UEFA Champions League best bets for second leg of the semifinals


After half an hour of each semifinal's first leg, my picks looked terrible.

Real Madrid and Chelsea were tied at one, and the game was far more open than most expected. PSG led Manchester City 1-0 and (more surprisingly) was controlling the game, outshooting City 7-1 through 30 minutes.

Then order was restored over the final hour. Neither Real Madrid nor Chelsea scored again, hitting the under of 2.5. And Man City regained its form in the second half to win 2-1.

That leaves both English teams in fine shape heading home for this week's second legs. With the away win, City saw its Soccer Power Index projections to advance rise from 81 percent to 95 percent. Chelsea's road draw bumped its SPI chances from 51 percent to 62 percent.

As always in second legs, remember that bets are usually for 90 minutes plus stoppage time, unless otherwise indicated. Here we go...

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Manchester City vs. PSG (Man City leads 2-1)

After a brutal first half in the first leg, City dominated the second half, increasing possession from 53 percent to 65 percent, while outshooting PSG 7-1. City was still fortunate to come away with the win, considering the goals came on a 33-yard Kevin De Bruyne shot/cross and a Riyad Mahrez free kick that sneaked through the wall. Those two shots were worth a combined 0.08 expected goals, and City's seven second-half shots only totaled 0.33 expected goals.

Despite that, PSG is now in a very different position compared to the second legs of the previous two rounds, when the French club had a three-goal lead (vs. Barcelona) and a one-goal lead with three away goals (vs. Bayern).

PSG must get at least two goals to advance, and City has conceded multiple goals five times in 55 games across all competitions this season. Only twice has City conceded more than two expected goals in a match.

To compound matters, PSG may not have Kylian Mbappe, who leads the team with 37 goals in all competitions this season. The star forward missed PSG's league game this past weekend after injuring his calf in the first leg. Perhaps that explains some of his ineffectiveness last week, when he had zero shots and 29 touches, his fewest in any match he played at least 50 minutes this season. He did create a game-high four chances, all in the first half.

Without Mbappe against Lens on Saturday, PSG scratched out a 2-1 win, despite being outshot 15-14 and conceding more expected goals. Even if Mbappe does play Tuesday, the second half of the first leg is more likely to be replicated, as City's possession and defense will strangle the life out of the game, as they've done all season.

Picks: Man City win (-150), under 3.5 goals (-170)
Chelsea vs. Real Madrid (First leg was 1-1 draw)

Through 30 minutes of the first leg, the match was tied 1-1, and Timo Werner had also missed an unmarked shot from five yards out. The under looked doomed.

Then the game settled down. Real Madrid's defense shut down Chelsea's running lanes, and the two teams combined for 13 shots and 0.54 expected goals over the final 60 minutes.

The second leg should look a lot like that cagey last hour. Since either team would advance with a 1-0 win, expect both to play cautiously. If either does score, that team will park the bus even more. Plus a 1-1 draw would force extra time, so neither side will likely be motivated to press for a winner in regulation (unless Chelsea really wants to avoid giving Real Madrid the extra 30 minutes for an away goal).

I say all that to further support the inevitable under pick, and I'd apologize for constantly recommending the same bet, but it keeps winning.

Again, of the 23 Chelsea games under Thomas Tuchel, 20 have had two or fewer goals. None of Chelsea's five Champions League knockout games this season have had more than two goals, and I expect more of the same here.

Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-160)