The UEFA Champions League resumes play next week as its Knockout Phase begins. Let’s take a quick look at how teams got to this point, some odds and make a couple of picks.
We’ve looked at how both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League work and now it’s time to talk about where both renowned European soccer tournaments stand at this particular juncture in Time—right before the Knockout Stage begins next week (Feb 17. and 18) in both the Champions League and the Europa League (Feb. 19). In the Champions League, there are 16 teams remaining in the Knockout Stage while the Europa League starts its Knockout Stage with 32 teams. So, a total of 48 teams are still playing in these two UEFA tourneys in hopes of winning the prestigious championships and silverware which both went to teams from Spain’s La Liga last year—Real Madrid (Champions League) and Sevilla (Europa League). Only the strong have survived.
Let’s take a quick look at how these 16 teams still playing got to this Knockout Stage of the Champions League, who’s playing who in this home-and-away Round of 16, some future soccer odds, specific Leg 1 match odds and make a pick or three.
How’d They Get Here?
The ‘What is the UEFA Champions League All About?’ piece here at Sportsbook Review provided an in-depth look at this tournament and who gets to play, but a simple breakdown of the almost year-long tournament might go like this: Nobody, save for the 24/7 Soccer Fan, really cares, pays attention or bets that much on the first four rounds, basically up until the more familiar Group Stage begins. In the nearly invisible First Round, 6 champions from Associations 59-54—the lowest-ranked nations—with three advancing to the Second Round (34 teams) where the same thing plays out with higher-ranked nations (Associations) coming in and then again in the Third (20 teams) Qualifying rounds and the Playoff Round (20 teams).
So, 10 teams—5 winners of Playoff Round for Champions and 5 winners of Playoff Round for Non-Champions—join 22 teams already lying in wait: 13 champions from Associations 1-13 (Clubs like Atlético Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus); 6 Runners-Up from Associations 1-6 (Clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool); and, 3 Third-Place teams from the top Associations 1-3 (1-Spain: Real Madrid; 2-England: Chelsea; and Germany: FC Schalke 04).
The Group and Knockout Stages
The Group Stage is when most people become aware the UEFA Champions League is even underway and usually the point when most serious and casual begin seriously betting on the tournament. As described, this stage is comprised of 32 teams with the 8 individual Group (A-H) Winners and the 8 Group Stage Runners-Up all moving on to this current stage, the Knockout Stage, which resumes next Tuesday and Wednesday (Feb. 17/18). Complex, yet simple.
The 16 teams still alive in the UEFA Champions League and their opponents in this Knockout Stage (Round of 16) are: Paris Saint-Germain-Chelsea; Manchester City-Barcelona; Bayer Leverkusen-Atlético Madrid; Juventus-Borussia Dortmund; FC Schalke 04-Real Madrid (defending champions); Shakhtar Donetsk-Bayern Munich; Arsenal-AS Monaco, and FC Basel-FC Porto.
And from this point on (Knockout Stage) in the tournament, teams will be again playing opponents once at Home and once Away, with the winners advancing (16-8-4-2) until all the way until the Final match—this year at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany on Saturday, June 5 (FOX, 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT)—where just one big match will determine the European champion.
Futures Odds For Knockout Stage Clubs (bet365)
Bayern Munich +250
Real Madrid +275
Manchester City +1400
Atlético Madrid +1600
Paris Saint-Germain +2800
Borussia Dortmund +2800
FC Porto +5000
Bayer Leverkusen +8000
AS Monaco +10,000
FC Basel +20,000
FC Schalke +40,000
Shakhtar Donetsk +50,000
Three-Way Game Odds For Knockout Stage Leg 1 Matches (bet365)
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Paris Saint-Germain +160, Chelsea +170, Draw +225
Shakhtar Donetsk +850, Bayern Munich -300, Draw +400
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
FC Basel +220, FC Porto +125, Draw +225
FC Schalke +700, Real Madrid -275, Draw +400
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Juventus +105, Borussia Dortmund +260, Draw +240
Manchester City +225, Barcelona +110, Draw +250
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Arsenal -175, AS Monaco +500, Draw +280
Bayer Leverkusen +170, Atlético Madrid +160, Draw +225
Note: Home teams first
Betting on the Knockout Stage is usually a little bit harder than betting on the Group Stage because there are fewer poor clubs to add as your soccer picks if you tend to bet Favorites and less clubs that tend to pull off the big upset in this round, something more difficult for those who prefer to side with the Underdogs. And quite honestly, the eight matchups in this year’s Champions League lack a bit of luster as only three look to really be that competitive and entertaining: Paris Saint-Germain-Chelsea, Juventus-Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City-Barcelona and there is a distinct possibility that all three of those series may also Stink-Stank-Stunk if the favorites roll to easy wins.
One team which has been pretty profitable to its backers over the last several years has been La Liga’s Atlético Madrid, the often unheralded Spanish champions—who lost to Real Madrid in this tournament’s final last year—a team which will be facing Fußball-Bundesliga’s Bayer Leverkusen in this stage. Even though Leg 1 against Leverkusen is at BayArena in Leverkusen, taking a look at backing Atlético at +160 is a good idea as this team plays, and won the toughest league in European soccer, getting by the likes of Lionel Messi and Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid. And despite losing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa, Los Rojiblancos just reloaded and with coach Diego Simeone are back to make a run at what they missed out on last time here. Atlético may be a good team to try to make some money on in both the Futures and individual match markets from here on out and still possess one of the best lockdown defenses on the continent.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GAME PICKS: FC Porto +137, Bayer Leverkusen-Atlético Madrid Under 2½ -154 (Ladbrokes)
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FUTURES PICK: Atlético Madrid 16/1 (bet365)