Incoming soccer hot take: the FIFA World Cup is not the best football tournament on the planet. That title is reserved for the UEFA Champions League - an annual tourney pitting the cream of the crop of European club football against each other and where the only thing higher than the notes of the storied theme song is the quality of the footy on the pitch.
Lionel Messi isn’t the same magician when he’s wearing Argentina’s colors instead of Barcelona’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s six-pack adds a roll of muscles for Real Madrid in the Champs League. The passing is crisp, the formations are more fluid and player roles are better defined at the club level than on the international stage- where countrymen often scramble to build chemistry on the pitch.
Winning the Champions League is the highest achievement a European club can earn and many big-name managers and players are still seeking their first trophy. The tournament resumes Tuesday with the start of the two-legged knockout stage and Covers is here to give bettors a breakdown of what you need to know about the tournament and the teams involved.
Aggregate Scoring and Strategy Behind it
When we get to the knockout stage, away goals are as cherished as roses in the final episodes of a Bachelor season. Away goals is the first tiebreaker in a two-leg matchup with aggregate scoring. So if the combined score between Juventus and Tottenham is 3-3 after two legs but Spurs scored one away goal compared to the Old Lady’s two – the Italian giants would go through while Harry Kane and Spurs would fail to advance.
The best result for the home side in the first leg – presuming it’s a tight fixture and the two teams are evenly matched – is 1-0. Under this scenario, the winning team from the first leg will go through automatically if it wins, draws or loses by just one goal in the second leg.
Chelsea, for instance, will undoubtedly approach their match against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their Champions League duel with a conservative approach. They might not park the bus, but they will be more concerned about containing Messi and Suarez than they will about creating scoring opportunities.
Thinking about which club will control the match tempo is a good way of figuring out the best wager. Liverpool, for instance, excel playing counter-attacking football but they might not get the opportunity to score on the break if Porto are content to let their opponents dominate possession.
Methods of Wagering
There are several ways to bet Champions League matches. The most popular way is by betting the three outcome manner – meaning bettors can pick either side to win or bet the draw.
The other way is looking at the Asian handicap or spread betting. Essentially, the favored team is laying a half goal – sometimes more. There are only two possible outcomes this way, which increases the chances of winning a wager but also sees a reduction in odds and smaller payouts.
Wagering on the amount of total goals scored in a match is another popular method to bet on the matches. Oddsmakers usually post 2 or 2.5-goal totals in soccer and all four matches in this week have 2.5-goal totals. Those totals can increase in the second leg if a weaker team needs to come back from a two-goal deficit from the first leg. Goals can come in bunches - both ways - when a defensive team has to open things up.
One of the bonuses of a two-legged tie is that it allows bettors to wager on which team will advance rather than just which team will win a particular match in the first leg. Someone might like Manchester United to get past Sevilla over two legs but are skeptical about their chances of winning at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Handicapping the Favorites
There are rarely any surprises in the Champions League; the clubs that spend the most on players in transfers and wages are the ones most likely to win the tournament. Real Madrid have won three of the last four years and Barcelona won three years ago – meaning a La Liga club has won the trophy four straight years and two of those years included an all-Spain final.
English clubs have had a real rotten go in the Champs League this decade, but all five Premier League sides advanced to the Round of 16 and Manchester City are the faves to win the tournament at +333.
Bayern Munich (+500), Paris St-Germain (+500) and Barcelona (+550) are in the next group in the futures market. Of the top five teams Man City and Bayern Munich face the weakest opposition this round. City are running away with the Premier League and they’ll have the luxury of resting their best players in league games to keep them fresh for their Champions League fixtures. Bayern are in the same position thanks to their 18-point lead atop the Bundesliga table.
The potential payouts for the long shots can be tempting, but remember the two-legged format makes it extremely difficult for a club short on class to get past the big boys. Throw a fiver on Basil (+40,000), Shakhtar Donetsk (+12,500) or FC Porto (+12,500) for fun, but don’t expect any of them to advance even to the quarterfinals.