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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Champions League Tips: Everything you need to know about the 'mini-tournament' and the best bets

Champions League Tips: Everything you need to know about the 'mini-tournament' and the best bets

It's less than a month until the return of the Champions League but it will look very different to usual. Betfair trader Jason Murphy is here with the lowdown and his best outright bets ahead of Friday's quarter-final draw...

Who is left in the tournament?

Already through to the quarter-finals: Atalanta, Atl├ętico Madrid, Leipzig, Paris Saint-Germain.
Last 16 ties to be concluded (August 7/8)
Barcelona v Napoli (first leg: 1-1)
Bayern Munich v Chelsea (first leg: 3-0)
Juventus v Lyon (first leg: 0-1)
Manchester City v Real Madrid (first leg: 2-1)

There have been some changes to the format - how will it work?

The second legs of the four remaining last 16 games will take place on August 7 and 8, with the venues for these yet to be decided.
We are then effectively looking at an international-style mini-tournament with all games from the quarter-finals onwards taking place in single-leg format in Lisbon, between August 12 and 23.
The move away from the traditional two-legged format could be good news for bettors with more chance of an upset in a one-off tie. But some of the rule changes will benefit the clubs with bigger resources, including the ability to name larger squads and make five substitutions during the match.
The draw for the quarter-finals takes place on Friday (11:00 BST)

Who are the favourites and how have they been playing?

The fact Man City need to complete the job against Real Madrid will partly explain why they are only second favourites in the outright betting, rated as a 4.40 chance on the Exchange.
It won't be plain sailing for City as Real Madrid have been much improved since the return of football and will wrap up the La Liga title shortly, but that first leg lead and two away goals will be surely be too much which is why Pep Guardiola's men are 1.18 to qualify. I'd expect them to assume outright market favouritism once they've completed the job.
Current 4.10 favourites Bayern Munich have been very impressive post-lockdown, completing the domestic league and cup double, but their issue now is the five-week wait for their next competitive game, so I'd be reluctant to back them at the prices. Paris St Germain (7.80) will have had an even longer break given that Ligue 1 decided not to resume, so they're also off my list.
Barcelona (7.80) have a difficult second leg against Napoli so I'd be reluctant to back them at this stage and this is also the case for Juventus even at a seemingly chunky 17.00, as they are behind against Lyon.

What about the outsiders - any value bets to be found?

Atletico Madrid - currently 14.00 on the Exchange - showed at Anfield what they are capable of. Over the two legs, they showed the stereotypical defensive determination of a Diego Simeone team. Defensively, his teams are the modern-day equivalent of 300 Spartans bravely, and cleverly, holding off a much larger adversary.
Going forward they also carry a threat in the potential future Ballon d'Or winner Joao Felix. The highly rated Portuguese forward, alongside a fit Diego Costa, a re-fashioned Marcos Llorente, and two generals in Koke and Saul Niguez, means they are a team capable of beating anyone over one game. They are also a team no one likes to play against.
In La Liga, the market's closing price typically gives Atletico a better rating - around 0.25 of a goal - against Barcelona and Real Madrid than it does against an average side, reflecting how well their style of play is suited to sitting back and soaking up the pressure. If this is reflected in this mini-tournament then taking 14.00 now is good value.
I was quite strong on Napoli at a massive 65.00 after they won the Coppa Italia (overcoming both Inter and Juventus) while also collecting three wins out of four in Serie A. Under Gennaro Gattuso they will be difficult to beat.
But I have more concerns about backing them now after seeing how good last 16 opponents Barcelona were in beating Villarreal 4-1 on Sunday night, the best they have played in a long time. The front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were on top form.

Back 'Joyous' Atalanta to go all the way

The bet I do like at a nice price of 16.50 is backing Serie A's great entertainers, Atalanta. They have scored the most goals (83) in Serie A this season; next best is Lazio, way back on 67. On 'expected points' this season they would be top of the league.
Having taken only one point after four group games - when they were matched at 1000.00 to win the tournament - some might say it is an incredible achievement to have made it this far in the Champions League but they are, however, here on merit.
Despite not been able to play at their home stadium, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, due to renovations, Atalanta showed in the second game against Man City at the San Siro that they can go toe-to-toe with the best of the best in Europe. A similar story to Ajax last year, the Orobici have become a favourite for the neutrals and it is refreshing to see a team that plays such joyous football get to this stage of the competition.
Under Gian Piero Gasperini, they play a very offensive and fluid 3-4-3, with more focus on the offensive rather defensive aspects of the game. The playing field is now level, with no team having any home advantage in Lisbon, this story could turn out to have a fairytale ending and one that I want to be on.

Best bets

My best picks, then, are Atalanta and Atletico Madrid at good prices on the Exchange or, if you prefer, go each-way on the Sportsbook (and get paid out a third of the odds if they reach the final). If either team gets a kind draw on Friday, then the value in your bet will only increase.
If they get a tough draw, then you can still look forward to watching some exciting games come August knowing that on their day, both Atalanta and Atletico Madrid are more than capable of beating anyone left in the competition.