Domestic campaigns across Europe are still in their infancy but the start of the Champions League group stage signals the beginning of a journey towards one of the most sought after trophies in world soccer. With plenty of options in the outright Champions League betting, this article analyses the key statistics that will help find value in the Champions League winner odds.
Champions League winner odds: The favourites
Having qualified for the group stage on 22 occasions (a record shared with Barcelona and Porto), Real Madrid are a regular feature in outright Champions League betting. Los Blancos are by far the shortest price in the Champions League winner odds but with good reason.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have won the Champions League three times in the last four years and became the first team to ever retain the title in the modernised format after beating Juventus 4-1 in last year’s final.
Los Blancos are by far the shortest price in the Champions League winner odds but with good reason.
At 32, Cristiano Ronaldo still seems to be firing on all cylinders (he is the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League) and with Gareth Bale seemingly injury free as well as Isco and Asensio fulfilling their potential, Real Madrid will most certainly be competing for the trophy once again.
Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos have joined the Madrid squad this summer while Morata, Danilo and James Rodriguez have departed. The core is still in tact of a team that managed to score 36 goals in the Champions League last season - 8 more than their expected output - so although 4.70* is short, it will still appeal to some bettors.
- Learn more about measuring expected goals.
PSG will undoubtedly stand out in the outright Champions League betting market after spending €222m on Brazilian forward Neymar and winning the race for Kylian Mbappe’s signature. The French side possess perhaps the most lethal strike force in the competition but they will have to improve defensively if they are to finally win it.
PSG capitulated to a 6-5 aggregate loss against Barcelona last season despite leading 4-0 after the first leg - conceding three goals in the last two minutes meant the French side were on the wrong end of the most dramatic comebacks in Champions League history.
The French side possess perhaps the most lethal strike force in the competition but they will have to improve defensively if they are to finally win it.
Although there has been no real sign of progression in their Champions League performance, the additions of Neymar (four goals and eight assists in the UCL last season) and Mbappe (one goal per game average in the 2016/17 competition) certainly make PSG an appealing option in the outright Champions League betting.
PSG’s Champions League winner odds have never been as short as they currently are (6.80*). They’ve drawn against Bayern Munich, Celtic and Anderlecht in the group stage and will hope to top the group to secure an easier draw in the round of 16. It may have taken years to build a squad they are happy with but this could finally be PSG’s year.
Bayern Munich are perhaps one of the most dominant teams when it comes to domestic leagues in European soccer - they have won the Bundesliga title a record 27 times and have only spent 13 game weeks off the top of the table since the start of the 2012/13 season.
Bayern seem to dominate games in the Champions League just as much as they do in their national league, featuring in the top two for highest average possession and shots per game in each of the last four Champions League competitions. However, it is transforming their dominance in the group stage to the knockout stage that seems to be the problem.
- Champions League group stage: Stats, facts and records.
Since winning the competition four years ago, Bayern have reached three semi-finals and a quarter-final - coming unstuck against Spanish opposition on each occasion (losing to Real Madrid twice, Barcelona and Atletico). Current odds of 7.80* make the German side third favourites in the outright Champions League betting
In addition to investing vast amounts of money into transfers (a net spend of €697.53m on 120 players since 2013/14), another similarity between Manchester City and PSG is their owners’ unrelenting desire to win a Champions League title. The Citizens have got one step closer than their French counterparts having reached the semi-final in 2015/16.
Manchester City have a net spend of €697.53m since 2013/14 - including €175m on three defenders and a goalkeeper this summer.
It is also their defence that appears to be the biggest stumbling block for Manchester City overcoming Europe’s elite - they conceded on average two goals per game in last year’s competition; the highest of any team to make it past the group stages.
Another €175m has been spent on three defenders and a goalkeeper but whether that’s enough to help Pep Guardiola’s side win that elusive first European title remains to be seen. Champions League winner odds of 12.00* will certainly attract some interest, but it might be wise to wait and assess City’s Premier League form first.
Bettors may find it strange seeing Barcelona as low as fourth in the list of outright Champions League betting favourites but recent struggles and the loss of Neymar have had a major impact on their odds - 7.80* is the highest price they’ve been in the last four years.
The Catalan side have reinvested the funds they received for Neymar on Paulinho, Nelson Semedo, Gerard Deulofeu and most notably Ousmane Dembele - the 20-year-old was second only to Neymar in Champions League assists last year (six). Dembele, who cost €103m, was also recorded the second most assists in the Bundesliga (12) in 2016/17.
Neymar had the third-highest direct goal involement in the Champions League last season (12).
However, the failure to secure the signatures of Philippe Coutinho, Paulo Dybala and Kylian Mbappe highlight how Barcelona no longer have the allure they once possessed. The possession-centric, short and sharp passing style still remains but a more high-pressing, pacey and direct approach seems to be the favoured tactic in European soccer.
The main concern for Barcelona is the continued reliance on Lionel Messi - the Argentine forward was directly involved in 52% of Barcelona’s Champions League goals last season (11 goals and two assists). Messi will most likely be part of a successful group stage for Barcelona but how they fair once the level of competition increases is still up for debate.
Having won the Europa League last season, Manchester United return to the Champions League looking to improve on a below par performance in 2015/16 - they finished below Wolfsburg and PSV in their group and were knocked out of the competition.
Jose Mourinho has since been placed in charge and has brought with him a proven track record in European soccer competitions - he has won the joint-second most of any manager in history (2 Champions League titles and 2 Europa League titles). A promising start to the Premier League also bodes well for the Red Devils - they have won every game, averaging 3.33 goals per and are yet to concede.
The additions of Lukaku, Pogba, Matic, Lindelof, Mkhitaryan and Bailly make Manchester United a different team to the one that capitulated two years ago. However, they haven’t progressed further than the quarter-finals since 2010/11 and will have to show they can still compete with Europe’s elite before bettors can follow them with any confidence.
If Manchester United are to make it to the Champions League final, it would take a brave bettor to bet against them. Jose Mourinho has won 12 of the 14 cup finals he has been involved in since 2003 - his side are 12.00* to make it 13 out of 15 this season.
Outright Champions League betting: The outsiders
Of the teams priced 15.00 and above, Liverpool (17.00*), Napoli (23.00*) and RB Leipzig (81.00*) are worth considering. Liverpool have perhaps one of the easiest group draws and a new-look front three of Firmino, Mane and Salah should cause European defences problems with fast counter-attacking breaks - it is a frail back line that will hinder their chances of progressing.
Napoli are yet to transfer a free-flowing attacking style into domestic or European success as of yet but if they can build on their impressive performances last year, they can challenge Manchester City for top spot in Group F and maybe get lucky with the initial knockout phase draw.
Die Bullen have won four promotions in the eight years since they were founded and finished as runners-up in their first season in the Bundesliga. The Champions League is another massive step up but a favourable group stage draw means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see RB Leipzig in the knockout phase and perhaps offer a hedging opportunity later on in the tournament.