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Sep 15, 2018

CL - Futures Best Bets

2018-19 UEFA Champions League Preview

CL Group Best Bets | Champions League Futures

With UEFA’s controversial decision two years ago to give more guarantee spots to clubs from England, Spain, Italy and Germany, the Champions League has never looked so strong. There are 13 former winners among the 32 group stage teams, ranging from the 13-time winners and holders Real Madrid all the way down to one-time winners Red Star Belgrade, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund.

But looking at the top of the market, it is two teams that have never lifted the trophy that look most interesting.

The favourites to win the competition are Manchester City. After blowing away the Premier League last year with a record points tally of 100 (32 wins from 38 games), it is hard to argue with their 9/2 quotes. They are 2/11 to win their section against Shakhtar Donetsk, Hoffenheim and Lyon - only Real Madrid are shorter.

This is a team that regularly goes off 1/8 or shorter to win standard home league games. England has never seen anything like this. They were actually quite unlucky to lose to Liverpool in the quarter-finals last year, being on the receiving end of some poor officiating, and they could well go all the way this time.

But from a betting point of view, it is Paris Saint-Germain who appeal more at 15/2 - the fourth favourites.

It is easy to forget that PSG went off favourites to win last year’s Champions League. They won their group ahead of Bayern Munich before, like City, an unlucky early-ish exit to Real Madrid. They were the superior team in the first leg before Real’s experience shone through.

PSG now, however, are seasoned Champions League pros. And although they may have been ever so slightly overrated last year, the [...]s have overreacted here. Their front three of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé is perhaps the finest in Europe, especially with the fearsome Mbappé now one year older.

The one drawback is their group. They have Napoli, Liverpool and Red Star Belgrade. They are the 10/11 favourites to win it - but with a few notably weaker groups around, that could not make a difference. After all, their reward for finishing top last time was to play Real Madrid.

In knockout competitions, being on the side with the best attack is generally a good tactic. That remains PSG.

Barcelona are second favourites at 6/1. Their group is also tough, with Tottenham, Inter Milan and PSV. They have looked menacing in La Liga so far, scoring 12 goals in their first three games. Their campaign last season was something of a let-down after they were felled by an incredible quarter-final comeback by Roma.

The Catalan giants haven’t failed to reach the quarter finals since the 2006-07 campaign, but their price looks about right.

It might seem surprising to see Real Madrid the fifth favourites at 8/1 given they have won the last three competitions. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious reason for this relatively big price. He was so essential to their dominance with crucial goals at crucial times. This may be more of a transition year for Los Blancos.

Juventus are 13/2 third favourites thanks to the Ronaldo factor, but this is easily passed over. Their defence, though brilliant, is now a year older. They were quite lucky to even make it past the last 16 last year when they beat Tottenham after finishing comfortably second to Barcelona in the group.

Bayern Munich shortened into 10/1 after an easy group draw. They remain regulars in the Champions League quarters and semis, and so this may seem quite a big price. The inexperience of manager Niko Kovac is a worry for some. Whatever his talents, he is simply very inexperienced at this level. However the squad is established enough that it will not need too much tinkering, even if Robert Lewandowski appears to be approaching the end of his glory days. There are two teams priced up at 12/1. First are last year’s runners-up Liverpool. Despite a tough group, they are favoured to make it to the knockout stages where they will be a match for anyone. But there is a sense that last year was their chance. It will be tough to get that extraordinary momentum going again. Last year was also the big chance of another English team - 28/1 Tottenham Hotspur.

Also at 12/1 are Atletico Madrid, who are definitely worth an interest. In a group with Monaco, Dortmund and Club Brugge they should easily be able to overcome last year’s crushingly disappointing group stage exit. The addition of Thomas Lemar will give them more flair going forward, and Diego Simeone has added shrewdly in other positions too. They will be a nightmare for any team to face in a knockout tie, as shown by their run to glory in last year’s Europa League.

Best Bets:

Paris Saint-Germain at 15/2

Atletico Madrid at 12/1

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