Champions League Betting Tips

Champions League Match Ball on Pitch

vverve, bigstockphoto.com

The UEFA Champions League is the premier club competition in Europe and arguably the most prestigious club competition in the world. Recent English winners include Manchester United in 1999 and 2008, Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea in 2012.

Previously this was known as the European Cup, a knockout competition for the previous season’s league winner from across the continent. The Champions League now sees up to 4 teams from each country take part in a series of qualifying rounds before a league stage and subsequent knockout format.

Each round we’ll take a look and the pick of the fixtures and offer up our betting predictions, with the most recent shown below.

Champions League Matches – 12th & 13th March 2019

Date Time Channel Match Tip
12/03/19 20:00 BT Sport Juventus v Atl Madrid Draw
12/03/19 20:00 BT Sport Man City v Schalke Man City to Win -2
13/03/19 20:00 BT Sport Barcelona v Lyon Barcelona to Win -2
13/03/19 20:00 BT Sport Bayern v Liverpool Bayern Win

Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Ajax and Porto are already through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League, meaning we have already seen a number of surprises. With the second batch of Round of 16 fixtures taking place in midweek, which four teams will join them in the quarter-finals and can any of the underdogs make it through?

On Tuesday night, giants Juventus and Atletico Madrid lock horns while Manchester City welcome Schalke to the Etihad Stadium. Meanwhile, Barcelona entertain Lyon whereas Liverpool travel to Bayern Munich on Wednesday. All of those ties could yet go either way, so we’re certainly in for a fascinating two nights of high class action, with six of the eight sides still likely to feel they could go all the way this term.

Atleti to Go Through

Juventus Football Stadium Exterior

I.conti, flickr

Two late goals at the Wanda Metropolitano have given Atleti a commanding lead in this tie. However, this one is not over yet, as Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve are incredibly strong at the Allianz Stadium. This will no doubt be a fascinating tie in Turin and if the hosts score first expect the atmosphere to go straight to 11.

Since that shock 2-1 defeat to Man Utd in the group stage back in November, the Old Lady have won eight and drawn one of their following nine at home in all competitions. Juve will have been expecting to go far in this season’s Champions League but coming back from two goals down against Diego Simeone’s well-drilled and organised men will be a tall order.

Madrid, who sit second in La Liga at present, have won three of their last four away matches, conceding just once in the process. Los Rojiblancos were excellent in the home leg, with Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin on target in the 2-0 win. Will that be enough to take Simeone’s side through? They are so good defensively when they choose to play that way so it is hard to see them letting this one go.

As we mentioned, Allegri’s Juventus are very hard to play against in Turin. However, a draw will put the Spanish side into the final eight, and we fancy this to end in a stalemate (13/5) in Italy on Tuesday.

Comfortable Win for the Citizens

Pep Guardiola’s Man City welcome Domenico Tedesco’s Schalke to the Etihad on Tuesday night. The Premier League champions have the best home record in England’s top flight, and City should have no problems whatsoever in this one, despite making things hard for themselves in the first leg.

When these two met in Gelsenkirchen last month, Pep’s troops edged a five-goal thriller. In a topsy-turvy game at the Veltins-Arena, two Nabil Bentaleb penalties cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s early opener and gave the hosts the lead. Despite having a man less, late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling were enough to give City a priceless 3-2 win in Germany.

Man City have been in stunning form on their own patch in recent months, winning eight in a row since that shock 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace back in December, which remains their only home league loss of the season. As for Schalke, they have not won a league game since January and are way down in 14th in the Bundesliga table.

After leaving Gelsenkirchen with a win and three precious away goals, City should complete the job on home soil. This could be a stroll in the park for the Premier League giants, so put some money on the hosts to win -2 at 21/20, against a side who might let their heads drop if the hosts score first.

Barca to Ease into Last Eight

Barcelona Camp Nou

By Cappo80, Wikimedia Commons

Barcelona have been far from their best over the last couple of months or so, but Ernesto Valverde’s side are the strong favourites to progress through to the last eight of this season’s Champions League. Can Lyon do anything to stop them at the Camp Nou on Wednesday?

The first leg at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais ended in a 0-0 draw. Barca dominated the ball and had more shots, but Bruno Genesio’s side held firm to pick up a handy draw and stop Blaugrana from netting an away goal.

Lyon caused Man City problems in the group stage, beating the Premier League champions at the Etihad and holding them to a draw in France. Pep Guardiola was fulsome in his praise for the French side and they clearly have what it takes against the top sides. However, Les Gones have been struggling on the road in Ligue 1, losing to Nice and Monaco recently.

Barcelona are still riding high at the top of La Liga, and a place in the last eight of the Champions League awaits. Any type of win will be enough for Valverde’s troops, but we can see them winning this one by a margin in Catalonia. The hosts are available at the tempting price of 6/4 to win -2 on Wednesday and despite Lyon’s ability we think that offers solid value given Barca’s firepower.

Bayern to Nick it

Bayern Munich Allianz Arena

The Bayern Munich v Liverpool tie is delicately poised, as the pair played out a tight and tense 0-0 draw at Anfield in the first leg. With Wednesday’s showdown taking place at fortress Allianz Arena, Niko Kovac’s side are the slight 21/20 favourites to get the win and progress, although the Reds know that a score draw will see them through.

Bayern are closing in on Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, now behind on just goal difference at the time of writing. The German champions have won a staggering 11 of their last 12 league fixtures to close the gap on their rivals at the top of the table.

Ahead of this Sunday’s Premier League clash with Burnley, Jurgen Klopp’s boys have drawn five of their last seven across all competitions. Meanwhile, three of their last four games have ended in goalless draws as their much-vaunted front three have found things far more difficult that normal. As a result of their patchy form, the Reds have lost their place at the top of the Premier League table to Man City.

This is a huge clash at the Allianz Arena, which could go either way. However, Liverpool have given themselves a mountain to climb by drawing their home leg 0-0. Bayern have looked much more like their usual dominant selves since the turn of the year, so we’re backing the home team to pick up a crucial win (21/20) in midweek.

Champions League Betting Strategy

The Champions League is arguably the best football tournament in the world in terms of the standard of football. Many argue that the quality of the last 16 in this continental cup eclipses the World Cup, European Championships, Copa America and all the rest. Whether you agree with that or not, one thing is for sure, the Champions League is packed with brilliant players, exciting football and superb betting opportunities.

It evolved from the European Cup, which was initially designed to pit the champions of the various domestic leagues around Europe against each other to determine the best club side in the continent. That aim remains but the modern competition, for good or ill, is much expanded and now countries can have as many as five entrants.

Whatever you think of the current format, which ultimately is designed to maximise revenue for all parties, especially the biggest and best sides, the Champions League remains a brilliant competition. Read on as we take a closer look at its history, the format and structure of the tournament as well as offer a few betting pointers if you fancy a bet on the Champions League.

Betting on the Tournament

As you would expect of a competition with the best teams and players around and masses of television and online coverage, your options for betting on the Champions League are almost limitless.

If you include the earliest preliminary rounds through to the final, the Champions League offers up betting options 12 months of the year, starting in June and ending with the final in May! As well as being a year-round cup, once the real action gets started, usually in September, your options within each game are astounding too.

The question is, with all these options, what tactics can you use to try and make a profit to make the Champions League even more exciting? Our main football betting strategy feature has some more general info but here are one or two things to look out for that are more specific to the UCL itself.

Preliminary and Qualifying Rounds

Whilst many people don’t really get too excited about the early stages of the competition, arguably this might be the best time to make a profit. Whilst the sun shines in June, July and August, make betting hay, we say.

When the big boys get involved it is hard to get an edge over the bookies as they put the full might of their resources into analysing all the available information. Moreover, for such games, the level of data offered is huge.

In contrast, for the games in the early stages of the Champions League, the determined punter has a much better chance of finding something the bookie hasn’t considered. Be this through a local contact, local news source or simply by outworking the bookies’ oddsmakers, you might just find a value bet or two.

Back Real Madrid…Every Year!

Real Madrid have won the Champions League (including European Cup) an astounding 13 times. That means they have won more than 20% of all editions, winning around once every 4.8 years.

If betting on Lincoln Imps (Gibraltar) v La Fiorita (San Marino) and trying to find out if the players were out drinking before the game, or if the star striker’s wife is in the process of divorcing him, sounds like too much hassle, you could just back Real to win the Champions League outright.

Ahead of the 2018-19 campaign the Spanish giants were priced at 10/1 – not bad for a side that has won one out of every five Champions Leagues! Even the favourites are rarely shorter than 4/1 or 5/1 so it is safe to say Real would have returned a healthy profit over the years!

Comeback Kings?

Fans of in-play betting may be interested to know that one trend noted by UEFA’s own technical report recently is the Champions League comeback. If you love backing a side when they have conceded the first goal and their odds have rocketed, now could be the time to up your bets.

For a long time it was felt that the first goal was so crucial in this competition and past technical reports highlighted the importance of scoring first. In the 2014-15 Champions League, there were just five games where the side scoring first lost.

However, since then there has been a steady increase. The comeback stats jumped to 15 the following season, then 17 and last season the upwards trend continued as there were 20 wins for teams that had gone 1-0 down.

This is a trend that may well be worth paying particular attention to in the knockout phase. In 2017-18 there were 27 knockout games with at least one goal. Of those, eight, 30%, were won by the side that conceded first.

Now, this may simply be an anomaly, although UEFA state that teams may be “mentally better equipped to deal with adverse situations”. Other explanations are that sides are playing more attacking football, resulting in more goals, especially away goals, and thus a greater capacity for comebacks.

Goals

Talking of goals, UEFA also note that in 2017-18 more than 400 goals were scored for the first time in the 125-match format of the Champions League. The season before saw the goals per game average surpass three for the first time and so there are definitely more goals being scored.

Many bookies and punters can be slow to react to changing trends and so this could mean there is value to be found on a range of goals markets. It’s also worth noting that 3% of goals were scored in stoppage time, whilst 38% in total were scored from the 61st minute onwards.

This could mean there is even more value indulging in a spot of in-play betting on a late goal, especially where injuries mean a significant amount of added time is anticipated.

Champions League and European Cup History

The Champions League had its first season in 1992 but the roots of this competition go back much further. The Champions League is simply a rebranding of the European Cup and that was first held back in 1955.

In the years following the end of the Second World War many pan-European initiatives, events and organisations were set up. It was believed that if the individual European countries had closer links, a repeat of such a terrible war could be avoided in the future.

It may seem strange to view the Champions League as a bid to avoid war and even stranger to view the Eurovision Song Contest (founded in 1956) in that context, but such competitions were indeed part of a wider effort to ensure that never again would Europe be ripped apart.

In fact, a continental football championship had been considered before, as early as 1927, but after much discussion and deliberation the first ever European Cup took place only in the 1955-56 season. A total of 16 sides took part, including giants such as Real Madrid and AC Milan. Hibs were the only British side involved, along with lesser European lights such as Sweden’s Djurgården and Reims from France.

The competition evolved over the years but for most of its history it was a straight knockout cup, featuring only the sides who had won their domestic leagues the preceding season. Different clubs and countries enjoyed long periods of dominance, with Real Madrid winning the first five editions. In the 1970s, Dutch clubs won the first four European Cups, before Bayern Munich won three in a row and then English sides took the glory in 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Indeed, the 1970s and 1980s were a brilliant period for English teams. Between 1977 and 1984, Liverpool won four European Cups, Nottingham Forrest won back to back titles under Brian Clough and Aston Villa triumphed in the 1981-82 season.

Cup Becomes a League

In 1992-93 the European Cup was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League (UCL), UEFA working in partnership with T.E.A.M. Marketing AG to create a more lucrative event. More games were televised and the new competition was heavily marketed. The biggest change in terms of the format was that the eight quarter-finalists now entered a league phase.

This created more games between top sides and thus generated more money for the clubs and UEFA. Milan and Marseille topped the first ever “leagues” within the Champions League, Marseille going on to beat the Italians 1-0 in the first ever Champions League final.

The biggest change since then came shortly after the rebranding in 1997-98 when sides who had not won their domestic leagues were admitted. League, yes: champions (only), no more. Some purists were outraged by this but, as ever in modern football, money was the final judge. By admitting more teams into the Champions League there would be more games, not to mention more “big” sides.

No longer did either Barca or Real have to miss out every year, with a similar story in England and the other top European Leagues. There is no doubt that these changes have proved hugely lucrative for all involved. However, for some, it still rankles that a side can be crowned the champions of Europe when they were not even the champions in their own country.

As the competition has continued to grow and evolve, countries can now have as many as five sides in the Champions League. This has meant that non-champions have won on a number of occasions, for example Manchester United in 1999 and Chelsea in 2012.

However, there can be no doubt that the Champions League has been a huge success since its rebranding at the start of the 1990s. Since the move to admit non-league winners, the key structure and format have remained largely the same. More countries and teams have been admitted and there have been some minor tweaks over the years.

Essentially, though, the Champions League continues to thrive on the basis of pitting Europe’s best teams and players against each other on a regular basis. Long may it continue!

Champions League Format

As alluded to above, the exact structure and format of the Champions League has changed many times. In essence, it features the top sides from all of the UEFA national associations. Each nation has a ranking based on various factors with the weakest nations having fewer sides admitted and at earlier stages of the competition.

To give you a better idea of how this structure works, let us consider the 2018-19 UCL. That year saw European minnows such as the champions of Andorra, Gibraltar, San Marino and Kosovo as the only entrants from their leagues. These teams entered the Champions League at the preliminary round.

One of those four teams will progress to the First Qualifying round, where they are joined by 33 champions of the next-lowest ranked 33 UEFA associations. This process continues, with higher and higher ranked leagues joining deeper and deeper into the competition.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to the likes of Gibraltar and San Marino are leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga. Those three, along with (again, as of 2018) Serie A, automatically get all four of their sides straight into the group phase of the competition, with further seedings also ensuring that the strongest sides from the highest-ranked federations will not be drawn against each other.

To put all that into perspective, Kosovo’s Drita, who began their Champions league journey back in June, would need to play 10 games to qualify for the groups.

Champions League Proper

For many viewers and punters, the “Champions League” really means the competition from the group stage onwards. Again, in order to generate more matches and maximise revenue, this part of the tournament, has, in general, been growing since the competition’s inception.

There are now eight groups of four, meaning 32 sides, with each playing home and away and thus six games each at this phase of the UCL. The top two teams from each group qualify for the knockout phase, which older readers will probably call “the last 16”, whilst younger football fans know it as the “Round of 16”.

From this stage onwards the competition begins to look a little like the European Cups of old. These 16 sides are drawn against each other, with group winners facing those that finished second in their groups. These teams play home and away with the aggregate winners progressing to the quarter finals.

The quarter finals and semis are also both played over two legs before the winners of the latter meet in the Champions League final at a venue that is decided on a rotating basis many years in advance. Got it?!

Champions League Trivia

Some may view that as simply the boring history, and those people will be pleased that stuff is over with. Now for 15 facts essentially guaranteed to impress your mates. Or at least to make them think you are a total geek; or maybe both.

  1. Lucrative – winning the 2019 Champions League could earn a club as much as €82m. And that’s not including their share of the television money!
  2. Ronaldo – has won the UCL five times – no player has won more. He is also the first player to score in two finals for different winning sides.
  3. Ronaldo Again – and that’s not to mention his 121 (and counting) Champions League goals or the six seasons he has been the competition’s top scorer.
  4. Real Madrid – their 13 titles is more than won by Bayern Munich and Barca combined!
  5. Juventus – as of 2018, Juventus have made nine finals but lost seven of them.
  6. 100% – Nottingham Forest and Porto are the only sides to have appeared in more than one final and won them all.
  7. Anthem – the iconic and, well, anthemic, Champions League music is unimaginatively called Champions League, though it is an adaptation of the much better-named Zadok the Priest by Handel.
  8. Derby – there have been six UCL finals between clubs from the same country, with Real and Atletico Madrid playing twice in a true derby. Real also played Valencia, with Chelsea and Man United, Juve and Milan, and Bayern v Borussia Dortmund completing the set.
  9. Seeing Red – there have been three red cards in finals of the Champions League, with Jens Lehmann, Didier Drogba and Juan Cuadrado the men to receive their marching orders.
  10. TV – in recent seasons the CL final has been the most-watched annual sporting event on TV with more than 300m viewers, around three times that of the Super Bowl.
  11. Home – Real Madrid are the only side to have won the Champions League/European Cup at their own ground. They beat Fiorentina 2-0 back in 1957.
  12. Goals Galore – the highest scoring Champions League final ever was in 1960 when Real (yes, them again!) beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in 1960
  13. Fans Galore – there were 127,621 people inside Hampden Park, Glasgow (officially at least) for the 1960 final, a record for a Champions League final and one unlikely to be broken any time soon
  14. 8-0 – 8-0 is the biggest win in the history of the modern Champions League, achieved by Liverpool against Besiktas and some team from Madrid against Malmo.
  15. Pah, Only 8? – 11-0 is the biggest win in the overall history of the competition, with Dinamo București beating Crusaders 11–0 in 1973–74.