Liverpool look like the best pick to win the Champions League after their impressive quarter-final first leg performance.
Who do Bettors Favor?
All of the Champions League quarter-final first legs have been played and according to the best online sportsbook sites, Manchester City are still the tournament favorites, although their advantage has been greatly reduced. Pep Guardiola’s team are available at +175, while fellow Premier League side Liverpool are close behind on +185. Bayern Munich are third favorites, despite their first-leg loss, and Real Madrid are priced at +650. Benfica are the tournament underdogs at +50000.
Good First Leg
The big winners from the first-leg quarter-final games were undoubtedly Liverpool and Real Madrid, with both teams earning healthy two-goal cushions on the road.
Liverpool had the easier task on paper, against Benfica, but playing the first leg at the Estadio Da Luz was a potential banana skin, and they avoided the risk of an upset with a composed and impressive performance, with Luis Diaz scoring a crucial late goal to give them a 3-1 advantage.
Real Madrid faced a tougher challenge away to the reigning champions Chelsea, but they blew the home side away with a dominant first-half performance with two goals in the first 24 minutes from Karim Benzema, who added a third just after the break, setting up a 3-1 win.
Tournament favorites Manchester City also won their first leg, at home to Atletico Madrid, thanks to a goal from Kevin de Bruyne, but a 1-0 win doesn’t give them much margin for error when they travel to Madrid for the second leg against opponents who seem to be finishing the season strong.
Bad First Leg
Chelsea’s recent struggles continued in the quarter-final first leg and they will face a tough task in overhauling a two-goal deficit away from home against the giants of Real Madrid. The Blues’ Premier League title challenge came off the rails in December and January and they appear vulnerable at the moment, as their recent 4-1 defeat to Brentford indicates.
German champions Bayern Munich also had a poor first leg away against Villarreal. A 1-0 deficit is not a disaster, of course, and the futures markets suggest that they will be able to overturn that gap in the home leg, but it will be a concern for Julian Nagelsmann that his team only managed four shots on target from 60% possession, despite going 1-0 down on 8 minutes.
Betting on the Champions League Favorites
According to the betting markets, the tournament winners’ options appear to be neatly divided into four favorites and four underdogs, but not all of those favorites are worth betting on.
Manchester City continue to be overrated in this market despite their poor history in the Champions League. The existing concerns about their ability to perform to their best under the intense pressure of trying to win this competition for the first time are still relevant, and they face two further problems, in holding only a narrow lead against Atletico and in the fact that they are now under real pressure in the Premier League, giving them less room for squad rotation and rest.
At the current odds, Liverpool look a much better option than their Premier League rivals. The Reds have not faltered despite being way behind in the league at the start of the year, and their first-leg win over Benfica was all the more impressive when you consider that they made six changes from their last Premier League game. Jurgen Klopp’s side are settled, strong, and experienced in coping with the pressure at this stage of the season.
Betting on the Champions League Underdogs
Of the bottom four in the betting, I can’t see Benfica turning around a two-goal deficit at Anfield, while Chelsea are surely a beaten team at this point. That leaves Villarreal and Atletico Madrid as the possible contenders for those looking for an underdog pick to win the tournament.
Villarreal are led by Unai Emery, a man with considerable European experience, as the former head coach of Sevilla, and they are certainly still in with a chance, having a one-goal advantage going into the second leg of their tie in Munich. The problem for Villarreal bettors is their poor away form. They’ve lost their last three on the road in La Liga, which casts doubt on their ability to succeed against Bayern.
Atletico, on the other hand, might be worth a bet. This has been a nightmare season for the defending Spanish champions, but they’ve been improving steadily in the last few weeks, recording six consecutive victories in La Liga, conceding just three goals in the process. The first leg against Manchester City also suggested that they have recovered their familiar defensive solidity and with only a one-goal deficit to overturn at home in the second leg, they look the value pick at this stage.
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