The fireworks are starting early this season in the Champions League.
The Round of 16 draw was recently announced and the match-ups are anything but fair. Tottenham overcame Real Madrid to finish at the top of their group, only to be paired against Juventus, last year’s runner-up. Paris Saint-Germain stunned Bayern Munich to win Group B, only to be matched with defending champs Real Madrid. Barcelona finished topped their group without a single loss and will now have to face Chelsea. Meanwhile, Bayern fumbled their way through the group stage and were rewarded with a shot against middling Turkish side Beşiktaş.
The Round of 16 contains three match-ups worthy of being the 2017-18 final. Naturally, this has taken the odds for a spin. Here’s where our favorites now stand according to Bet365 and the best value heading into the knockout stage.
Manchester City: 3/1
Manchester City lept to pole position after drawing Basel for the Round of 16. Barring a complete implosion, it should be an easy stroll to the quarterfinals for City. They have been remarkably consistent this season, both domestically and in Europe, and have yet to face a team that can really challenge them. With an 11-point lead over the field, the 2017-18 Premier League title is already theirs. Pep Guardiola can now afford to focus his efforts on the Champions League.
PSG were the frontrunners prior to the Round of 16 draw, and if they manage to knock out Real Madrid, they’ll likely leapfrog Man City to once again become the cup favorites. For now, Man City are best positioned for Champions League glory.
Betting advice: We already know that Man City are the best English side by a wide margin, but how they’ll fare against the very best of Europe is still up for debate. On paper, the current Man City squad rivals the other European super-clubs, so there’s good reason to be hopeful. But 3/1 is too short a price, given that two of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Chelsea are guaranteed to still be kicking in the quarterfinals.
Bayern Munich: 9/2
Bayern Munich are always among the favorites to win the Champions League, but so far this season they’ve had to take a backseat to the likes of PSG, Barcelona, and Real Madrid. That all changed with the Round of 16 draw. Finishing below Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the German champs. While PSG drew Real Madrid for the Round of 16, Bayern were blessed with arguably the easiest opponent of all in Beşiktaş.
Betting advice: As expected, they’re dominating the Bundesliga this season and remain one of the strongest clubs in Europe. However, their favorable odds have little to do with their current form. While most of the other frontrunners will have to fight tooth and nail to reach the quarterfinals, Bayern simply has to fend off Beşiktaş. Once the quarterfinalists are determined, we’ll likely see Bayern drop back below the other frontrunners. As with City, these odds are too short considering the strength of the competition that awaits.
Paris Saint-Germain: 5/1
Paris Saint-Germain ended the group stage as the outright favorites to win the Champions League, but their odds took a tumble after they drew Real Madrid for the Round of 16. It’s an extremely unfortunate outcome for PSG, who outplayed Bayern Munich to win their group.
Winning Ligue 1 is more of an expectation than an accomplishment for the French giants. The Qatari-backed club didn’t spend almost €240 million to just win domestic titles. With so much talent among their ranks, they were expected to advance well beyond the Round of 16 this season. That could all come crashing down when they face the 12-time European champions.
Betting advice: If PSG advance to the quarterfinals, they will once again be the cup favorites. For now, their odds are a little long. If you’re confident that PSG can advance past Real Madrid, then take advantage of their 5/1 odds right away. However, if you still have faith in the ailing European champs (more on that later), then perhaps wait another round before making your pick. As for me, I see better value elsewhere at this point.
Barcelona are currently leading the Spanish top flight by five points and won a tough Champions League group. They have yet to lose a single La Liga or Champions League fixture. Why are their odds so long compared to Man City, Bayern, and PSG? Because they face Chelsea in the Round of 16. It’s not an easy draw, by any means, but their odds of advancing are pretty good. Chelsea are currently experiencing a dip in form and their lack of depth will continue to haunt them as the season progresses.
Betting advice: Barca should have Ousmane Dembélé back in the starting lineup by the end of the year, which should add some firepower to their attack. Once Luis Suarez is back to his usual self, the new Barca trident will be firing on all cylinders. There is a ton of hype surrounding clubs like PSG and Manchester City this season, but neither of them have a proven track record at the Champions League. Barcelona does.
Barca is being undervalued here. At 15/2, the Catalans are definitely the value pick.
Real Madrid: 8/1
Things just seem to be getting worse for Real Madrid. They’re currently in a dismal fourth-place in La Liga, they finished below Tottenham in their Champions League group, and they will now face erstwhile favorites PSG in the Round of 16.
They have one of the deepest rosters (and largest bank accounts) in the world, so of course we can’t rule them out just yet. But until Los Blancos start showing clear signs of improvement, I won’t be betting on them. If you’re inclined to pick Real Madrid to win the Champions League for the third consecutive year, at least wait until the January transfer window closes before for making a decision.
Manchester United: 14/1
Shakhtar Donetsk: 100/1