Champions League 2020/21: With Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Man Utd hunting glory, who will conquer Europe?

With the Champions League’s return on the horizon, we profile the big names looking to lift the trophy this season.

By Tim Williams Published: 20 October 2020 - 3.32pm

Less than two months after the conclusion of the most remarkable European season we’ve ever seen, the Champions League returns.

With four English representatives in the group stage, alongside the foremost contenders from across the continent, the forthcoming season promises to provide yet more unbelievable drama across the next seven months.

Ready for matchday 1?

Your essential group stage guide

Ahead of the big kick off, we break down all eight groups and provide broadcast details for each team's first match.

Here, we rank the top 10 contenders - according to the odds - and analyses their chances of going all the way in their pursuit of the ultimate prize.

Don’t forget, BT Sport – your undisputed home of European football – will once again be with you every step of the way, with exclusive live coverage of every single game from both the Champions League and Europa League on TV and on btsport.com and the award-winning BT Sport app.

Bayern Munich

Manager: Hansi Flick

Captain: Manuel Neuer

Odds to win the Champions League: 4/1

Group: A alongside Atletico Madrid, Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow

Last year: Winners

Best previous performance: Winners (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013, 2020)

Transfers in: Leroy Sane, Bouna Sarr, Marc Roca, Alexander Nubel, Tanguy Nianziou, Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, Douglas Costa, Joshua Zirkzee, Adrian Fein

Transfers out: Thiago, Sven Ulreich, Lars Lukas Mai, Christian Fruchtl, Michael Cuisance, Fiete Arp, Ivan Perisic, Philippe Coutinho, Alvaro Odriozola

Bayern became the first team to win every game en route to Champions League glory last season and the Bavarians are justifiably favourites to retain their crown this time around.

The competition were helpless in the face of the German’s inexorable march to a sixth European crown, as Hansi Flick’s side displayed an astonishing show of ruthlessness.

They demolished Barcelona in a gloriously chaotic quarter-final tie in Lisbon and also beat Chelsea, Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain in the final with relative ease.

Bayern have already added two trophies to their collection since the Champions League triumph, winning the UEFA Super Cup and German Super Cup – and the arrivals of Leroy Sane, Douglas Costa and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting will bolster their considerable attacking options ahead of a manageable-looking group against Atletico Madrid, RB Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Time & date

8pm, Wednesday 21 October

Channel information

BT Sport ESPN HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

8pm, Wednesday 21 October

BT Sport ESPN HD

Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Captain: Fernandinho

Odds to win the Champions League: 4/1

Group: C alongside Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille

Last year: Quarter-final

Best previous performance: Semi-final (2016)

Transfers in: Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Ferran Torres, Pablo Moreno, Yan Couto, Issa Kabore

Transfers out: Leroy Sane, Nicolas Otamendi, Tosin Adarabioyo, Aleix Garcia, Claudio Bravo, David Silva

Manchester City’s European dream was left in ruins at the quarter-final stage once again last season, but Pep Guardiola’s side are joint favourites to finally deliver the Champions League Holy Grail 13 years after they were taken over by Sheikh Mansour.

They have endured criticism for the repeated failure to get over the line in Europe, but still boast one of the most talented and lavishly-assembled squads in the competition.

The additions of Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake will reinforce a leaky defence and the 2019 Premier League champions should emerge from Group C containing Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille relatively unscathed.

Whether they’ll be able to compete at home and in Europe, as well as overcoming the mental baggage that accompanies years of underperformance in the Champions League, remains to be seen.

Time & date

7pm, Wednesday 21 October

Channel information

BT Sport 3 HD & Ultimate

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

7pm, Wednesday 21 October

BT Sport 3 HD & Ultimate

Liverpool

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Captain: Jordan Henderson

Odds to win the Champions League: 11/2

Group: D alongside Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland

Last year: Round of 16

Best previous performance: Winners (1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019)

Transfers in: Diogo Jota, Thiago, Konstantinos Tsimikas

Transfers out: Rhian Brewster, Dejan Lovren, Ovie Ejaria, Adam Lallana

After lifting the Champions League in 2019, Liverpool’s attention turned to winning a first Premier League trophy in 30 years last season.

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Two years on from their remarkable semi-final run, the Dutch outfit have assembled a new cast aiming to make waves in Europe.

They finally ended the long wait for a league title but they failed to defend their European crown – losing 4-2 on aggregate to Atletico Madrid after a night of high drama at Anfield in March.

Focus might shift once again for the champions of England, who beat Tottenham in the 2019 final to win their sixth European trophy in Atletico's Wanda Metropolitano.

The metronomic Thiago will add some much-needed guile to Liverpool’s workmanlike midfield, while the exciting prospect Diogo Jota will provide competition to the revered front three.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were handed a relatively tame group with Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland and shouldn't have any problems reaching the knockout stage once again.

Time & date

7pm, Wednesday 21 October

Channel information

BT Sport 2 HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

7pm, Wednesday 21 October

BT Sport 2 HD

Paris Saint-Germain

Manager: Thomas Tuchel

Captain: Marquinhos

Odds to win the Champions League: 11/1

Group: H alongside Manchester United, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir

Last year: Runners-up

Best previous performance: Runners-up (2020)

Transfers in: Mauro Icardi, Sergio Rico, Danilo Pereira, Alessandro Florenzi, Alexandre Letellier, Rafinha, Moise Kean

Transfers out: Loïc Mbe Soh, Thomas Meunier, Tanguy Nianzou, Adil Aouchiche, Thiago Silva, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Edinson Cavani

After coming agonisingly close to winning the Champions League last season, Paris Saint-Germain return to European action intent on going one better this time around.

The Parisians had become synonymous with high-profile failures in the latter stages of the competition until they reached last season’s showpiece (which they lost 1-0 to Bayern).

Thomas Tuchel has an embarrassment of riches to select from including Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria and the German will be confident of guiding his star-studded outfit to the latter stages.

But first they’ll have to negotiate a tough group including Manchester United, last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig and newcomers Istanbul Basaksehir.

Firm favourites to win yet another Ligue 1 title, PSG will surely have the luxury of focusing fully on breaking their Champions League duck in the New Year.

Time & date

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

Channel information

BT Sport 2 HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

BT Sport 2 HD

Real Madrid

Manager: Zinedine Zidane

Captain: Sergio Ramos

Odds to win the Champions League: 12/1

Group: B alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach

Last year: Round of 16

Best previous performance: Winners (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Transfers in: None

Transfers out: Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Oscar Rodriguez, Javi Sanchez, Takefusa Kubo, Dani Gomez, Alberto Soro, Jorge de Frutos, Borja Mayoral, Luca Zidane, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale

The most decorated club in Champions League history haven’t been at their scintillating best recently, but their European pedigree means Real Madrid are never far away from the list of favourites.

Zidane’s side were comfortably dispatched by Manchester City in the last 16 last season and ominously for Los Blancos, the summer transfer window closed without them signing a single player for the first time in 40 years.

However, they still possess seasoned veterans and Champions League legends in Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. The likes of Vinicius Junior, Eden Hazard and the returning Martin Odegaard will freshen up a squad whose stars are ageing together.

Real saw off Barcelona to win La Liga last season, but they’re not being widely tipped to win a record 14th European crown, especially after they were drawn with Inter Milan, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group B.

No one would bet against Madrid going deep this year but winning the competition may be a step too far.

Time & date

5.30pm, Wednesday 21 October

Channel information

BT Sport 1 HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

5.30pm, Wednesday 21 October

BT Sport 1 HD

Barcelona

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Captain: Lionel Messi

Odds to win the Champions League: 12/1

Group: G alongside Juventus, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros

Last year: Quarter-final

Best previous performance: Winners (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)

Transfers in: Miralem Pjanic, Trincao, Sergino Dest, Matheus Fernandes, Pedri

Transfers out: Arthur, Nelson Semedo, Carles Pérez, Marc Cucurella, Jean-Clair Todibo, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suárez, Arturo Vidal, Arda Turan, Rafinha

A summer of turmoil followed a humiliating Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich and new manager Ronald Koeman has an almighty task turning this Barcelona side into European champions.

The 8-2 thrashing prompted a huge overhaul which included manager Quique Setién and Luis Suarez heading for the exit but not Lionel Messi - despite the Argentine’s best efforts.

Messi announced he would stay at the Nou Camp and see out his contract after a furious saga between player and hierarchy.

Miralem Pjanic’s arrival from Juventus will add some nuance to Barcelona’s midfield after Ivan Rakitic’s departure – although there have been few other notable incomings.

Pjanic will meet his old club in the group stage when the Catalans face Juventus, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros. They should qualify from Group G but they’re probably too early in their development to seriously challenge this season.

Time & date

8pm, Tuesday 20 October

Channel information

BT Sport ESPN HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

8pm, Tuesday 20 October

BT Sport ESPN HD

Juventus

Manager: Andrea Pirlo

Captain: Giorgio Chiellini

Odds to win the Champions League: 14/1

Group: G alongside Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros

Last year: Round of 16

Best previous performance: Winners (1985, 1996)

Transfers in: Arthur, Rolando Mandragora, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie, Stefano Gori

Transfers out: Miralem Pjanic, Emre Can, Simone Muratore, Cristian Romero, Daniele Rugani, Matteo Stoppa, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain

Italian champions Juventus are something of an unknown quantity this season under new boss Andrea Pirlo.

The legendary player is untested at managerial level and anything less than an improvement on last season’s last 16 exit will be deemed a failure for the venerated Italian.

They have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, but with the competition's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, The Old Lady have a genuine chance of winning a first European title since 1996 – although the loss of Miralem Pjanic will be a blow.

Previous manager Maurizio Sarri failed to give Juventus the Midas touch in Europe and Pirlo will have to guide his side through a group containing Barcelona, Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros.

Notwithstanding his exceptional physical attributes, time is of the essence for Ronaldo on the biggest stage. Can the 35-year-old inspire Juventus to an unlikely European victory?

Time & date

5.30pm, Tuesday 20 October

Channel information

BT Sport 1 HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

5.30pm, Tuesday 20 October

BT Sport 1 HD

Chelsea

Manager: Frank Lampard

Captain: Cesar Azpilicueta

Odds to win the Champions League: 20/1

Group: E alongside Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes

Last year: Round of 16

Best previous performance: Winners (2012)

Transfers in: Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy, Malang Sarr, Thiago Silva

Transfers out: Álvaro Morata, Mario Pasalic, Nathan, Tiemoué Bakayoko, Danilo Pantic, Willian, Pedro

Frank Lampard has presided over a huge overhaul at Chelsea, spending over £220m on new recruits as he looks to kick-start a revolution at Stamford Bridge.

Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech all have considerable European experience despite their age and the Chelsea legend has arguably strengthened all over the pitch ahead of a seminal season for the Blues.

Last season’s campaign ended with a heavy defeat to eventual winners Bayern at the round of 16 stage and they didn’t ever look like genuine contenders to lift the trophy.

Chelsea will be hoping a summer of lavish spending amid a period which has generally seen clubs reign in their transfer outlay will propel them to the upper echelons of European football once again.

Fortunately for them, they were drawn in a relatively tame group alongside Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes.

Time & date

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

Channel information

BT Sport 3 HD & Ultimate

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

BT Sport 3 HD & Ultimate

Atletico Madrid

Manager: Diego Simeone

Captain: Koke

Odds to win the Champions League: 20/1

Group: A alongside Bayern Munich, Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow

Last year: Quarter-final

Best previous performance: Runners-up (1974, 2014, 2016)

Transfers in: Yannick Carrasco, Ivo Grbic, Luis Suárez, Lucas Torreira

Transfers out: Thomas Partey, Alvaro Morata, Caio Henrique, Santiago Arias, Nikola Kalinic

Atletico Madrid have become a mainstay in the Champions League latter stages under the unmistakable Diego Simeone.

They claimed another huge scalp in the shape of reigning champions Liverpool in last season’s last 16 tie with a remarkable win at Anfield, before succumbing to surprise packages RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals.

The arrivals of Luis Suarez from Barcelona and Lucas Torreira from Arsenal will add even more steel to an already hardened squad, although the deadline day departure of Thomas Partey is a disappointment for Simeone.

Atletico are less effective than when they were at their brilliant best and reached the final in 2014 and 2016. Despite this, they’re still near the top of the list of the clubs everyone will want to avoid, especially in the knockout stages.

They have been handed a tough group stage draw including competition favourites Bayern Munich, Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moscow. Qualify and they will be confident of upsetting the apple cart again.

Time & date

8pm, Wednesday 21 October

Channel information

BT Sport ESPN HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

8pm, Wednesday 21 October

BT Sport ESPN HD

Manchester United

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Captain: Harry Maguire

Odds to win the Champions League: 25/1

Group: H alongside Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir

Last year: Europa League semi-final

Best previous performance: Winners (1968, 1999, 2008)

Transfers in: Donny van de Beek, Amad Diallo, Alex Telles, Facundo Pellistri, Edinson Cavani

Transfers out: Chris Smalling, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Alexis Sánchez

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Manchester United have been handed a tough draw on their return to the Champions League, facing two of last season’s final four - in Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, as well as Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer endured a frustrating transfer window, with his long pursuit of Jadon Sancho ending with nothing to show for it. Deadline day captures of Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani were the major signings, along with former Ajax man Donny van de Beek.

They also suffered a horror start to the Premier League season, a 1-6 home defeat to Tottenham – their joint worst in league history – being the lowest point.

Defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Matchday 1 and Man Utd will face an uphill task to qualify from what is arguably the toughest group in this year’s competition.

Early season troubles aside, the Red Devils have a number of superstars in their squad including Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford and will provide a stern test for any side if they can rediscover the form they showed at the end of last season.

Time & date

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

Channel information

BT Sport 2 HD

Matchday 1 fixture

Time & date

Channel information

7pm, Tuesday 20 October

BT Sport 2 HD