Who will win this year’s Champions League?

The round of 16 of the 22/23 UEFA Champions League officially ended this week. The greatest club prize in soccer returned to bring glory, suspense, and surprise since the World Cup in November.

A total of eight teams were knocked over the course of both legs in the first knockout stage. While some defeats were expected (such as Benfica’s thrashing 5-1 thrashing of Club Brugge), others came as a surprise. The most shocking of all was the Bayern vs. PSG game, with Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe being eliminated so early for a second year.

Manchester City and Chelsea are the English sides through to the quarter-finals after overcoming Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on aggregate and RB Leipzig 8-1 on aggregate respectively in the last-16.

The two other English sides, Liverpool and Tottenham, will not be competing after losses to Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Bayern Munich and Inter Milan are also through, along with the likes of Benfica and Napoli.

A student watching a Champions League group stage match between PSG and Real Madrid in class
A student watching a Champions League group stage match between PSG and Real Madrid in class (@moneysignmice)

Only eight teams remain and have dreams of being crowned the best in Europe, but there can only be one winner. The question is: Who will it be?

2020 winners Bayern Munich will look to avenge their defeats to PSG and Villareal. Having already knocked out the strongest side of the tournament, the German giants look like the favorites to win. 

“If I had to bet, then there is one clear winner: Bayern. In the past three years, they have put together an incredible team,” stated soccer fan Quentin Halferty.

 “Despite losing Lewandowski to Barca, they still have Kingsley Coman, Eric Choupa Moting, Sadio Mane, and the veteran Thomas Muller. Not to mention, their dominance in midfield and defense, with Musiala, Kimmich, Goretzka, Cancelo, and De Ligt.”

Manchester City is another trophy contender. The recent signing of Erling Haaland has transformed the club and increased its winning percentage. The Norwegian striker is in the form of his life, scoring 39 goals in 35 games across all competitions. His best performance came in the second leg, netting five to let the Cityzens overcome RB Leipzig. 

The defending champions, Real Madrid, are also likely to win. In the group stages, Los Blancos overcame the likes of Celtic, Leipzig, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Their recent win against Liverpool (6-2 on aggregate) only showed their strength against top European clubs. 

Jose Mendoza and his family have supported Real Madrid for several years. The hispanic soccer player predicts that the Spanish giants have a good chance of winning the championship again.

“I’m a huge Galactico so I have to say Real Madrid. They won it last year, and I would count on them doing the same. If Vinicius keeps making those runs and Benzema keeps finishing, we can beat any team; even Bayern.”

“A big part of our team is the midfield. For us to win, it’s imperative that Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Tchouameni, and Camavinga be on their best game,” he added.

Italian fan Mario Pascucci supports his local side, Napoli. The Gli Azzuri possesses tons of young talent. They are currently top of Serie A, beating second-place Internazionale by 15 points.

“I think Napoli are this season’s dark horses. They are a small team filled with talent. The likes of Osimhen and Kvartashkelia will surely bring them far. My guess would be semi-finals at best.”

Throughout Champions League history, there have been several instances of small clubs eliminating giants; sometimes even being crowned champions (e.g. Porto in 2004). Could Felipo Inzaghi’s men make it to the semi-finals and possibly further? Time will tell.