‘Good sign’ Real Madrid aren’t Champions League favourites

Carlo Ancelotti said it’s a “good sign” that last year’s winners Real Madrid aren’t among the favourites to retain the Champions League this season.

Madrid beat Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and then Liverpool in the final in May on their way to winning their 14th European Cup.

Despite that success, they find themselves behind City, PSG, Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the odds offered by many bookmakers to win the Champions League this year.

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“It doesn’t surprise me,” Ancelotti said in a news conference on Monday ahead of Madrid’s opening Group F game away at Celtic. “I see it as a good sign. Last year, we had even fewer possibilities in the statistics.

“This year we’ve improved a bit! What happened last year will happen [this year]. We’ll compete until the end, and let’s hope we can compete in the final.”

Madrid’s start to the season has seen them continue the form that claimed a LaLiga and Champions League double last year, with four wins out of four in the league.

The Spanish giants have dominated Europe’s premier club competition in the last decade, winning the tournament five times in the last nine years.

“Real Madrid have always been respected in this competition,” Ancelotti said. “It’s not just about last year, it’s about our history. You never know what will happen. We have to think about the group, going through, and then we’ll see what happens after the World Cup.”

Vinicius Junior scored the only goal in Madrid’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in the final in Paris on May 28, and the club confirmed on Monday that the Brazil winger’s application for a Spanish passport had been completed last week, freeing up one of the three non-European player spots in the squad.

“The club, the fans and the people of Madrid have given me a lot,” Vinicius said. “I arrived here at 18 when I had just started my career in football, now I’m 22. I love being at Madrid, and my family to. I want to be here for a long time.”