Man City has finally been knocked off the top of the Champions League betting board. While it took a combination of mighty angles, only one can be credited directly to Liverpool.
Don’t read bettors’ newfound skepticism of Sky Blues in the wrong way. Even at this early date, supporters know it won’t be Manchester City, but Bayern Munich that will go down as the biggest disappointment of the present UEFA cycle.
Bayern fared poorly in 3 out of 4 international playoff legs, finally bowing out via last Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Villarreal which left Yellow Submarine ahead 2-1 on aggregate goals. Bayern’s dodgy attack appeared salvaged by its famed striker once again as Lewandowski put Bundesliga’s front-runners ahead 1-0 early in the 2nd half. But the unheralded substitute Samuel Chukwueze scored late to give the Spanish a berth in the Champions League semi-final round.
The club to benefit most is Liverpool, who will receive a draw against Villarreal’s upstart “Beatles Fan Club” otherwise known as La Liga’s lone Cinderella side left standing in 2022 next to the aristocratic Real Madrid. Villarreal’s odds to win next Wednesday’s opening tie at Anfield are a long (+1000) or 10-to-1 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Villarreal, however, did not dispatch an altogether dissimilar side in the quarter-finals, overcoming a strike whose domination resembles Salah’s with Liverpool.
Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with City on April 10th served only to shorten the betting lines on Manchester City to win the FA Cup and Premier League competitions. That narrative changed when Reds went on to conquer Sky Blues in a Football Association Cup semi-final battle last Saturday Reds were threatening to blow away Man City on its own pitch over the weekend, overrunning the proud Sky Blues back-line to score three unanswered goals in the 1st half.
Sadio Mané has been known as a winger, but the elegant footballer’s presence in the middle of Liverpool’s forward line paid dividends as Mané nearly scored a hat trick against favored Sky Blues. Man City mounted a noble comeback bid, but it wasn’t enough, as Reds held on to prevail 3-2 and vie for a 2nd domestic tournament title of the season at Wembley Stadium. Taken in tandem with Liverpool’s EFL Cup hardware from 2022, the FA Cup semi-final outcome may finally settle the debate on whether UK tournaments are meaningful to Jürgen Klopp.
2-to-1 bets are currently offered on Liverpool to win the English Premier League in May. Notwithstanding the tiny table-placement edge for Manchester City, or Citizens’ somewhat easier EPL schedule in April and May, supporters of Liverpool may have a right to be annoyed at FanDuel Sportsbook’s matching odds on each team to win the Champions League. Liverpool has, after all, outscored Man City 5-4 in a series of 2 emotional matches, and while City slugs it out with Real Madrid, Reds will have the opportunity to seal their own UEFA final berth.
UEFA Champions League gamblers may be distracted from better value on La Liga due to the hype surrounding the EPL’s top 2 clubs. Real Madrid defeated Liverpool to lift hardware in the 4th of 5 consecutive CL appearances in 2018, a year prior to Reds winning Europe in a relatively easy final over Tottenham. Spanish clubs wouldn’t even need La Liga’s dynamic UEFA Champions League pedigree to outpace Manchester City, which for all its hype, has never won the event. Karem Benzema and Gareth Bale, who scored to defeat the Premier League in 2018’s championship meeting, are still flying the flag for Los Blancos.
The biggest asset for England in international play is the nation’s depth of quality, and only 11 footballers can play for Man City or Liverpool at a time. Villarreal’s shaky prospects may serve to discourage 23-to-1 underdog futures bets with a match at Anfield upcoming. However, look for Real Madrid’s line to shrink as punters examine the present particulars.
Champions League Semi-Final Opening Leg Pairings, Odds, and Picks
Tues. April 26: Manchester City vs Real Madrid
The long-term value of Manchester City has been overrated by bookmakers numerous times over the past 5 years, especially in the Champions League, an event in which Sky Blues have never lifted the trophy. Examples of the syndrome abound in 2022, including the specter of Manchester City’s odds to win the Premier League actually shrinking, not expanding with pessimism, following at least the maiden chapter of Reds’ recent success against Sky Blues.
A truly hefty price tag remains set on Man City to win its opening UEFA semi-final leg. Pep Guardiola’s club is a (-210) money-line wager to out-score Real Madrid at City of Manchester Stadium on Tuesday. Bookmakers have thrown-out most historical evidence of Real Madrid (+500) winning 4 out of 5 straight Champions League trophies in the 2010s, while a commanding Q-final victory by Los Blancos hasn’t impressed punters quite enough just yet.
Also of note is that Manchester City’s attack looked uncomfortable against Atletico Madrid in points during the quarter-final Champions League legs. Real Madrid proved to be the round’s true dynamo with the football in possession, scoring 5 times on a Blues lineup that allows well under a tally per game in the Premier League.
The unpredictable nature of Man City and Real Madrid’s opening tie makes the “home team” money-line odds on Sky Blues still more questionable. Real Madrid’s 11-up quality of experience and execution will make it very difficult for City of Manchester Stadium’s roar to cause back-line communication problems or crucial momentum swings for the hosts.
Real Madrid’s long odds are justified by a lone practical angle, and that’s the absence of UEFA’s experimental Away Goals Rule in 2021-22. Real Madrid’s biggest edge in the semi-final pairing is a closing tie scheduled on Spanish ground, and Los Blancos are experienced enough to know that a drawn opening leg is a victory. The foolhardy status of Man City’s odds has no effect on stubborn La Liga tactics … a fact that punters should be well aware of.
WagerBop’s Pick: Real Madrid ATS (+1) (+150)
Weds. April 27: Liverpool vs Villarreal
The odds on Liverpool to take an aggregate lead on Villarreal are somewhat brighter than Manchester City’s money-line in the semi-finals, but the comparative main-market odds on each semi-final opener remain in the same general range as of a week to go. Liverpool’s money-line odds are (-380) or almost 1-to-4, right in “parlay land” for a large swath of gamblers. Villarreal’s line is 10/1 in a tie with just (+134) odds being offered on an Over (3.5) total goals line.
Putting their “underdog” Premier League status aside, Reds will proceed upon the unenviable task of winning a difficult semi-final leg while knowing Villarreal is playing without pressure, and Reds take no sizable credit from a win. At the same time, there’s no doubt Reds are underrated on FanDuel’s betting board in spite of landing a much luckier Champions League semi-final opponent than Man City has. That being the case, only anxious strikers or a wildly mistaken line could give FanDuel users an edge betting on Villarreal. Mohamed Salah’s side is a natural ATS pick given Liverpool’s dynamic, precise form, and elite pace.
Unfortunately, the sportsbook’s present “Handicap Draw” lines on the opening tie’s outcome for Liverpool are a bridge too far, as Reds are drawing 2-to-1 payoff odds against (-2) goals, meaning that a 3-goal lead after 90+ minutes is needed to pay off any bets.
Liverpool is expected to at least make an old college try for a likely-impossible quadruple in 2022, making a 3-4 goal triumph not the foremost goal of next Wednesday’s fixture at Anfield. A score such as 2-0 (and a healthy lineup going forward) would be an excellent outcome against Yellow Submarine, which won’t be ready to sing “The End” even if Reds go ahead early-on.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (3.5) (-164)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.