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 – 10th & 11th December 2019

Date Time Channel Match Tip
10/12/19 17:55 BT Sport Salzburg v Liverpool Liverpool to Win -1
10/12/19 20:00 BT Sport Ajax v Valencia Ajax Win
10/12/19 20:00 BT Sport Chelsea v Lille Chelsea to Win -1
10/12/19 20:00 BT Sport Inter Milan v Barcelona Inter Milan Win
11/12/19 17:55 BT Sport Dinamo Zagreb v Man City Man City to Win -2
11/12/19 20:00 BT Sport Atl Madrid v L. Moscow Atl Madrid to Win -1
11/12/19 17:55 BT Sport Bayern v Tottenham Draw

We have a huge week of football in the UEFA Champions League to look forward to, with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur all in European action. With just one round of group fixtures left, can Liverpool and Chelsea join Tottenham and Man City in the Round of 16 of Europe’s elite competition? We think they can but it isn’t just the English quartet in action and elsewhere there are also some fascinating contests, including Inter Milan v Barcelona.

Reds to Get the Job Done in Austria

Red Bull Salzburg Stadion Wals-Siezenheim

By Marco Almbauer, Wikimedia Commons

Despite sitting top of the table with one game left, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool still have a good amount of work to do in Champions League Group E. The Premier League leaders head to the Stadion Wals-Siezenheim to face Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday night and they aren’t yet sure of making the knockout phase.

Salzburg’s hopes of reaching the last 16 are still alive, but only a win will do against Liverpool in midweek. Jesse Marsch’s men have been competitive in Group E, picking up two wins and a draw along the way. However, given Liverpool’s sky high confidence right now and their unerring ability to win even when not at their best, it’s hard to see the hosts having enough.

A point will be enough for Liverpool, but Klopp will want his side to do the job in style in Salzburg. Since losing to Napoli in Naples on matchday one back in September, the Reds have taken 10 points from a possible 12.

Salzburg are no mugs and are a really attacking side that should cause the Reds some big problems. Going forward they will get some joy but ultimately Liverpool’s clinical front three should have too much for them. Klopp’s men beat Salzburg 4-3 in a thriller at Anfield in the reverse match, and the Reds should do the double over the Austrian outfit. Back the visitors to win -1 at 15/8.

Chelsea Too Strong for Lille

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea welcome Christophe Galtier’s Lille to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. With Ajax playing Valencia in the other game, a win will be enough to take the Blues through to the knockout stages and they will be very confident of achieving that.

Group H is extremely tight going into the last round. Ajax lead the way on 10 points, with Valencia and Chelsea both two points adrift. Lille have had a tournament to forget, picking up just one point from a possible 15. Their status as group whipping boys, plus the fact they have nothing to play for, makes a big home win look the only call here.

Chelsea have responded well from their opening round loss to Valencia at the Bridge, winning two and drawing two of their last four. Last time out, the Blues drew 2-2 with Valencia at the Mestalla, a result they knew was likely to be enough ahead of this, arguably the easiest fixture they will face in this year’s Champions league.

Chelsea will more than fancy their chances of picking up the three points needed for qualification, and they are the strong favourites at Stamford Bridge. We think it will be an easy enough night for Lampard’s men, so back the Blues to win -1 at 4/7.

City to Win and Spurs to Draw

Dinamo Zagreb Stadion Maksimir

By Mister No, Wikimedia Commons

Pep Guardiola’s Man City are already safely through to the last 16 of this season’s Champions League despite the occasional wobble. However, having drawn their last two in Group C, the Premier League champions will want to end with a win when they take on Nenad Bjelica’s Dinamo Zagreb at the Stadion Maksimir in Croatia in midweek. City eased to a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium in the reverse fixture in October, and the Manchester club should have no problems in Zagreb. Put some money on City to win -2 at very big odds of 5/1.

Tottenham booked their place in the next round by coming from behind to beat Olympiacos 4-2 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in what was Jose Mourinho’s first Champions League game in charge of the club. Thankfully, the Lilywhites don’t need a result against German giants Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night. Spurs have won their last three in Group B after starting with a point from two games. With both sides through, we may see some rotation from both managers but we still fancy the pair to play out an entertaining draw in Munich. The stalemate is available at 15/4 and that looks rather long to us.

  • Ajax v Valencia - Chelsea’s group is still wide open going into the final day, as the Blues, Ajax and Valencia can all still reach the last 16. Erik ten Hag’s troops are in pole position, though, as a draw would see them qualify. However, we fancy Ajax to get maximum points at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Tuesday night. The home victory is available at 8/13.
  • Inter Milan v Barcelona - In Group F on Tuesday evening, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan and Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona lock horns at the San Siro for a blockbuster game. Barca are through having taken 11 points, but will it be Inter or Borussia Dortmund that joins them in the last 16? Both teams are on seven points, but Dortmund have the easier game on paper. However, Inter have been in excellent form in Serie A, and given their opponents have nothing to play for, we’re backing them to beat Barca (8/13) in this one.
  • Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv - Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have left themselves with work to do in Champions League Group D, but they should see off Lokomotiv Moscow with ease at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday night. Atleti cruised to a 2-0 victory in Moscow back in October, so back the Spanish side to win -1 (4/6) in the reverse match in midweek and book their spot in the knockout stages of the competition yet again.

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.