UCL: The Champion's League is back!
The UEFA Champion's League is back! We preview the group stages and highlight a number of special outrights markets available to bettors looking for more granular bets on teams and star players.
The Champion's League is back and we're as excited as any passionate football fan. In our efforts to raise the game, Cloudbet's leading bitcoin sportsbook offers a wide range of special outrights markets - from who will advance from each group and how far any given team will go in the competition, to top goal-scorers and the best performing team from any given country.
As we look at each group in turn, we'll explore some of the markets specials on offer.
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The Champion's League is back!
The 2020-21 Champions League campaign gets underway next week, and if the weird and wonderful results from around Europe so far this season are anything to go by, it will be a superb, unmissable tournament.
Current champions Bayern Munich begin as favourites (find our latest outright winner odds here), with Manchester City not far behind, although both are among many super-clubs who have endured a difficult start domestically. With empty stadiums and a truncated pre-season, football just feels a little weird at the moment - opening up the possibility of some surprise results on the way to the final next May.
Atletico Madrid’s defensive philosophy could be ideal in helping them reach the latter stages of the competition in a wild year, while German clubs may benefit from their less hectic schedule and a longer summer break than most. It’s a huge year for Manchester City, who are desperate to end their wait for the trophy - and may not get another chance under Pep Guardiola.
Bayern and Atletico Madrid are two of the strongest clubs in the competition, so are highly likely to qualify through Group A - although Austrian outfit RB Salzburg could certainly cause an upset. They are undefeated at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga this season despite continually losing their top players, with Erling Haaland their last high-profile player to depart, to Borussia Dortmund.
They will no doubt cause a couple of shocks with their aggressive high-pressing football, even if ultimately they will just be too open to deal with the threat of Bayern and Atletico. Hans Dieter Flick’s Bayern are immaculate, and really far too strong for the rest of the group, while Diego Simeone’s immense experience in the competition should mean Ateltico can hold Salzburg at arm’s length.
Lokomotiv Moscow round up Group A, but unfortunately look set to lose every game. Back Bayern to win the group and Atletico to qualify - but keep an eye on their first game with Salzburg, which will set the tempo for the group.
One of the most interesting groups brings together two of the game’s most historic clubs, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, with the up-and-coming Borussia Monchengladbach. The German outfit are very good on the break, playing explosive football through Breel Embolo and Marcus Thuram - exciting young players who could upset the order here.
Real Madrid are certainly vulnerable, as Manchester City showed last season in this competition, but unfortunately for Monchengladbach their progressive system is unlikely to be quite strong enough to finish above them in the group. Inter, meanwhile, are serious contenders in Serie A under Antonio Conte and appear to be going from strength to strength.
Inter’s conservatism is a strength in this competition, making the Italian side a good bet to top the group. Real Madrid should come second, which means a tough second-round fixture that may be their undoing.
Manchester City have been handed the easiest group of all, which is a huge relief for Guardiola considering how his team has struggled domestically (they’re currently sitting 14th). It has been a long time since FC Porto last made an impact in this tournament, but that is unlikely to reverse this year as the Portuguese side, despite sitting third in the Primiera Liga, is having another far from vintage year.
However, they are still in with a shot of qualification along with Marseille, enjoying a renaissance in French football with Florian Thauvin and Dimitri Payet. In fact, Andres Villas-Boas’ side beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 earlier this season - suggesting they could be the sort of well-organised team to cause an upset should Man City continue to underperform. This isn’t going to be an easy campaign for the Cityzens.
Back Marseille to qualify from the group (as usual, Olympiacos won’t challenge).
There is no doubt which group is the hipster’s choice this year. Group D contains four clubs with rich histories and interesting stories, and after Liverpool’s 7-2 drubbing by Aston Villa there is everything to play for in a group that also includes Ajax, Atalanta and FC Midtjylland, the exciting Danish side making its first appearance in the UCL group stages.
Ajax are certainly a team that can hurt Liverpool, especially with the Dutch outfit back to their best domestically. They can be expected to take the game to Liverpool in their head-to-heads, which could open the door for dark horses Atalanta. The Italians arguably play the best football in Europe, their brilliantly unique tactics causing plenty of shocks in Italy and in the Champions League last year.
Back Atalanta to finish as group runners-up behind Liverpool, but arguably the most interesting bet to make from this group is for Liverpool to be this year’s top English club.
Chelsea and Sevilla are undoubtedly the top two sides in Group E, suggesting that serial Europa League winners Sevilla won’t have the opportunity to enter the second-tier tournament this year. The Spanish side should easily beat Rennes and FC Krasnodar, who are two of the weakest teams in this year’s competition.
Then again, Rennes have got off to an excellent start in Ligue Un and have proved so many doubters wrong over the last 12 months that they cannot be written off too quickly. Their swashbuckling possession style has pushed them to the top of the table at the time of writing, but that style of play could prove to be overly expansive against such quick counter-attackers as Sevilla and Chelsea.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea aren’t particularly good defensively and probably wont go as far as their fans would hope, but it would still be a huge shock if they fail to top this group. Back Chelsea and Sevilla to qualify in that order from Group E.
Again, this group has two very clear favourites, and indeed the prevalence of groups such as these in the modern Champions League reflects the financial gap between the ‘Big 5’ leagues and the rest of Europe. Lazio and Borussia Dortmund should have no problem qualifying through Group F ahead of Club Brugge of Belgium and Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia, neither of which are likely to provide much excitement.
That means there is little value in backing who will win this group. Instead, consider backing Dortmund to go deeper in the competition than Atalanta and Haaland to finish the group as Dortmund’s top goalscorer. He is one of the most prolific forwards in Europe and should be able to bag quite a few against Zenit and Club Brugge.
The big story of Group G is that Budapest-based Ferencvarosi have reached this stage of the competition for the first time in a quarter of a century, although unfortunately for them they have almost no chance of making it any further. The two favourites, Juventus and Barcelona, are, quite frankly, likely to wipe the floor with both Ferencvarosi and Dynamo Kyiv - qualifying for the second round is where both teams could be found out.
Juventus’ decision to hire Andrea Pirlo, a man with no previous managerial experience, could be a mistake - the concern being they prove too naïve to survive through to the latter stages of the competition. Barcelona, meanwhile, are in full crisis mode and continue to make blunders. They have an ageing, lopsided squad, a star player in Lionel Messi who doesn’t want to be there, and a manager who isn’t good enough to bring the good times back.
Real Madrid may go further than Barcelona, while the head-to-head between Juve and Barca should go in the Italians’ favour, although both should ease quite comfortably into the next round.
We could witness a hugely symbolic moment in the managerial career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United returns to Paris and the scene of the Champions League comeback that essentially handed the Norwegian the job full-time. Paris Saint-Germain, last year’s finalists, are a competent team under Thomas Tuchel and will expect to beat this disorganised United side.
Worse still for the English club, RB Leipzig are a very strong team who have Champions League experience and the nous to cause a shock against United. Their manager, Julien Nagelsmann, is one of the most talented in Europe, and therefore from a purely tactical perspective his team should be able to out-manoeuvre and out-think Man Utd.
Back Manchester United to crash out at the group stage. With the number of different markets Cloudbet has on offer, you could even choose another way to express the same result.
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