How To Bet Champions League Football: Advice and Expert Handicapping
The Champions League is the most prestigious club football event on planet earth. Year after year, the top teams from Europe's best and smallest leagues go toe-to-toe in a group stage/knockout round tournament format. This format is intended to give the minnows of the tournament, teams like Bate Borisov or BSC Young Boys, a chance to cash in on the TV deals and play against the top competition in Europe in front of their home fans.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past three years, you should know that Real Madrid are the current title holders after beating Liverpool in last year's Champions League Final to capture their third consecutive crown and 12th Champions League title in their history.
However, heading into this year's tournament Real Madrid are not the favorites to defend their throne for a few different reasons. The first being that only one team has ever won four straight Champions League crowns, and that was Madrid from 1956-1906 when they won five straight. The second reason being the turnover from last season, including the loss of head coach Zinedine Zidane and arguably the greatest soccer player of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo. And the third reason being that the other top teams in Europe have all improved this offseason and will be gunning for Madrid.
Heading into the group stage draw, the current favorites are Manchester City at +450. Juventus and the aforementioned Ronaldo are right on their heels at +550, and Barcelona check in at +600. Perennial German champions Bayern Munich sit at +700, with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at +750. Liverpool +1200, Manchester United +1400, Atletico Madrid +1600 and Tottenham +2200 round out the Top 10.
All odds courtesy of Bovada.
Prior to the tournament starting, a draw takes place that puts every team that has qualified for the Champions League into different pots based on club rankings. The automatically-qualified teams consist of the top four finishers in the English Premier League, La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany), and Serie A (Italy). The top three teams in Ligue 1 (France) also get in, same with the top two teams in the Russian Premier League, the Turkish League Champion, the Portuguese League Champion, the Czech League Champion, the Belgian League Champion, and the Ukrainian League Champion. The remaining six spots are up for grabs for teams that emerge from the Champions League playoff tournament, which is for teams that finish outside the automatic qualification spots.
Once the final six spots are determined and the list of 32 teams is finalized, each team is placed in a pot based on club rankings. From there, one team is selected at a time and placed in groups A - H until all teams have been drawn. Groups consist of four teams, and those teams will play each other home and away in hopes of finishing first or second and qualifying for the knockout round.
After the group stage is over and all 16 teams have been determined, another draw takes place. The teams are split into two groups, with the group winners going into one pot and the group runner-up in another. From there, teams are selected and then a home-and-away series begins to determine which team qualifies for the next round. That process repeats itself all the way until the semi-finals, where the two winners who emerge victorious face off in a one-game, winner-take-all Final.
It's important to note that during the knockout phase - Round of 16 to semi-finals - the away goal rule applies. Because the knockout phase consists of two games, the home-and-away fixtures are determined by an aggregate score over the two games (the scores of both games added together). If the two teams are tied on aggregate, the away goal rule comes into effect and the team that has scored the most goals away from home is deemed the winner.
For example: If Barcelona is playing Juventus in the semi-finals and the first leg ends 0-0 in Italy, and the second leg ends 1-1 at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Juventus would advance on aggregate based on the away goal rule.
How to Bet the Champions League
To be completely honest with you, betting the Champions League is very different than betting on weekly league play. Sure, the betting options remain the same, but the way in which a team lines up for Champions League action can be entirely different than what your used to seeing on a weekly basis.
As we move through the months and we get into the full swing of weekly league play, certain teams may find themselves in a precarious position. Teams that have a realistic chance at winning their league title and find themselves in a battle, like say Manchester City, might have a hard time justifying sending out a full-strength squad for a Champions League game against a lesser opponent. On the other hand, teams who progress through the Champions League group stage and find themselves in the knockout rounds may be inclined to rest players in their domestic league game so they have a rested and fully fit starting XI. It really is a catch-22, and it's up to the club and board of directors to determine what takes priority. Obviously, winning both the domestic and Champions League titles are the main objective, but that is only a realistic goal for a few of the top European teams.
So, with that said, if you are going to wager on a Champions League game I would recommend taking a look at where both teams sit in the standings for their domestic leagues and what the Champions League situation is. From there you will be able to tell if key players have been rested the game prior, or if the CL has taken a backseat to the domestic title chase.
Motivation is a very important thing in regards to soccer betting, so being able to understand what goals a team has can go a long way in the quest to turn a profit betting on soccer.
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