Champions League Knockout Stages
While January inevitably has fans bemoaning the lack of football as several top European leagues take their winter breaks, the dawn of a New Year nevertheless brings us ever closer to the Champions League knockout rounds. There is a really open feel to this year’s competition, and it’s not a stretch to say any one of ten teams could win it.
Of course, if we are going to talk about the favourites with the bookies, Ronaldo’s Juventus and Messi’s Barcelona are right up there. In fact, Bet365 have put Barcelona as the second-favorites at 9/2, with Juventus next at 6/1. Manchester City lead the way with all major bookmakers, coming in at a best price of 19/5 with Sportingbet.
Barcelona and Messi have been handed a fairly decent Last 16 tie against Lyon. While the French are a good side, Ernesto Valverde will have be happy and you can see why Barcelona are given odds of just 1/16 by Bet365 to make it through to the quarters.
Atlético will frustrate Juventus
Ronaldo, meanwhile, must be cursing his luck after Juventus were paired with old foe Atlético Madrid. Not only are Diego Simeone’s men a tough nut to crack, but their playing style will really frustrate Juventus, especially in midfield. Bet365 are calling it at 2/5 for Juventus to qualify for the next round and Atlético at 7/4, but the bookies might have got their sums wrong here.
There is no shortage of brilliant ties in the Last 16, with Bayern Munich vs Liverpool arguably among the pick of the bunch. Both are given odds of 11/1 by BlackType to win the Champions League, although the odds on Liverpool are as low as 8/1 and Munich as high as 14/1 (Bet365).
Borussia Dortmund will take on Tottenham Hotspur in what might be just the hardest to call. Bookies are actually split on who will qualify, with William Hill going 5/6 on Dortmund and Tottenham. Both sides are available at 25/1 to win the Champions League (Bet365) and well worth a shot for value hunting punters.
Spurs and Dortmund perfect dark horses
This guide to Champions League betting promotions and odds has lots of free bet offers, and while Dortmund or Spurs might be worth a shot to nothing at 25/1, it might interest some to look at the 40/1 (Betfair, Bet365) for Manchester United. Yes, they play PSG (7/1) and have had a tumultuous season, but under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer United have been playing with a freedom not seen in a long time. There is no pressure on United and their caretaker manager, so you might just see a run similar to Chelsea under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012.
What about Ronaldo’s ex-club, Real Madrid? They also have had a rotten (by their standards) season, and fans might have a rude awakening if they think Madrid will walk over Ajax. The Dutch giants have scored 60 league goals in just 17 games in the Eredivisie and will have no fear of Los Blancos. 12/1 is cited by Bet365 for Madrid to lift yet another Champions League trophy. While they can never be ruled out, punters should seriously consider looking at the 3/1 for Ajax to knock out the champions next month.
A final word on the top scorer race, obviously dominated by Messi and Ronaldo over the last decade. Messi, with six goals, is favourite at 13/8 (Betfair), despite trailing Robert Lewandowski by two goals. Ronaldo, who has just one strike, is down at 33/1. Although, you would be foolish to dismiss the Portuguese maestro’s chances of making up the ground.