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The odds for Bayern Munich vs Manchester United are from the FanDuel sportsbook. Bet $5, get $200 plus $100 off an NFL Sunday ticket.
First, this is a club with a rich heritage in this competition. On the face of it that may count for little, but it is a factor that at least in part explains Real Madrid's success in Europe in recent years and Paris Saint-Germain's consistent failure.
Thomas Tuchel, their manager, has won the tournament before. He led Chelsea to continental glory in 2021, just a year on from his PSG side's defeat by Bayern in the final (he is the only manager to take the French giants that far).
Bayern also have a formidable team. The addition of Harry Kane means they now have a top-class replacement for Robert Lewandowski up front, something they lacked last season. Additional attacking quality is provided by Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala, and Thomas Muller.
On the flip side, their failure to sign a holding midfielder could prove costly. Tuchel was desperate to add a player in that position, but Bayern's last-ditch attempt to prise Joao Palhinha away from Fulham failed. It is something they will be desperate to rectify in January.
Every team on the continent has at least one weakness, though. Even Manchester City, the reigning champions, do not have the deepest squad. Bayern deserve to be among the leading contenders to win the Champions League as they seek to become kings of the continent for a seventh time.
Manchester United have not enjoyed the start to the season that their fans were hoping for. A return of three defeats in their first five matches has left them in the bottom half of the Premier League table, below the likes of Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Fulham, and Crystal Palace.
It could have been even worse. United were extremely fortunate to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers by a goal to nil on the opening weekend. When Forest visited Old Trafford, they stormed into a 2-0 lead before United fought back to win 3-2. They could easily have lost both of those games too.
On the field, Erik ten Hag has yet to find the right formula. The midfield lacks balance. The attack is not firing. The defense has been exposed by every opponent United have faced so far. When you watch them play it can be hard to work out what United are actually trying to do.
Those issues are compounded by matters off the pitch. The takeover saga has dragged on for months. There is even talk that the Glazers may try to cling on to their ownership after all.
Mason Greenwood was reportedly set to be reintegrated into the squad amid domestic abuse allegations, only for a public backlash to prompt United to loan him to Getafe instead. Antony is now facing similar allegations back in Brazil. Jadon Sancho has been banished from the squad after a very public falling-out with Ten Hag.
United's failure to win the Premier League title since Alex Ferguson's retirement a decade ago. Less commented upon, but equally instructive about the club's decline, is that the Red Devils have not reached the last four of the Champions League since 2011, when they were runners-up to Barcelona.
Manchester United have kept one clean sheet so far this season, and that was in a match where they conceded numerous good chances to Wolves. In their four games since then their backline has been breached on 10 occasions.
That is not a recipe for success in any competition, never mind the Champions League. And Wednesday's encounter represents perhaps the toughest start possible to their European campaign. Things could get worse for Ten Hag's team before they get better.
That defensive record does not exactly inspire confidence ahead of a meeting with opponents that have scored an average of 2.75 goals per Bundesliga game in 2023/24. Bayern are particularly prolific at home and United will head to Munich with a defensive unit that is not their first choice unless Raphael Varane can recover from injury in time.
United will spend most of this match on the back foot and when you consider that Nottingham Forest, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Brighton & Hove Albion all scored more than one goal against them, it is hard to see Bayern failing to do so.
Our tip for this one is for the home team to score in both halves, as Bayern seek to make a statement of intent on matchday one of the Champions League.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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