach Marco Rose will have his work cut out, even if his brand of offensive, direct, aggressive football seems to suit the club and its players perfectly. Anything is possible with Erling Haaland, but usurping Bayern over 34 games may be too tall a task even for the Norwegian extraordinaire.
LaLiga also gets underway this weekend, the Spanish top flight’s first season without the involvement of Lionel Messi since 2003/04. As things stand, Barcelona have not brought in enough money or shaved enough off their wage bill to register any of their summer signings. Messi is gone and they can’t currently use Memphis Depay, Sergio Agüero (who is injured anyway), Emerson Royal or Eric Garcia. It’s hard to see any path to the title for them as long as that remains the case.
That leaves Real Madrid as the biggest challengers to Atlético Madrid’s crown, though they also haven’t really strengthened. Carlo Ancelotti arrives back at the Bernabéu with much of the squad that was there last season, with Alaba replacing Varane and Ramos. Another defender is likely to arrive, but the attacking responsibility will again fall on the shoulders of Karim Benzema. If his supporting cast steps up and begins to fulfil its potential (Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo), or simply stays fit (Eden Hazard, Marco Asensio) Madrid will rightly expect to win the title. Benzema will almost certainly lead the league for goals again, but Real’s success depends on how much others can chip in.
Atleti will have other ideas. It took Diego Simeone’s men seven years to reclaim the title, with two painful Champions League final defeats along the way — but a totally revamped team and a new approach with a back three and Luis Suárez leading the line saw them reign in Spain last season. Unlike their two main rivals, they haven’t lost any key names over the summer and have added the impressive creative midfielder Rodrigo De Paul. How he fits in, and how much record signing João Félix kicks on from a slow start to life at the Wanda Metropolitano, will decide how much of a say Atleti have in this season’s title race.
The door remains open for Sevilla to cause a big shock, especially with Atlético showing volatile form in last season’s run-in and the two Clásico rivals clouded by more doubt than ever - but they will have to hold on to key players such as Jules Koundé as the final weeks of the transfer window roll on.
By Cloudbet staff
Be sure to check Cloudbet's Outrights markets, where we are sure there's something for everyone looking to back their team or take pre-season positions to add just that little extra bit of spice to the season ahead. We offer bitcoin betting on soccer markets across 32 different nations and competitions.
Bitcoin betting on the EPL
If you want to bet with bitcoin on the EPL, the Premier League outright winner market does indeed place Man City as favourites to retain their title, with current odds of 1.69, followed by Chelsea at 5.07 and Liverpool at 5.65. Cross-town rivals United are fourth-favourite at 8.14, after which there is a massive gap in the odds to Leicester at 41.6, Tottenham at 43.2 and Arsenal at 45.8. From there, another chasm to Everton at 102.
At the other end of the pre-season predictions, you can get 4.60 on both Norwich and Watford finishing bottom, followed by Brentford (5.74), Crystal Palace (7.85), Burnley (8.91) and Newcastle (9.44).
Kane and Salah head the top goalscorer market at 4.05 and 4.72, respectively, the odds at this point suggesting a two-horse race, with Timo Werner and Raheem Sterling next, both at 17.2.
Bundesliga bitcoin betting
The Bundesliga winner market unsurprisingly places Bayern as hot favourites at just 1.16, with eternal pretenders to the throne, Dortmund, starting way back at 7.81. RB Leipzig, who finished second ahead of Dortmund last year are third-favourite at 16.5, before a significant gap to Bayer Leverkusen on 49.9. Some bettors might prefer the slightly more creative Winner without Bayern Munich market, in which the odds are adjusted accordingly. If you have aspirations to back your team for a spot in Europe, you can also get odds on fishing in the Top 4.
Robert Lewandowski (1.55), Erling Haaland (5.00) and Andre Silva (7.50) head the Bundesliga top goalscorer market.
Bet with Crypto on LaLiga
In Spain, the LaLiga winners market suggests Atletico Madrid will not be successful in their defence of the title, being placed only third-favourite at odds of 3.53. Real Madrid are installed as pre-season favourites at 2.06, with Barcelona next in line at 2.89. Sevilla round out the top-four favourites, albeit some way back at 13.1.
However, Atletico Madrid are favourites to win in the market that, er... excludes Real and Barcelona.
In the Primera Division top goalscorer market, Karim Benzema is favoured at 5.00, though these odds aren't as clear cut as in the other leagues, with Luis Suarez joint second-favourite with Memphis Depay at 6.00.
All odds are correct at the time of writing but may of course change. Please be sure to check the live site for the latest odds.