Champions League Outright Odds and Preview
The highly anticipated Champions League Draw for the Group Stage took place Thursday, and suffice it to say, some clubs were far more enthused for others. Because of the method which guarantees a spot in Pot 1 to the league winners from FIFA’s top eight European leagues, there is a wide discrepancy in the potency of the opponent. Pot 1 contains the obvious dangers; Real Madrid, Bayern München, Juventus, and Chelsea. It also contains the far less-frightening Spartak Moskva and Shakhtar Donetsk. Pool 2 is pretty much solid top to bottom – it is the next eight highest ranked qualifiers by FIFA coefficient so there’s little “lucky draw” among Barcelona, Dortmund, Manchester City, Manchester United, Porto, Paris Sant-Germain, Sevilla or Atletico.
Pot 3 is where teams are hoping for a break. Some teams like Liverpool, received it, drawing in with Sevilla and Moskva. Others, like Tottenham, felt the cruel sting of fate, drawing into the pool of death with current holders Real Madrid and German power Borussia Dortmund.
Draws have a big impact on the outright odds, so let’s take a quick look at the top contenders to take home the trophy in Kyiv next May.
OUTRIGHT ODDS – 2017-2018 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
- Real Madrid +400
- Bayern München +700
- Paris Saint-Germain +700
- Barcelona +700
- Manchester City +1200
- Juventus +1700
- Manchester United +1200
- Chelsea +1800
- Atletico Madrid +2200
- Liverpool +2500
- Napoli +4000
- Borussia Dortmund +4000
- Monaco +8000
- RB Leipzig +8000
- Sevilla +10000
- Roma +10000
- Benfica +15000
- Porto +15000
The favorites aren’t new; Real Madrid, current holders in both Champions League and La Liga are the clear favorite. A notch below them are top clubs from neighboring associations; Bayern, PSG, and Barca, with a trio of Premier League teams relatively long to regain English football glory.
There are a few interesting sleepers in the mix, but it is fair to ask the question, “can anyone derail Real Madrid” and more germane than “who will win the Champions League.” Let’s take a look at the top contenders, as well as a few value plays and a few long shot/hedge/punt possibilities.
THE FAVORITES: Real Madrid +400
Their odds might be slightly inflated due to landing in a brutal pool. But unless you truly think that both Tottenham and Dortmund are knocking off Cristiano and Company, then there’s no reason to be afraid of them making a stunning early exit. And assuming they survive the toughest pool, there’s no one to realistically rank ahead of Real Madrid. One would imagine Tottenham fans will be pining for the good ole days of Garreth Bale roaming the pitch for Spurs after seeing him up and close and personal for Real Madrid. Dortmund drew the same pool as the Spanish champs last season also, acquitting themselves well in a pair of 2-2 draws.
Real Madrid shows absolutely no signs of slowing and a third straight, and fourth in five years, UEFA Champions League crown is well within their sights. I actually like the value at +400 until someone shows sign of being similar in quality.
TOP CHALLENGERS: Bayern München, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona
Bayern München +700 – Perhaps because of the difficulty of Madrid’s draw, or perhaps just on the strength of Bayern alone, a lot of people like the German side’s chances of regaining Champions League glory. Five Thirty Eight.com actually has them as the statistically at 18% chance to win the championship. They will have their hands full in their own pool with PSG, who combine with Bayern to make the strongest 1-2 combo in any of the eight groups.
Bayern may not be young, led by Captain Arjen Robben at 33 years of age, but they are loaded with both talent and experience and will be looking to improve upon a disappointing 2016-2017 Champion League campaign. They’ve won the Bundesliga a record five straight times. Champions League glory is the primary focus this year.
James Rodriguez was the splashy addition. He will combine with Lewandowski and Robben to form an attack that is right on par with any ECL squad. Bayern is dangerous and a decent value at +700
Paris Saint-Germain +700 – The French runners-up got an enormous boost in the transfer window with the signing of Neymar away from Barcelona. He adds an obvious upgrade in firepower and makes PSG an awesome value play at +700. Paris is dead-convinced he is the – and they may well be right.
PSG is in a pool with Bayern, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both playing in the semifinals or beyond. Celtic has a nice following, but neither they or Anderlecht are realistic threats to advance. If you are planning your viewing in advance, set aside some time on September 27th for their first meeting with Bayern.
Barcelona +700 – This is the one top-tier team I’m fading. The loss of Neymar is enormous, and despite the remaining talent of Messi and Suarez, Neymar’s departure was a damaging one. The Catalans are hopeful that the recent addition of Ousamane Dembele can fill the void, but I’ll wait and see. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fantastic football team, but I think they’ll be a pace or two behind PSG and Bayern, and could even have a real challenge in their own group with Juventus a solid contender to win the group, and Olympiakos and Sporting CP quality opponents. , but it won’t be easy. I’m not a fan of just +700.
God Save the Queen! Chelsea, Liverpool and the Manchester squads
Every year there is ample hype around the Premier League squads, and every year, the English treat the competition like it is a World Cup and leave fans disappointed. Will this year be different?? It certainly feels like at least three of their five participants enter demonstrating form that should see them through to the knockout phase of the tournament. Chelsea received an unfavorable draw with both Roma and Atletico sharing Group C. I wouldn’t wager much in the long value on The Blues. Likewise, Tottenham landed in the group of death, facing both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in Group H. The Spurs certainly have striking talent with Alli and Kane, but enough to clip Dortmund? I’m staying away from Tottenham.
But Manchester City and especially Manchester United? Now we’re talking. It might be falling into the typical “over rate English squads” trap, but the addition of Romelu Lukaku and the pairing with Paul Pogba has the Reds off to a perfect 3-0 start in the Premier League without conceding a single goal and tallying ten of their own. They’ve been simply dominant and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning after the Holidays, have plenty of extra depth to withstand the rigors of both the EPL and ECL concurrently. A relatively soft draw was welcome news for Jose Mourinho’s squad as they are the strong favorite to win the pool despite being drawn from Pot 3.
The start for City hasn’t been as prodigious, but the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Premier League has the roster and talent to challenge in the ECL. They have a similarly favorable draw, landing in Group F with Napoli, Shakhtar, and Feyenoord. They should advance to the Round of 16with relative comfort.
Lastly, a third EPL team with strong prospects of advancing is Liverpool. They have been in the transfer news a lot lately as they withstood a . The refusal to sell high indicates Liverpool’s serious intent to both win the EPL and challenge in the Champions League. They have a nice draw, landing in Group E, where Sevilla is the strongest challenger and the undertalented Maribor and the downtrodden Spartak Moskva, who won the Russian league for the first time since 2001 but currently sit eleventh and on the verge of sacking their manager.
It seems a strong possibility that AT LEAST three English squads advance, with Chelsea having a reasonable chance as well. From there, obviously the next draw will loom large, but as much as they will be hoping to dodge Real Madrid and a few others, those same squads will likely feel a flutter with Manchester United lurking in the pot as well…
In the end, it is hard not to back Real Madrid until they display some evidence of vulnerability. The addition of Neymar makes PSG an obvious threat, and Barca’s addition of Dembele should help plug the hole left by the aforementioned Neymar’s departure. But it is still the holders, Real Madrid’s, contest to lose.
From a value standpoint, there is some fun value in the new-look Manchester United squad. They have a nice draw and a ton of positive momentum. Perhaps they can finally be the English squad to regain their international footing. For a punt play, I like their countrymates, Liverpool