It’s a good idea to avoid looking at UEFA headlines on a daily basis. Tabloid soccer blogs have gotten proficient at a whole new kind of “clickbait,” in which real news is spun into fake headlines with as many alarming words as possible even if it violates the rules of grammar or common sense. That’s how Paul Pogba of Manchester United can be an “IMMINENT TRANSFER!!!” every single day for 2+ years and somehow still suit-up for MUFC.
There are exceptions, of course, such as when genuine news that could actually affect Champions League and Europa League outcomes crosses the wires. Like the calf injury suffered by Sergio Ramos which will keep the Real Madrid center-back out of action for crucial upcoming matches, including a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Liverpool on Tuesday.
Not that you want to listen to the tabloids about Ramos’ setback. Given the Premier League and UEFA blogosphere’s penchant for exaggeration, embellishment, and just plain making things up, “RAMOS DEAD – WILL TO BE READ MONDAY” is likely about 12 hours away from publish. A better use of one’s time, as always, is to check the sportsbook odds. Even if you’re not going to gamble on the Champions League Q-Finals, it’s never a bad way to find out what a consensus of sharp football analysts believe about the effects of an injury.
And what is the verdict in London and Las Vegas? Nothing so extreme as making Liverpool the favorite over Real Madrid on the latter’s home grounds. But given Liverpool’s disappointing 5th-place standing on the Premier League table, it’s safe to say Jürgen Klopp’s side wouldn’t be drawing bets at (-105) odds to win the opening Q-Final leg unless Los Blancos were perceived to be under duress.
We’ll take a closer look at Real Madrid vs Liverpool in addition to 3 other UEFA Champions League ties in the opening quarterfinal leg. But first, let’s catch up with the current futures odds on potential Champions League winners in 2021.
UEFA Champions League Futures (April 3rd, 2021)
(Odds to win UEFA Champions League courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook)
Manchester City (+185)
Bayern Munich (+400)
Paris SG (+700)
Real Madrid (+1000)
Borussia Dortmund (+2800)
FC Porto (+3300)
Let’s get this out of the way first – Man City’s shorter than 2-to-1 futures odds are a little generous if not badly mispriced. (“Mispriced” usually refers to a market you’d want to gamble on, but with futures odds across a large field, sometimes it means odds that are way too short, or “juiced,” that you don’t want to touch with a 10-foot (or 24 ft) crossbar.)
Yes, it’s true Manchester City is considered a candidate to earn a “Quadruple” this cycle, though there’s no championships to speak of just yet with the Carabao Cup final to be played in mid-spring. City’s 10-point lead over Man United on the Premier League table is also a blessing for a club looking to make UEFA and domestic tournament history. Sky Blues dropped 3 points to Red Devils on March 7th thanks to an early penalty and 90+ minutes of wayward shot attempts, which would normally be a devastating result in a top-table rivalry, but seems merely a moral victory for MUFC this time.
But it’s also worth noting that Man City’s course in the modern UEFA Champions League has been one of frustration. It’s hard to think of another championship favorite in the 2021 sports world with twice-as-short betting odds as anyone else in the field despite never winning the event.
NCAA basketball fans would point to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, but it’s easier to transform a college team’s fortunes on hardcourt by developing dominance at 2 or 3 positions, and – wouldn’t you know – 11th-seeded UCLA almost ruined a whole season of high-risk futures bets by beating Zags on Saturday night in a game that Gonzaga won with a miracle shot. Prohibitive favorites lose all the time, and it feels like a sub-2/1 UEFA Champions League favorite should have lifted the trophy at least once.
Long-shot picks for a Champions League title also tend to underestimate the degree-of-difficulty involved in winning the title. For instance, Paris Saint-Germain broke French hearts by losing 0-1 to Bayern Munich in last year’s final, but Parisians helped restore respect for Ligue 1 simply by getting to that point. It was too much to expect Neymar’s club to pull off yet another upset. Besides, PSG is only paying 7-to-1 on a potential futures win in 2021, shorter odds than injury-addled Real Madrid.
Bayern Munich is a “happy medium” pick at relatively low-risk on a football club that happens to be defending a Champions League crown after reaching (and winning) its 3rd final in 9 years. Chelsea’s line of 4.5/1 has been driven too short with sentimental bets on Christian Pulisic and Pensioners.
Now it’s time to look at this week’s Q-Final matches. As per usual, we’ll turn things over to Nikola Velickovic, WagerBop’s resident expert on European football, for a prediction on Wednesday’s rematch of 2020’s UEFA Champions League final between Bundesliga and Ligue 1. Scroll further for updated Bovada betting lines and picks on the week’s 3 Premiership hopefuls, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City, against FC Porto, Real Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund respectively.
Take it away, Nikola!
Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint-Germain
The biggest clash in the quarterfinals is undoubtedly the one between last year’s finalists, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain. If you don’t remember their previous game ended 1-0 for the Germans, with Kinglsey Coman’s goal making a difference, and landing the sixth UCL title to Munich.
However, the situation this year will be different because we have two legs, and the overall conditions are more suitable for playing compared to the ones during the previous year. Bayern is excellent and comes in quality form as usual, but there is one thing that changes the entire perception of their situation in this case – Robert Lewandowski’s injury. Arguably the best player in the world last year hurt his knee and probably won’t play in this clash. He is definitely out for the first leg.
On the other side, PSG enters with full speed and with Neymar, who is 100% ready according to the sources from within the French team. We respect Bayern, who is arguably the best team in the world, but the lack of Lewandowski on the field will be just too big of a handicap for the champions who don’t have a proper replacement for him. It is only because of this that we give PSG higher chances for advancing to the semis, nothing else.
Pick: PSG to advance (-105)
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
It’s never easy to follow Nikola’s act, but hello again ‘Boppers.
Bovada Sportsbook is offering (Even) payoff odds on Under (2.5) goals for Real Madrid’s opening leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, but as tempting as a 1-to-1 line makes the pick, there might be a better totals bet in the prop odds for Whites vs Reds even if the payoff isn’t as generous on a win.
Real Madrid will want to keep Liverpool out of the goal box at all costs, hoping to avoid losing on the “away goals” rule if Reds race out to a lead in Spain. But that’s a simple reading of potential tactics that has led to the conservative total-line. Under (1, 1.5) goals in the 1st half only comes with a (-155) Asian Handicap market that won’t pay off in total (excuse the pun) unless the half is scoreless, but that’s probably the most likely outcome at halftime, since the hosts will also want to observe how Liverpool tries to attack an injury-weakened back line before sending any numbers forward.
Pick: 1st Half Under (1, 1.5)
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
Tuesday’s kickoff in Manchester is handicapped with Sky Blues a (-240) favorite, yet once again a fairly cautious goal-total market of (3) goals even at Bovada.
At a glance the sides appear to be clashing amidst mutual hot streaks, as Dortmund hasn’t lost a UEFA Champions League match in 7 appearances, while City has looked unstoppable, save for that frustrating 90+ minutes vs MUFC. But the German club hasn’t played in the quarterfinals in several years, making it even more of a UEFA disappointment than Sky Blues in the grand scheme. One can imagine both teams scoring goals on Tuesday, given that the underdogs will be keen on scoring away tallies without possessing the form to stop Man City’s counters when they inevitably come.
FC Porto vs Chelsea FC
Chelsea is overhyped and unlikely to win the UEFA Champions League this cycle – we’ll stick to that handicap unless and until Pensioners show up in the final on May 29th.
However, that doesn’t mean the Premier League side can’t attack ably against Porto, and the odds of (+120) on Over (2.5) for Wednesday’s match are way too fat with payoff value. Chelsea will be looking to score at least 2-3 times on the road and put a choke hold on the 2-legged round, but Porto – as only a 3-to-1 underdog – isn’t so overmatched that “Dragons” will spend the whole match circling the wagons in front of goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín.
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.