Champions League 2020-21: Who will be kings of Europe? Our experts' predictions

Robert Lewandowski, Neymar, Zinedine Zidane and Mohamed Salah
Bayern Munich are looking to retain the trophy for the first time since they won three consecutive European Cups between 1973-74 and 1975-76

Fifty eight days after Bayern Munich lifted the trophy in Lisbon, the Champions League is back.

Last season's disrupted competition ended with an unlikely final four of Bayern, Paris St-Germain, Lyon and RB Leipzig.

So who will triumph this time? And who will be the surprise packages? We asked our European football writers to make their predictions.

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Andy West, Spanish football writer

What are the prospects for the Spanish sides?

Sergio Ramos in action for Real Madrid
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has won the Champions League four times

Real Madrid are, of course, always dangerous in this competition and will have added motivation after failing badly in the past couple of years with consecutive last-16 exits.

Barcelona have started the season brightly but realistically the squad is too shallow and blighted by too many flaws for them to be considered among the favourites.

Atletico Madrid, though, could go a long way: they will be strong at the back as always, and if the new strike pairing of Luis Suarez and Joao Felix fulfils its potential they'll be hard to stop.

And Sevilla? Underestimate them at your peril.

Who is your tip to win the Champions League and why?

Right now it's hard to look past Bayern Munich, considering how superior they were to every other team at the end of last season.

But winning the competition two years in a row is notoriously difficult, and I have a feeling we'll see a very strong challenge from the team who historically like to believe they own this competition: Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane can call upon genuine world-class quality throughout the squad and has plenty of match-winning options in attack, especially if Eden Hazard can get fit, stay fit and start to show his true ability. So I'll take Real Madrid.

Which team could be the surprise package?

Sevilla have made the Europa League their own, winning it four times since 2014. And under the leadership of canny coach Julen Lopetegui, they look ready to step up to the Champions League. The Andalusians don't have the quality in attack to be potential winners, but they could go deep into the knockout stages.

Constantin Eckner, German football writer

What are the prospects for the German sides?

Bayern celebrate winning the Champions League
Bayern Munich won a sixth Champions League/European Cup title last season, their first in seven years

Bayern Munich addressed the issues regarding their squad late in the transfer window and remain among the strongest teams in Europe. They are capable of defending the title, but it is more likely we will see a slight drop in performance this season.

Borussia Dortmund should win their group and reach at least the quarter-finals if they manage to keep the defence healthy.

RB Leipzig could battle Manchester United for second spot in Group H. Even without Timo Werner, last season's semi-finalists are tough to beat thanks to Julian Nagelsmann's analytical mind and a squad full of highly athletic players.

Borussia Monchengladbach should see their participation in this year's competition as a chance to learn and grow.

Who is your tip to win the Champions League and why?

I don't see a clear-cut favourite this year, as the two previous winners have to deal with some issues that might hinder them from winning it again.

So my money is on Real Madrid. They are the total package with a mix of veteran players and rising stars, and an experienced coach on the sidelines.

Federico Valverde, Martin Odegaard and Vinícius Júnior represent the new generation, while Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos have enough left in the tank to get one more Champions League trophy.

Zidane might not be the tactical genius that some of his peers are, but he knows how to manage a tight schedule and guide a team through the obstacles of a knockout stage.

Which team could be the surprise package?

Borussia Dortmund have the raw talent to be the dark horse in this year's Champions League. They are able to beat any team in the world on a good day and will only get better, as most of their key players are fairly young.

Phil McNulty, BBC Sport's chief football writer

What are the prospects for the English sides?

Pep Guardiola reacts on the touchline
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City were knocked out of last season's Champions League in the quarter-finals by Lyon

Liverpool, with their past record of success, are England's best prospect to win the Champions League. Manchester City have the talent but there is something about this competition that always seems to trip them up. Is it lack of belief? Is it Pep Guardiola's tactical mistakes?

I can see Chelsea making it out of a group that is relatively kind but in their current form and condition I do not see Manchester United getting anywhere near the knockout stage when faced with the likes of PSG and RB Leipzig. Things can change in that time for United, but they would have to change a lot.

Who is your tip to win the Champions League and why?

At this stage I would say my two favourites would be Liverpool and the holders Bayern Munich.

Liverpool still look so strong, although they did not get past the last 16 last season when they went out to Atletico Madrid, but now of course they have Thiago Alcantara, such a key figure in Bayern's triumphs.

The usual suspects such as PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid will be involved but I will go for a straight fight between Liverpool and Bayern - with Liverpool my tip.

Which team could be the surprise package?

Hard to see anyone coming out of the traditional pack but Atletico Madrid, under the inspirational leadership of Diego Simeone, are always a threat, as Liverpool found to their cost last season.

Atletico have had so many near misses with the Champions League but they have added to their squad with Luis Suarez and no-one will want to draw them.

The other possibility? Sevilla - they showed once again what European specialists they are by winning the Europa League.

Ian Holyman, Ligue 1 podcast producer

What are the prospects for the French sides?

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe watch on during a Ligue 1 game
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe went close to winning the Champions League for Paris St-Germain but they were beaten in last season's final by Bayern Munich

It's hardly sticking my neck out to suggest PSG will challenge strongly again.

Yes, they've lost Thiago Silva, but with Marquinhos replacing him in central defence and as captain, and Danilo Pereira's arrival in midfield, Thomas Tuchel's men are stronger and better balanced.

Andre Villas-Boas worked a miracle to get Marseille back into the competition for the first time since 2013-14, but even with Florian Thauvin fit again, the squad looks thin - a helpful draw might see them sneak into the knockout stages though.

Group-stage debutants Rennes will surely struggle with the step up in class, and grabbing third place would be a success.

Who is your tip to win the Champions League and why?

Can you look beyond Bayern Munich? The Champions League is a notoriously fiendish title to defend, but the 2019-20 winners' success in Lisbon in the summer will motivate, not sate, them. They have not stood still since either: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (don't laugh!) is great back-up to Robert Lewandowski, and though Thiago has left, Bayern already had an upgrade in Joshua Kimmich.

Their veterans, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, enjoyed one of their best seasons last term, and young talents such as Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane will only keep improving.

Hansi Flick's men will again be the team to beat.

Which team could be the surprise package?

They've been drawn in the toughest section of all, but Istanbul Basaksehir will be no meek victims of Group H. The Turkish champions - that already says something about their quality - have former Manchester United defender Rafael and ex-Liverpool man Martin Skrtel at the back, while ex-West Ham United, Newcastle United and Chelsea forward Demba Ba is up front.

Daniele Verri, Italian football journalist

What are the prospects for the Italian sides?

Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo at a training session
Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo won the Champions League twice as a player with AC Milan but has yet to lift the trophy with the Turin club

It is difficult to imagine an Italian club winning the Champions League.

You can't rule out a team fielding Cristiano Ronaldo but Juventus have a young manager in Andrea Pirlo, are in the process of rejuvenating their squad and lack quality in midfield. Their quest to end a 24-year wait will continue.

Inter proved their worth as they reached the final of last season's Europa League and have since signed Achraf Hakimi and Arturo Vidal. Their focus will be on the league title though, something Antonio Conte sees as a necessary step to form a winning mentality.

Lazio do not have the depth to fight on the domestic and European stage and will struggle to keep up on both.

Who is your tip to win the Champions League and why?

Not even the Oracle of Delphi can predict in October who is to win the Champions League in May! Form, injuries and Covid-19 will all play a role. Will there be another lockdown? Who is going to be the fittest when it really comes to it?

In my opinion, the eventual winner will come from England. Spanish clubs haven't invested enough, a second win for Bayern seems unrealistic and Italian clubs lack that extra bit of quality.

Liverpool and Manchester City, as long as Sergio Aguero recovers and Ruben Dias proves capable of filling Vincent Kompany's boots, are my favourites, with PSG their main danger.

Which team could be the surprise package?

Atalanta already reached the quarter-finals in their maiden Champions League campaign and could do even better.

The Nerazzurri have gathered European experience in the past few years and this will be Gian Piero Gasperini's fifth season in Bergamo. His team play with heart and are a joy to watch. If Josip Ilicic reaches top form they will be a threat to anyone.

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