Champions League gamblers haven’t been shy to assume a quintet of single-digit UEFA futures picks will advance to the quarter-final round, following a set of solid opening-leg appearances for the big-shots. Manchester City has essentially knocked Sporting Lisbon out of 2022’s Champions League ranks a leg early, overwhelming the Portuguese club 5-0 as midfielder Bernardo Silva shined with 2 goals in the maiden half. Liverpool outlasted Inter Milan in a tense opening tie at San Siro, winning when Salah and Firmino scored on Reds’ only 2 shots-on-target. Christian Pulisic has set Chelsea Football Club alight once more, procuring a 2-goal advantage on Lille headed into March 16th’s back leg.
Handicaps and outcomes rarely fall forecasted in such heavenly harmony. But there’s an exception on the UEFA betting board. Bayern Munich is the UEFA Champions League’s “reputation” favorite headed into March.
Lewandowski’s lineup did not claim an aggregate goal lead in Bayern’s opening Round-of-16 leg against Austrian side RB Salzburg. In fact, it took a late goal from French standout Kingsley Coman just to produce a 1-1 draw. But the high-rollers at FanDuel Sportsbook are convinced that Allianz Arena’s back tie will be a waltz for the Germans.
Those soccer sharks should also consider that Paris Saint-Germain has an inside track to the quarter-finals, and a far cheaper championship betting price at 7-to-1.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Round-of-16 debut against Real Madrid could have been taken as evidence of French teams, no matter what their talent at hand, finding ways to lose in UEFA’s elimination bouts. Parisians poured prolific amounts of pressure on Vikings goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, firing 21 shot attempts and forcing a shaky Real Madrid defending corps into flagrant fouls and yellow cards. But the seminal keeper kept things level notwithstanding the small number of counter efforts from La Liga forwards, and in defiance of the guests’ inability to press against PSG’s passes out from the back. The atmosphere changed abruptly in added time, when Kylian Mbappé reminded FIFA supporters why France won the World Cup in 2018. Mbappé found space deep down the wing, settled a lively football as Real Madrid attempted to shift, and ninja-nixed a perplexed pair of defenders before beating Courtois to the far post.
Don’t be overawed by the Ligue 1 side’s attacking to the extent of overlooking other positions on the pitch. Paris Saint-Germain’s back line has also played well without as many superstars toiling as compared to the front of the team’s formation.
Ajax is drawing Champions League Final bets at close to twice the price of Manchester United picks. Ronaldo, of course, plays for the latter Premier League club, while there isn’t much analytical basis for giving a Netherlands club team better chances to lift hardware than an EPL brand. Spain, Germany, and the UK have monopolized UEFA Champions League glory since 2010. Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1 are the only 2 runners-up outside the triumvirate. Obviously, the Dutch club must be winning its Round-of-16 tie already, right? Nope. “Sons of the Gods” are currently drawn 2-2 with perceived also-ran Benfica, casting the rush of betting picks on Ajax in a curious, even “sentimental” light.
Then again, it was Ajax that won a European title in 1995, and followed up with a 2nd place finish in 1996, the last time-to-date an Eredivisie squad earned gold or silver.
Bayern Munich vs Red Bull Salzburg (Tuesday, March 8)
Bayern’s lack of an aggregate goal advantage has only intensified action on Bundesliga’s stalwarts to knock-out Austrian club Salzburg in March’s back leg. FanDuel’s chintzy (-310) odds on Over (2.5) total-goals bets reveal that bookmakers think Bayern Munich will steamroll Salzburg’s back line early on in the Champions League rematch.
The history between the unlikely Round-of-16 rivals illustrates no such certain fate in the upcoming back tie. Bayern has only beaten Salzburg twice, and had problems asserting superiority over another blue-collar lineup, Dynamo Kyiv, in this cycle’s round robin.
Don’t overlook FanDuel’s generous “Draw” odds of (+650). Bayern has the striking, experience, and aura to be confident in a penalty-kick tiebreaker, while the Austrians may still be compelled to “circle the wagons” in front of keeper Philipp Köhn as the lineup’s most viable path to producing a legitimate upset bid. As a result, the outcome of Bayern winning on penalties following a 1-1 or 2-2 aggregate draw appears to be the least valued of all plausible results on FanDuel’s betting board. O/U odds on the match should be based on likely underdog’s tactics and not star-power or the expectation of free-flowing soccer.
WagerBop’s Picks: Under (3.5) (-110) and Draw (+650)
Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain (Wednesday, March 9)
Real Madrid is a (+140) favorite to win its back tie against Messi and Paris Saint-Germain, but “winning” is a little more complex than usual in the Round of 16. Far from a mere inconvenience for long-term Champions League bettors, strange betting outcomes can occur if Los Blancos should lead March 9th’s fixture 1-0 in the 2nd half. Money-line bettors on PSG (+175) would be grateful, and Real Madrid’s gamblers annoyed, that the La Liga lineup would be pressing for goals with a 1-0 advantage. Simultaneously, those who’ve sided in PSG’s direction would not be cheering against a back line free of counter-threats. Real Madrid is trailing 0-1 in aggregate goals, and must win by 2 to avoid a tiebreaker.
Neymar arrived on-screen in the 10th minute of the front leg, completing the dangerous “Dream Team” forward triumvirate of Messi, Mbappé, and the Brazilian dynamo. Mbappé went on to score an instant-classic tally in extra time to hand Paris a 1-nil advantage. However, the focus will sharpen on PSG’s back line, as punters question whether Parisians can adjust accordingly and play with a lead against Real Madrid. The Round of 16’s opening leg featured as only the 2nd clean sheet produced by PSG in the current UEFA cycle.
The match report from February 15th tells a clearer tale. PSG was the superior side, allowing no shots-on-target from Los Blancos and earning prohibitive edges in possession and corner kicks. Bookmakers expect goals from the match in Madrid, evidenced by FanDuel goal total odds of (-142) on Over (2.5) goals scored. Paris Saint-Germain isn’t expected to hold Real Madrid off the scoreboard for a full 180+ minutes. The latter club’s defense has been porous enough to allow 4 goals in 4 halves of recent Ligue 1 play.
Gamblers should consider that Ligue 1 defensive stats are compiled as Paris Saint-Germain breezes through its domestic schedule. In Champions League matches, with Messi’s attacking nucleus roaring in full gear, the PSG back line is granted breathers and simple instructions each time Neymar or another forward dribbles deep and just misses on a heroic shot. Much of March 9th’s bout could be spent in anxious straits as Real Madrid’s elite defenders work to minimize the damage of another 60% PSG possession mark.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (2.5)
Manchester City vs Sporting Lisbon (Wednesday, March 9)
Is a 5-0 aggregate score not worth tuning into just to bet on the proceedings? Maybe it wouldn’t be – if sportsbooks only offered money-line odds to win soccer matches.
Man City’s (-800) odds-to-win a rematch, or “mismatch” at City of Manchester Stadium, will discourage punters from picking a side for March 9. But eyes will turn to FanDuel’s spread and goal-total lines for Manchester City and Sporting Lisbon’s back-end leg.
Sky Blues are favored by (-2) goals, albeit with generous payoff odds of (+120) for a victory of 3 goals or more (or 8+ goals on aggregate). Once again, goal-total numbers are optimistic of fireworks, with (+180) odds handicapped on the low side of (2.5) goals, and nearly 1-to-1 odds of (+122) on Over (3.5) total tallies. Speculators must guess Man City manager Pep Guardiola’s plans in an unfamiliar scenario before betting on any of the above lines. For all of City’s dominance, Citizens have not often found themselves leading by 5 goals on aggregate before a back-end tie arrives on the calendar.
Guardiola did face a similar situation in the 2020-21 EFL Cup semi-final legs, facing lower-tier minnow Burton in a bout that could have been mercifully wrapped up in a half instead of 2 excruciating fixtures. Man City held a 9-0 lead after 90+ minutes, and the Brewers of Princess Way played out the minutes for sake of morale. Guardiola played Sergio Agüero at striker long enough for the legend to score, but Sky Blues stopped attacking after running up a double-digit edge, winning the final match only 1-0 behind a lineup of substitutes and reserves in midfield and on the back line.
London and Las Vegas are going all-in on another round of explosive scoring from the 2021-22 Champions League favorites. But the sober wager prevails often in UEFA football, and sportsbooks must hope a piecemeal Sky Blues lineup doesn’t level the pitch and produce a rather boring (and bookie-busting) 1-1 outcome.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (2.5) (+180)
Manchester United vs Atlético Madrid (Tuesday, March 15)
Following the storied club’s wan, wayward winter, MUFC can count itself as lucky a (+100) money-line favorite as it is a short-odds candidate to advance to the quarter-finals. Atlético Madrid scored an early, surprise tally, and defended a clean sheet for well over a half of football in Man United and S.A.D.’s opening tie.
79 minutes to score an equalizer is not the classic way to procure solid money-line odds for the back end of a Round-of-16 tie. But the tactical edge, not to mention the emotional lift of a drawn aggregate score, gives Red Devils the momentum to carry a 1-to-1 betting market in the eyes of FanDuel Sportsbook UEFA odds-makers.
MUFC appeared to hit rock-bottom on the pitch in early February. Manchester United looked like an English Championship side against lower-tier “minnow” Middlesbrough in a shocker FA Cup loss before drawing 1-1 against Burnley F.C., a potential EPL relegation victim in 2022, and then again in a league match with Southampton, only possessing the ball for just over 50% of the latter bout.
Ronaldo’s fiery criticism of MUFC’s form took time to have an effect on MUFC’s footballers, but things have begun to brighten at home and abroad as Red Devils approach spring.
Atlético Madrid played an effective “straight-ahead” style for much of the opening leg, neutralizing the disadvantage of superior MUFC passing. Still, the “Serie A” style tactics of La Liga’s underdogs are reflected in UEFA money-line odds at FanDuel, as forecasters expect the Spanish side to flail at the end of clumsy possessions, while the most accurate striker in the world lurks as United’s constant threat to score a winner.
WagerBop’s Pick: Man United
Lille vs Chelsea F.C. (Wednesday, March 16)
Chelsea’s cautious (-130) odds to defeat Lille and prevail by 3-or-more goals on aggregate are inspired in-part by schedule worries. Blues must field most of the starting 11 for a 2nd consecutive tournament showdown at Luton Town, followed by the remainder of 5 total matches in little more than 2 weeks, including the crucial UEFA leg.
USMNT lynchpin Christian Pulisic’s minutes will once again be a mystery as Chelsea’s best up-and-coming footballer will be preparing to challenge El Tricolor in a FIFA match. Pulisic will play if the club needs goals on March 16th, however, and Lille’s attack was lively in the opening-tie defeat. FanDuel’s spread offers Chelsea (-1) with generous (+230) odds.
WagerBop’s Pick: Chelsea ATS (-1)
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.