Ever since the second half of last season's final in Cardiff, it's looked ominous for Real Madrid's Champions League rivals. That display of total authority was a fitting way for Zinedine Zidane's team to become the first in the post-1992 era to retain the trophy, and they have only built on that sense of near-invincibility since.
Marco Asensio, who bookmarked June's triumph over Juventus with a dazzling cameo and goal, has started this season with a bang and is symbolic of where El Real appear to be going, with a bright future as well as a stable present. Even at 5.10 on the Betfair Exchange as favourites, they look like a solid investment given the depth and alternatives available to Zidane.
They are certainly well-equipped to deal with a fascinating group featuring Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham. It's worth recalling that Dortmund actually finished above Madrid in last season's group stage, and even if it's early days, new coach Peter Bosz seems to have given them real attacking snap. Spurs, in a strange sort of underdog role, are realistically in the mix too.
Barca, Juve, Bayern and PSG with questions to answer
Neither of Spain's big two should have any problems getting through to the knockout stages, of course, with Olympiacos and Sporting Clube de Portugal likely to be making up the number in Barcelona's pool. The Blaugrana will have to face last season's conquerors, Juve, but the arriving Ousmane Dembélé has already proved his ability to influence matches at elite level. With - at last - a real right-back in Nélson Semedo, they have some balance, too.
Juve, with confidence in them shaken after the humbling in the final coupled with the departure of Leonardo Bonucci, are way down the pecking order at 18.00. With the talent that continues to be at their disposal and the recruitment of Blaise Matuidi, a seasoned winner in an area of the pitch they need to strengthen, they are to be taken seriously.
The other group which has two overwhelming favourites to qualify is Group B, with Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain thrown in with Anderlecht and Celtic. That the arrivals of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé will give PSG a new dimension is undeniable, but they still have shortcomings. Marco Verratti could do with a presence beside him in midfield - which is why Paris are so keen on Mbappé's erstwhile teammate Fabinho - and they still need a top-class goalkeeper.
There are no such problems on that last score for Bayern, of course, but the Champions League is as big as ever for them this season. It is the arena in which Carlo Ancelotti needs to prove his worth after an underwhelming first season. Corentin Tolisso and - when fit - James Rodríguez are exciting additions, but one wonders if they are a little too open on early evidence to go all the way.
Spurs aside, English teams shouldn't struggle
All of the other English teams can expect to qualify, though Manchester United's price of 11.00 to win the tournament seems too short for a team still growing, based on a clement draw, though Benfica have more recent experience on this stage and are not to be trifled with. Manchester City should get through but must be careful. Shakhtar Donetsk had a phenomenal campaign last time out under coach Paulo Fonseca, and Napoli are simply one of the most dangerous attacking sides in Europe, and a very interesting long shot at 40.00.
Liverpool, at 24.00, maybe look the best value of the English sides, and should be ok in their group, even with Sevilla arguably harbouring a stronger squad than last season after the Reds' Europa League final nemesis Éver Banega returned. Chelsea's two ties with Atlético Madrid should be intense, but both will profit from Roma's current rebuilding.
There is no arguing with the fact that - as with much of the competition's history - Real Madrid are the team to beat. Some of the big-name face-offs to come in the groups remind us, though, that the field is particularly stacked this year.
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