The State of the League
We’re just two rounds into the 2017-18 Champions League group stage and already we’ve seen epic clashes between some of the best teams in Europe. We have a better idea of how the top teams stack up now, so it’s time to revise the forecast and odds. Some of the favorites (in Group C, Group D, and Group H, in particular) are at risk of crashing out before the knockout rounds while others can put it in cruise control until the Round of 16.
Real Madrid (currently 4/1 favorites) opened as the betting chalk and they remain the team to beat. Los Blancos issued a 3-0 crushing to Cypriot side APOEL FC (“Athletikos Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias” in case you were wondering) and went on to dominate Dortmund 3-1. Cristiano Ronaldo netted two goals in both games, somehow exceeding sky-high expectations. The defending Champions League and Spanish champs are currently sixth in La Liga after a bizarre 1-0 loss to Real Betis and disappointing draws against Valencia (2-2) and Levante (1-1), but in the Champions League, they’re looking as good as ever.
The real surprise so far has been PSG (5/1), who crushed Celtic 5-0 in the first fixture and went on to demolish Bayern Munich 3-0 in the second. Much has been said about the on-field spat between strikers Neymar and Edinson Cavani, who argued over who would take set pieces, but the pair have seemingly buried the hatchet and the PSG front-three — Neymar, Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe — now comprise one of the fiercest attacking tridents in world football.
Barcelona (13/2) trounced Juventus 3-0 in their first group game and went on to beat Sporting 1-0 despite a rather lackluster performance. They’ve won their opening six La Liga games, as well, which included bloodbaths against Espanyol (5-0), Eibar (6-1), and Girona (3-0). They haven’t found a decent replacement for Neymar yet, but Paulinho has been better than expected and Neymar’s absence hasn’t affected their ability to get results. They only drop back in the favorites hierarchy because PSG has been so spectacular.
Bayern Munich remains a favorite for the Champions League title. The 3-0 blowout versus PSG lowered their stock, but they are still one of the best, and most consistent, teams in the world. One loss doesn’t change that.
Next up are the English clubs — Manchester City (10/1), Manchester United (12/1), and Chelsea (14/1). Both City and United breezed through their first two games against inferior competition, and both have a pretty comfortable path to the knockout stage. Chelsea is locked in a group with Atletico Madrid and Roma, but it looks like they’ll make it out alive, sitting at 2-0 as well, and with a road win over Atletico already on their resume. Chelsea outplayed the Spaniards for most of the match and won 2-1 on thanks to a last-minute goal. Newcomer Álvaro Morata proved that he is worth every penny Chelsea paid for him. Still, there’s some doubt over whether the English teams can hold their own against the very best of Europe.
2017-18 Champions League Odds
Real Madrid: 4/1
Bayern Munich: 8/1
Man City: 10/1
Man United: 12/1
Atletico Madrid: 25/1
Paris Saint-Germain are the hot team right now and their jump up the favorites leaderboard is deserved after what they did to Bayern. But Barcelona are better value right now. The new-look roster is still building chemistry and has the potential to be even better than it has been so far, which has still be very good. Their defense is better than it has been in recent years and Lio Messi and Luis Suarez are still one of the most potent duos you could possibly pair-up on a field. Given Real’s struggles domestically, I’d be putting a futures bet on the Catalans at this point (and I’d be doing it at one of SBD’s top-rated sportsbooks).