We’re always comparing European football events to American club championships for the benefit of stateside readers – how about comparing The Beautiful Game to something Brits are really into for a change?
Soccer/football and golf have been linked ever since a very grouchy King of Ireland wrote, “the footbulle and the gulf are morale hazards and forthwith shall not be permitted” in 1576 (or some-such). English-folk, more defiant than they’re given credit for, have been braving the “hazards” (moral and otherwise) of both sports in the half-millennium since then.
2021’s golf odds are a lot like UEFA odds this season, at least at the end of May as the Final looms. Phil Mickelson’s utter defiance of the aging process, and his 2021 major-championship title, will be the gossip of the golf world from now until forever. But it’s also interesting to note how unmoved oddsmakers (and high-rollers) appear to be, not only by Lefty’s victory, but by other surprises in “the gulf” such as Hideki Matsuyama’s U.S. Masters win or Stewart Cink’s performance at RBC Heritage, which in hindsight serves as a foreshadowing of Mickelson’s win. The trend of land-locked odds includes Dustin Johnson at 14/1 for the upcoming U.S. Open despite missing the cut at the Masters and the PGA Championship. Rory McIlroy came nowhere close to rekindling the magic of 2012 at Kiawah Island, but Rory is also drawing 14/1 action to win the 2021 U.S. Open.
A closer look at McIlroy’s ledger indicates Rory’s about 0-for-30 in majors since 2014. Still, the thin odds churn-out of the sportsbook every time. Meanwhile, Lefty is a 50/1 pick. Matsuyama is 30/1.
That’s how the UEFA Champions League Final odds look in 2021 – as if unearthed from a time capsule. Even though the scenario is new, the clubs are exceptionally well-matched, and the unexpected has come to be expected in COVID-era football, Champions League betting lines are right where they might have been if City had faced Chelsea for Europe’s holy grail in 2020, or in some other year.
Manchester City is a (-110) favorite on the 3-way moneyline at Bovada Sportsbook. Chelsea is fatter than a 3/1 underdog to lift the trophy without penalties on Saturday. Man City has been a “sexy” UEFA bet in 2021 for a club that’s never won the event and which lost an FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea not too long before meeting Blues at Estádio do Dragão in Portugal for the CL title.
It doesn’t help Chelsea’s status with speculators that Leicester City upset Thomas Tuchel’s squad 2-1 in the FA Cup. Christian Pulisic’s health remains a concern following the midfield star’s limited minutes in recent league appearances.
FanDuel Sportsbook’s “handicap draw” line takes (-1) goal from Man City, while O/U (2.25) goals appears to be the cautious consensus for a total. Let’s handicap the likeliest outcome of Saturday’s prestigious match and then weigh the odds of main and prop-wager markets.
Man City vs Chelsea: UEFA CL Final Analysis and Angles
Manchester City’s odds to win the 2021 UEFA Champions League could also be a product of the club’s health in addition to its typically-pristine form. Sky Blues are not, as has been erroneously reported in Sports Illustrated, chasing a “domestic treble,” since the cycle’s FA Cup has already been lost…courtesy of you-know-who.
Instead, a victory on Saturday would secure City’s maiden Champions League title, also known as a European championship, in addition to the historic feat of winning the English Premier League trophy, the Football League Cup, and the premier UEFA club tournament in 1 year.
You can gamble – though one supposes there’s no market for it – that Sky Blues supporters would trade at least a few of Man City’s multitude of domestic titles over the years for the continent’s largest crown.
Citizens were sparkling in the CL semi-final against PSG. Parisians’ early goal in the opening leg rekindled memories of Paris Saint-Germain’s underdog run to the Champions League Final in 2020. Pep Guardiola’s squad stayed patient, passing the football well but unafraid to get hands (and shirts) dirty when PSG did intercept, and finally scoring in the 64th minute when Kevin de Bruyne drew the match level at 1-1. Riyad Mahrez scored only about 7 minutes later, foreshadowing the veteran winger’s legacy-lacing tour de force in the 2nd leg.
Once the club was ahead by a tally, Guardiola didn’t bring hordes of forward numbers even after Parisians took a costly red card. City was fairly content with 2 precious away-goals scored in Paris. The prospects of another PSG miracle died quickly in the next leg, as Mahrez’s pair of goals brought glory to a pitch that could only be imagined with a full host of supporters on hand.
But the club’s vaunted form has shown cracks since then, notably in yet another loss to Chelsea Football Club on 5/8. Since then, Sky Blues – admittedly more consumed with forging a healthy lineup on Saturday than earning unneeded points on the domestic table – proceeded to give up 6 goals to blue-collar EPL clubs Newcastle and Brighton before setting things right with a 5-0 victory vs Everton to close the league campaign.
It’s the kind of late-cycle mental strain on a backline that can render even a cautious game-plan helpless to post a clean sheet, and which has ended many a Premier League team’s quest in the Champions League prematurely. There’s no reason to assume nerves didn’t come into play in City’s inauspicious opening-leg start against Parisians – Premiership brands are simply getting too good for such trifles to matter.
That doesn’t mean emotions won’t matter in a Champions League Final between 2 nascent survivors, taking up space in the same boat.
UEFA Champions League Final Handicapping: Chelsea Goes for an Upset “Treble” on Saturday
Don’t forget Blues are shooting for a “treble” of their own. Defeating the favorites in Portugal this weekend would count as a 3rd Chelsea upset of Man City in as many competitions in spring of ’21, with the results arguably getting more painful for City each time. There are many supporters and analysts (and footballers for that matter) who are ready to dismiss any FA Cup outcome as irrelevant, though Chelsea’s victory over Manchester City in the domestic tournament removed a requisite link of the “quadruple” that Citizens are supposedly capable of in any cycle. Chelsea beating City 2-1 in a league match quieted those voices. Now, if Sky Blues lose to Thomas Tuchel’s side again, in this setting with a breakthrough in UEFA competition on the line, fallout could reverberate all the way through the 2021-22 transfer window in Manchester.
Chelsea is the club with less to prove (thanks to lower expectations as a rule and due to 2019-2021’s youth movement) and less pressure to deal with. Though the lineup can be criticized for failing to score in the FA Cup Final against Leicester City, and also ended the Premier League schedule on a sour note by losing to Aston Villa, it’s just as noteworthy that Chelsea passed Foxes to finish 4th on the table when all was said and done.
In fact, the finish of Chelsea’s decisive Premier League battle with Leicester last Tuesday was as deceptive as it was tense for gambling punters. Foxes were pressured into 5 yellow cards and could barely move the football without a possession-killing mistake against Blues’ far-reaching formation. Jorginho’s penalty gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead with less than 1/3 of the fixture to play, and Pensioners peppered Kasper Schmeichel with 16 attempts.
I’m not convinced Christian Pulisic’s side can pull off another upset on Saturday, but would it really be such an “upset” if they did? Again, Manchester City’s legacy is on the line while Chelsea’s outlook is already sunny – the defects of a favorite’s virtues in classical terms. Expect that Tuchel’s team will play as if it knows the kind of strain City is under, striving for a little chaos on the midfield counterattack as opposed to playing for a staid draw and extra minutes.
Man City vs Chelsea: Main Market Picks for Saturday’s CL Final
I’m not going-in on the underdog ML for Saturday’s match in Porto, but not because Chelsea (+330) is necessarily a bad wager. Instead, the blog will be “spending its cash-units” on a combination of Handicap Draw (Manchester City (-1)) and Match Draw (prior to penalties), with either result paying out at close to 3-to-1.
Handicappers must be prepared to be wrong and still win on occasion, even when the occasion is the Champions League Final. If our prediction is wrong and Chelsea plays a cautious game with few tactical tricks or forward numbers, then Man City (-1) is a likely result. It’s still a likely result if Pulisic charges the box for an early goal and City spends 80 minutes methodically getting the lead back, ala the semi-final.
Picks: Handicap Draw (1 unit) and Draw (1 unit)
WagerBop’s Goal Total Pick for Saturday’s CL Final
Just because we’re prepared to be wrong about a match doesn’t mean we think we will be.
Pick: Over (2.25) or (2.5) (+128)
2021 Champions League Final Prop Bet Recommendations
(all odds courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook)
First Half Over (0.75) (-140) or Over (1) (+120)
First Goal Scorer – Phil Foden (+600)
Chelsea Scores 1+ Goals and Attempts 5+ Corners (+400)
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.