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

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.

If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.

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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UK plan to be first to run human challenge Covid trials

Direct researcher for the task Dr Chris Chiu, from Imperial School London, claimed: “My workforce has been securely managing human problem scientific tests with other respiratory viruses for around 10 many years. No analyze is wholly possibility no cost, but the Human Problem Programme associates will be doing the job tough to guarantee we make the threats as low as we potentially can.”

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US election 2020: Trump and Biden feud over debate topics

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  • US election 2020

media captionWho really decides the US election?

US President Donald Trump and his White House challenger Joe Biden are feuding over plans for their final TV debate.

The Republican president’s campaign accused organisers of Thursday’s showdown of helping the Democrat by leaving out foreign policy as a topic.

The Biden camp shot back that Mr Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With two weeks to go until the election, Mr Biden has a commanding lead nationally in opinion polls.

However, he has a smaller lead in the handful of key US states that will ultimately decide the outcome.

  • US election: Live coverage

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  • Where Trump and Biden stand on guns, race and climate

What did the Trump campaign say?

On Monday, the president’s camp sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates calling for topics to be adjusted for the final primetime duel this Thursday.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in the letter that the campaigns had already agreed foreign policy would be the focus of the third debate.

The topics were announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week: American families, race in America, climate change, national security, and leadership.

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image captionMr Trump has been holding large campaign rallies

During a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Prescott, Arizona, Mr Trump described Ms Welker as a “radical Democrat” and said she would be “no good”.

Mr Stepien accused Mr Biden of being “desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record” and the commission of trying to “insulate Biden from his own history”.

“The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity,” he wrote.

He also accused Mr Biden of trying to avoid questions over reports about purported emails from his son, Hunter, and alleged conflicts of interest.

How did the Biden campaign respond?

The Democrat’s camp hit back that it was actually Mr Trump who was trying to duck questions.

“The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” said national press secretary TJ Ducklo.

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“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.

“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”

What are the debate rules?

Following public criticism over the handling of the first debate, the commission has adopted a new rule to mute microphones in the final event.

The 90-minute debate structure will be divided into 15-minute segments. At the start of each new topic, each candidate will have two minutes of uninterrupted time – during which his opponent’s microphone will be off.

The rest of the time will be open discussion – and the microphones will not be muted.

In a statement announcing the decision, the Commission on Presidential Debates said it determined it was “appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed-upon rules”.

The commission noted that “one [campaign] may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough”, but that these actions provided the right balance in the interests of the public.

What happened with the last two debates?

The Trump campaign chief noted on Monday that the moderator of the cancelled second debate on 15 October, Steve Scully, had been suspended after tweeting to a prominent Trump critic, then lying that his account had been hacked.

Mr Stepien also accused the moderator of the first debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, of having acted as “a third combatant” against Mr Trump.

The first Trump-Biden duel on 29 September descended into an exchange of insults, with the president interrupting many more times than his challenger, according to post-debate statistics from US media outlets.

The second debate was called off after Mr Trump refused to take part. The commission had ruled it would have to take place with the candidates in different locations because the president had tested positive for coronavirus.

Mr Trump dismissed the idea as a waste of time. He contracted coronavirus at the beginning of October but says he has since fully recovered.

How is early voting going?

Nearly 30 million early voters have already cast their ballots, compared with just six million at this point before the last presidential election in 2016.

Experts say the pandemic has spurred many to cast their ballot ahead of time to avoid crowding at polling stations on 3 November, though some early voters have faced long queues.

On Monday, Republicans were dealt a defeat by the US Supreme Court as it declined to take up a case on postal ballots in the critical swing-voting state of Pennsylvania.

Republicans had argued only ballots received by election day should be counted, and were contesting a state Supreme Court decision to allow late ballots to count.

Now that America’s highest court has refused to hear the case, any ballots received within three days of 3 November will be counted, even if they do not have a clear postmark.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberal justices in the case.

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Covid: Noon deadline approaches for Manchester coronavirus deal

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

image copyrightReuters

image captionGreater Manchester is currently in tier two, or “high alert” level

Greater Manchester leaders have been given a deadline of midday to reach a deal with the government over moving to tier three Covid restrictions.

If a deal is not reached, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the PM would decide on the next steps.

In this situation, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said the “implication” was the top tier of rules would be imposed.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the region was seeking a “fair figure” of support from the government.

Mr Burnham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would be meeting with local leaders this morning and would advise them to set out the request in a letter to the government.

The government and local leaders – including mayors and MPs – have been embroiled in 10 days of talks over tighter rules for Greater Manchester’s 2.8m population.

The “very high” alert level, also known as tier three, would mean closing pubs and bars which do not serve meals, and additional restrictions on households mixing.

Mr Jenrick said local leaders had been “so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control”.

  • What Covid tier is my area in?

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  • Who is Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham?

Speaking to Today, Mr Burnham described the government’s ultimatum as a “slightly provocative move”, but he said he was going to “try and find a way forward”.

He said local leaders had never been given a figure for additional financial support in return for further restrictions.

As well as setting out what a “fair figure” of support was, Mr Burnham said he wanted “full flexibility” to support people who will be affected by restrictions.

He said: “I think it is fair to recognise that if you put a place under restrictions for as long as we’ve been under restrictions it grinds people down. It pushes businesses closer to the brink.”

Sir Richard Leese, the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, told BBC Newsnight he hoped a deal could still be made, but added: “If government imposes tier three – and I hope that won’t happen – we will clearly need to comply with that.”

On Monday, Mr Burnham and Sir Richard accused the government of using “selective statistics” on hospital occupancy rates to bolster the case for tougher rules.

On Monday evening, the two sides couldn’t even agree on what they actually discussed earlier.

Believe the local leaders and on Monday morning there seemed to be hope in the air. Officials from central government had mooted the possibility of a hardship fund to help support low-paid workers who stand to lose out if businesses close their doors under tighter restrictions.

The message local leaders took from their meeting was that, while the Treasury is adamant they are not going to extend their national furlough scheme – nor increase the level of cash available from its replacement, the Job Support Scheme – Westminster might sign off extra money that could be spent that way, if local politicians saw fit.

There was no concrete agreement on the numbers, but sources in Greater Manchester suggest the cost of supporting those who need the extra help comes in at around £15m a month.

After that call, the consensus among North West leaders was moving in the direction of signing on the dotted line, with another call planned with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick for the afternoon.

But rather than ushering in a new spirit of co-operation, that meeting went south.

Why does the government want tougher restrictions?

A three-tier system of alerts was announced a week ago in an attempt to control rising coronavirus cases without a UK-wide lockdown.

So far, only the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire have been moved into tier three, the highest level.

Mr Jenrick said Greater Manchester hospitals now had more Covid-19 patients than the whole of south-west England and south-east England combined.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he might “need to intervene” if local leaders did not accept a move to tier three.

Why haven’t Greater Manchester leaders agreed a deal?

Local councillors, the mayor and MPs are concerned that tier three rules will devastate industries such as hospitality without more financial support for workers and businesses.

A key sticking point is that Mr Burnham wants the government to reintroduce the 80% furlough scheme used during the UK’s first lockdown, instead of the new Job Support Scheme which covers 67% of the wages (covered by employers and the government) of people affected by tier three closures.

Mr Burnham and Sir Richard Leese said the government had suggested the possibility of a hardship fund to top up furlough payments, but this idea was withdrawn by Mr Jenrick. The government said it was “incorrect” to say officials had made the proposal during Monday’s meeting.

Where else are tougher restrictions being introduced?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons further discussions were planned about South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, north-east England and Teesside moving to tier three, or very high alert.

In Wales, people will be told from Friday to stay at home, while pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will shut, as part of a “short, sharp” national lockdown until 9 November.

It comes as a two-week school closure begins in Northern Ireland as part of a tightening of restrictions.

In Scotland, the tightest restrictions are in place in the central belt, and there are plans for a three-tier framework of measures, similar to England’s.

How bad is the spread of the virus in the UK now?

Monday’s figures show the UK recorded a further 18,804 coronavirus cases and 80 deaths.

Mr Hancock said the virus was “on the offensive” as winter approached, adding that he was concerned about the level of infections among over-60s in some northern areas.

But as the government tries to tackle the virus region by region, its claims about the impact on each area have been disputed.

On Monday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said government projections suggested coronavirus patients would take up the entire current intensive care capacity in Greater Manchester by 8 November, not including capacity in Nightingale hospitals.

But Prof Jane Eddleston, the region’s medical lead for the coronavirus response, said the situation was “serious” but Greater Manchester’s intensive care capacity was not at risk of being overwhelmed.

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