UCL: How the group stage is unfolding
With domestic leagues giving their players a break, now seems like a good opportunity to take stock of the Champion's League at the mid-way point of the group stage. Not everything has gone to plan. Four teams remain unbeaten - Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Liverpool and Barcelona.
The Champion's League is half-way through the group stages. 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.
Here we offer an update on the standings in each group. If you're looking to bet on the UCL with bitcoin, opening a Cloudbet account has never been easier - all you need is a credit card, debit card, or Apple pay to get started.
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Football is going along at a relentless pace in 2020-21. The final round of group stage games in the Champions League usually takes place 12 weeks after the opening matches, yet this season only seven weeks separate them - 50 days in which the continent’s elite will determine the level of European football they will play in the new year.
So while it may feel as if the competition has just got going, we're already half way through the group stage - and some teams have already made it clear they'll be part of the Round of 16, which gets underway in mid-February. As much as behind-closed-doors football and a compressed schedule has the potential to enable upsets, there haven’t actually been too many so far.
In our season-opener post, we provided details of some of the special outrights Cloudbet has to offer.
We'll revisit some of those, take a look at how each group is developing, the matches of interest that lie ahead, and whether there are other wagers to consider.
Bayern Munich were the favourites to lift the trophy in Istanbul next May before the competition began, and their record of three wins from three matches ensures that remains the case.
Our view was for the German side to top the group and Atletico Madrid to qualify, and at the halfway point that still looks good. Diego Simeone’s team have only won one of their three matches to date, but two of their remaining fixtures are at home, which should allow them to keep Lokomotiv Moscow and Salzburg at arm’s length.
Those sides are likely to be locked in a battle to finish third, which brings a spot in the Europa League - so their clash in Russia in match week five appears to be the most vital remaining match in Group A.
If you like goals, this is the group to follow. There have been 26 so far, with five of the six matches having paid out on over 2.5 goals, and the same number on both teams to score, making it the most entertaining of the eight groups.
While many of the groups are unfolding as we would have expected, Group B has delivered a few upsets. We had Inter to top this section, yet after two draws and a loss they are rooted to the bottom of the table. Were it not for a last minute Romelu Lukaku goal in match week one, they would be pointless.
Like Atleti, they can benefit from two of their last three matches taking place on home turf though, and second-placed Real Madrid are just two points ahead of Antonio Conte’s side. Their clash at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the next round of games will go a long way to determining who advances from the Group. Whether or not Juventus goes further than Real in the competition may hinge upon that match too.
At this point it’s Borussia Monchengladbach leading the group, having emerged from Pot 4 in the draw. As their next two matches are at home, they should wrap up qualification before they head to Madrid in match week six. Marco Rose’s side could yet prove a decent each-way bet to go far in this competition.
Manchester City have been far from their best in the Premier League this season, but they’ve had no issues in Europe as their nine point haul can attest. Since Luis Diaz gave Porto a surprise lead in City’s opening game, the Citizens have scored nine goals without reply in the Champions League.
Marseille’s hopes to qualify alongside Pep Guardiola’s side looks to be dead in the water after three losses. However, teams have recovered from this position before - Atalanta did so last season and were minutes away from reaching the semi-finals - and they have two home games still to play, but it looks a very tall order.
Porto are favourites to qualify from the group behind City, and their pedigree in this competition should see them safely reach the last 16. Things will look a lot more interesting if they lose at Marseille in match week four though.
The section, dubbed the ‘Group of Throw-ins’ (as coach Thomas Grønnemark has worked with three of the four teams within it), has largely gone to form, with Liverpool unbeaten thus far.
The battle for second place between Ajax and Atalanta looks to be one of the more intriguing tussles remaining in the group stage this season, as they are currently locked on four points and clash in Amsterdam during the final match week. The Italian side are favourites to win the battle - we had them to finish second in the group before the competition began - but Ajax could prove to be the sharper bet at this point.
If Liverpool beat Atalanta at Anfield in their next match (having battered them 5-0 last time out), the gruelling schedule should see Jürgen Klopp rest his stars for the Ajax visit in match week five. With the Dutch at home to FC Midtjylland up next, they look well placed to qualify.
This group could also provide a viable each-way bet in the top goal scorer market too: Diogo Jota. The Liverpool new boy is the joint-top scorer in the competition, and will likely play when the likes of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah are given the night off later in the group.
Group E would appear to be settled in terms of qualification, as Chelsea and Sevilla have seven points each while Rennes and Krasnodar only have a point apiece (secured via their 1-1 draw with each other). There hasn’t been too much excitement along the way either, with just 15 goals scored and only two matches that have seen both teams score.
Our pre-tournament expectation of Chelsea to win the group with the Spanish side second will hinge on their tussle at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium in match week five. The Blues only need a score draw to top the head-to-head records, and should have enough to get that. But that game aside, there isn’t too much of serious interest left to unfold in this group.
But the Belgians still have two away games left to play, against the sides ahead of them in the table, so any European football they will be playing after Christmas is likely to be Europa League.
The tips from our earlier preview look very well placed at this point. Dortmund should go further in the Champions League than Atalanta - as they should top this group and get an easier draw in the last 16 than the Italians will, if they even qualify - while Erling Haaland is joint-top of the competition’s goal scoring chart. The Norwegian is less of a value bet than Jota in the Golden Boot market, but should have a chance if Dortmund have a good tournament.
Barcelona might be having a torrid time of it in La Liga by their own standards, but they’ve matched their three league wins in European competition, to sit atop Group G with nine points. As Juventus have six, with Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros just one each, this group is as near to being done-and-dusted as is possible at this point.
It’s interesting that both Barca and Juve are in the pack of teams behind Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Liverpool in the outright betting, as neither are having good seasons domestically. It’s a long time until the knockout phase begins, so they have three months in which to improve, but as things stand we’d be steering clear of these teams when it comes to picking the Champions League winner.
“Back Manchester United to crash out at the group stage,” was what we, in hindsight, boldly wrote in our preview piece - and clearly our crystal ball proved a little hazy. It’s not impossible at this point – just three points separate all four teams – but wins over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig have put the Red Devils in a very healthy position.
Whatever happens with United, PSG look a value bet to qualify as things stand. They are third in the group, but top of Ligue 1 as usual, so can rest players there if necessary. A 1-0 or two-goal win over RB Leipzig in Paris in their next match secures the head-to-head record against the German side, and they finish with a home game against outsiders Istanbul Basaksehir. It would be foolish to write off Thomas Tuchel’s side too soon.
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