WagerBop hopes newcomers aren’t confused by this week’s UEFA Champions League headline, since the Las Vegas-London uses of “fat” and “thin” odds are the opposite meanings from what people hear on TV every day. When Captain Picard says, “what are Starfleet’s odds of success?” he is referring to his “team’s” chances of a successful mission, not “odds” in the way gamblers think of them.
In other words, Man City has the thinnest gambling odds to out-score its opponent in the upcoming UEFA Round-of-16, but “thinnest” also means priciest, which means City has the best chance to triumph of any Premier League representative in the 2020-21 Champions League field. Chelsea and Liverpool’s “fatter” moneyline odds mean that Sin City is more dubious of Blues and Reds’ chances.
But as scientific as that sounds, impulsive analysis could have every bit as much to do with Liverpool and Chelsea’s longer odds than any kind of careful handicap. Man City has been prohibitively dominant in tournament play of all brands through consecutive annual cycles, and surely deserves its “minus” moneyline to forge a lead against Borussia Mönchengladbach in next Wednesday’s opening tie. But an objective look at recent Champions League appearances from Liverpool – and Chelsea especially – from the UEFA Group Stage reveals clubs in fine international form. In fact, Chelsea Football Club has outplayed virtually every team in the competition.
Chelsea stands with Man City, Bayern Munich, and Serie A representative Lazio as the only teams without a loss in Group Stage. Chelsea won twice as often as the Italian side, scored more goals than City, and allowed less tallies than Bayern to achieve top goal-differential in the round-robin. And it’s not as if Chelsea F.C. isn’t winning matches in Premier League or in the FA Cup. Only the club’s management upheaval could be at fault for Blues not being a more-popular bet for the Round of 16, though there’s no denying that the squad faces a tough cookie in Atlético Madrid.
As usual, we’ll take a brief look at current UEFA Champions League futures odds, and how outcomes (or at least “results”) of the opening Round of 16 legs could affect line-movement over the next week. Then we’ll capsule preview and recommend main-market betting picks on the English Premiership’s upcoming UEFA CL kickoffs.
UEFA Champions League Futures Odds 2-14-21
(courtesy of Bovada Sportsbook)
Bayern Munich +275
Manchester City +350
Paris SG +1200
Atlético Madrid +1400
FC Barcelona +1600
Real Madrid +1600
Borussia Dortmund +2200
RB Leipzig +4000
Borussia Monchengladbach +12500
FC Porto +15000
The defending champions are a bulldozer in every aspect, and Bayern’s status as forever-pacesetter in Bundesliga is no shock when you look at the pure offensive firepower at Bayern Munich’s disposal. Robert Lewandowski is once again scoring at a ridiculous pace, above a goal-per-fixture in most competitions. Thomas Muller has been more than effective playing behind the Polish giant. Joshua Kimmich is contributing to the attack from the defensive midfield. Don’t forget Leroy Sane, who is still getting oriented to Bundesliga and to his new Champions League teammates, but has special knowledge of Premier League back 4s in addition to running hexes on various EPL goalkeepers.
Bayern’s draw against Lazio in the Round of 16 is another reason for the German club’s short betting line. In fact, considering that the defense-oriented Italians have the longest odds of 150-to-1 to reach the 2021 Champions League Final and prevail, you could see Bayern Munich’s 2.75-to-1 line as somewhat of an undersell, considering the harder paths for other contending clubs. However, bettors are keeping in mind that a side which loses to an underdog in the Round of 16 would never have been on its way to winning the whole event anyway, since the level of difficulty goes up so dramatically in the final rounds and a lucky draw is so often followed by a troubling opponent. There’s no point in futures-gambling with the Round of 16 draw foremost in mind, since by the final match, eliminated teams who stood “fortunate” in the 16-team draw will have been quite unlucky later.
City’s stressor is the status of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, a creative playmaker who leads Sky Blues on multiple patches of the pitch, but whose hamstring injury held him out of domestic matches until his tentative return this week. Players are happy to pick up the slack on a lineup as deep as Citizens, for instance, Ferran Torres scored half of his first 8 goals this season in UEFA Group Stage. Given no setbacks for De Bruyne between now and the 2/24 match in Budapest – and there are 2 league matches in which the superstar could triumph-in-return or aggravate the injury – Man City gamblers will be pleased that Sky Blues are playing very late in the opening-leg schedule.
Liverpool has had a major injury concern of its own, as Diego Jota is still “2 to 3 weeks” away from returning in the words of manager Jurgen Klopp. Reds are clearly not feeling it on the attack as the club is experiencing a profound slump in domestic play. Salah has scored a pair of lonely goals as Liverpool was outscored 8-2 over the last 3 matches. It’s a far cry from where Reds have been as recently as last cycle. So what happened to that “excellent form” from the Group Stage?
Interestingly enough, Liverpool’s worst fixtures in Group Stage came after dominant Premier League performances, such as a 3-goal route of Leicester City followed by an 0-2 loss to Atalanta. Reds went on to draw 1-1 with Seagulls despite leading the entire 2nd half, then dismissed Ajax in a physical Champions League match at Anfield. “Bad domestic form equals good UEFA form” would be a dumb angle if not applied macro-analytically, but there’s no question where Klopp’s priority lies, and Anfield could be a talisman for Reds again in the upcoming leg with RB Leipzig.
It’s surprising to see Paris Saint-Germain’s 12-to-1 odds to win considering that the club is a (+235) underdog to forge a lead on Barcelona in the opening Round of 16 tie. Neymar is missing from the lineup, perhaps a paradoxical reason for the steady number of optimistic wagers on PSG. Punters have put last cycle’s drive to the UEFA finals in perspective, realizing that Parisians do not need every break to fall in the club’s lap in order to manufacture a championship run. There’s hope that Neymar’s eventual return could bolster the team in 1-off elimination matches, but it’s very questionable whether the French will get that far again, given the immediate challenge at hand.
Juventus is a stronger pick at 12-to-1, considering that the Italians are poised to blaze into the quarterfinals. Cristiano Ronaldo is having yet another wonderful season, with Alvaro Morata’s 6 Group Stage goals giving opponents another deadly weapon to worry about defending. But the unlikely threat who could give Juve the most-dynamic attack in UEFA’s elimination round is right back Juan Cuadrado, who has already assisted on 5 Champions League goals in the cycle.
Chelsea is also a tastier pick than sportsbooks are touting at (+2000). Much will be written about the sacking of Frank Lampard and the long-term implications of Chelsea’s internal impasse over the club’s transfer strategy. Handicappers can’t become consumed with sentimentality or a sense of justice. Team officials or alumni x, y, and z might give Chelsea supporters sour tongues on occasion, but the short-term boost for Pensioners on the pitch cannot be denied. Chelsea F.C. has allowed exactly 1 goal in 5 matches across 2 competitions since making a change in the manager’s chair, winning all but 1 of the aforementioned fixtures. Blues played methodical, patient football to defeat very-recent UEFA contender Tottenham on enemy turf less than 2 weeks ago, and outscored Round of 16 favorite Sevilla 4-0 in a pair of Group Stage matches.
Olivier Giroud had a terrific Group Stage appearance to boost the team’s young, inconsistent attack. Chelsea’s goal differential is deceptive for bettors in the sense that we shouldn’t expect Blues to put up Man City-style “7-0” tournament results in English or international competition. That sort of angle only looms large in goal-total gambling, though. A series of further 1-0 and 2-1 triumphs is all Blues must have to advance in a competition it has outshined all-comers in so far.
Premier League vs Europe Predictions and Best Round of 16 Bets
2/16: RB Leipzig vs Liverpool F.C.
Gamblers are tempted to take the Under (3) for Tuesday’s match, as evidenced by Bovada juicing the vig to (-125) on low-side total bets. But (3) can be a deceiving line, because Liverpool could forge a 1-1 level score and then fall apart in the late-going trying to tally an additional Away-goal. I’m going with the “underdog” which isn’t in a drastic slump to open up a small lead on home grounds.
Pick: RB Leipzig (+205)
2/23: Atlético Madrid vs Chelsea F.C.
Bovada’s bookies and a savvy public has driven the O/U line to just (2) goals for a meeting of clubs that post clean sheets with the daily funny papers. I don’t see Blues falling behind in the opening leg given the momentum and synergy across 3 levels of Chelsea’s lineup (unlikely to be broken this week by Mapgies or Saints), making the visitors an excellent ATS pick at (Even) and (+105) payoff.
Pick: Chelsea ATS
2/24: Borussia Mönchengladbach vs Manchester City
Man City’s moneyline odds of (-250) are a bit pricey considering Sky Blues are up against a tough Colts lineup on the road. But I’m all over the Over (3) considering that it’ll take the Bundesliga side at least 2 goals to pull off the partial upset, and Pep Guardiola will put his strikers in position to push for an Away Goals advantage even if City does the expected and avoids trouble in the front leg.
Pick: Over (3)
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.