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Champions League Outright Preview And Betting Tips

Champions League Outright Preview And Betting Tips

The business end of the Champions League is almost here as Europe's elite get down to business in the last 16. Defending Champions Liverpool have been living up to their billing as the best club team in the world with a stellar season on the domestic front, however the pressure ramps up for Jurgen Klopp's team with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester City, to mention a few, all looking to be crowned Champions of Europe. Tipsters Form Labs cast their eyes over the favourites left in the competition and guide you to where the outright value might lie with their betting tips.


 



 


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Liverpool


Liverpool are the team to beat this year having reached the past two finals, winning the most recent, while their scintillating domestic form has made the world sit up and take notice.


Last season they were unlucky to miss out on the Premier League as the 97 points they amassed was the most ever by a team to finish second, while this term they’ve ramped it up a notch and will inevitably lift that trophy early.


Thus, Jurgen Klopp will be afforded the opportunity to rest players in the final stretch ahead of big European ties, unless of course he would prefer not to gamble with his team’s current unbeaten status (assuming they remain so) as they attempt to match Arsenal’s 2003/04 invincibles.


Manchester City


Domestic rivals Man City are the shortest price at this stage, as they were last year, and will undoubtedly have this tournament as their main focus with the Premier League unattainable.


The last campaign ended in cruel fashion as VAR denied Raheem Sterling at the death in the second leg against eventual finalists Tottenham, but they certainly have players with the ability to do the job and a manager who has been there and done it before, even if Guardiola’s last triumph came back in 2011.


Moreover, they’ll hope that key centre-back Aymeric Laporte will make a difference to performances having returned from a near four-month lay-off recently.


Barcelona


Barcelona, Bayern and PSG are clustered close together in the market and none of them can be ruled out, though they all have question marks against them in one form or another.


The Catalans have become increasingly reliant upon Lionel Messi and without a stellar defence, they need their attack to be firing on all cylinders as the Argentine can’t do it all alone.


Strike partner Luis Suarez is unlikely to feature again this season, Ousmane Dembele definitely won’t as he seems permanently nailed to the treatment room table, while Antoine Griezmann has struggled to adapt following his acrimonious summer move from Atletico.


Ernesto Valverde failed to win over his doubters and was replaced in January by a rookie at this level in Quique Setien, though the new man in the dugout has already succumbed to defeats on the road at Athletic Bilbao and Valencia. That remains a major concern as Barca have proven vulnerable to opponents that counter at pace, as collapses in second-leg ties away at Roma and Liverpool have demonstrated in the past two campaigns.


Bayern Munich


Philippe Coutinho also struggled to fit in at Barca but could help Bayern go further than last year, though the Bavarian giants are still really a team in transition with some of their stalwarts having either retired or moved on.


The days of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery on the wings are gone and, much like the German national team, attention has turned to younger stars like Serge Gnabry.


The presence of Thiago and Robert Lewandowski will ensure they remain dangerous and competitive, but Manuel Neuer hasn’t been at his absolute best the past couple of years, while key centre-back Niklas Sule won’t return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury until after the Euros.


They also face greater competition on the domestic front as well, denying them the luxury of wrapping up the Bundesliga early, which has often enabled them to keep players fresh for European knockouts in the past.


PSG


PSG marginally trail Barca and Bayern in the market but unlike those two sides, have largely had it their own way on the domestic front this term. They won’t struggle to retain Ligue 1, but their squad may be better suited to the European scene now and they’ll at least hope to end a run of three consecutive Last 16 exits.


Angel Di Maria may have stolen the headlines in the absence of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe in a 3-0 victory hosting Real Madrid in the group stages, but the balance of the team was underpinned by a midfield trio of Idrissa Gueye, Marquinhos and Marco Verratti.


Thomas Tuchel has intimate knowledge of some of Dortmund’s players from his time there, but it remains to be seen how he lines his team up in the knockouts.


Mbappe and Neymar are the undisputed stars, while Mauro Icardi has usurped Cavani in the pecking order, but with the experienced Di Maria also in the mix Tuchel may struggle to massage egos if he opts for that same midfield trio in the big games.


Real Madrid


Juventus and Real Madrid are certainly worth paying attention to at 11/1 and 16/1 respectively. The latter have done much better in La Liga this term and currently lead the division.


Following a difficult season as they struggled to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, Los Blancos appear more settled now even if it’s unclear who features in Zinedine Zidane’s first choice XI.


The ageing Luka Modric is given strong competition from the impressive Federico Valverde, while Casemiro, Tony Kroos and Isco all offer quality in the centre of the park.


Although the Gareth Bale saga rumbles on, Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard and Rodrygo ensure they’re not short on firepower either.


Even the defence is looking stronger, with Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal enjoying injury-free campaigns, veteran Sergio Ramos in the middle and Ferland Mendy emerging as clear first choice at left-back. He may not be as exciting going forwards as the ousted Marcelo, but Madrid will be more secure against high-quality opponents down that flank.


Juventus


Maurizio Sarri didn’t take a conventional route into management. The former banker got Napoli playing attractive football before a mixed season at Chelsea where the fans never truly took to him, though he did nonetheless assuage fears of his ability to land trophies with success in the Europa League.


His Juventus team have faced stiff competition from Inter and Lazio domestically this term and face tremendous pressure in this tournament after the expensive outlay on Ronaldo.


The Portuguese superstar has a phenomenal record in this competition and saved Juventus with a hat-trick in the Last 16 against Atletico a year ago, but while he scored in both legs against Ajax in the next round, he was unable to carry them any further.


Juve are the strongest favourites to qualify from their Last 16 tie following a favourable draw with Lyon, but time is ticking for the 35-year-old to help Juve go the distance after the club made final appearances in 2015 and 2017.


The bookmakers dont appear to give much of a chance to the other contenders. Its easy to see why the likes of Valencia, RB Leipzig, Atalanta and Lyon should struggle to forge a path through multiple rounds, but there are others worthy of taking a closer look at.


Tottenham


Tottenham’s journey to the final last year saw a few close shaves, nearly flunking out in the group stages, while surviving quarter and semi-final ties with Man City and Ajax respectively following late drama in both.


They’ll hope that Jose Mourinho’s past success in Europe will make them competitive, especially as they may have to rely upon steely defensive performances in the absence of Harry Kane, who isn’t due back in action until April.


However, with no sign of regular clean sheets on the horizon a repeat run to the final seems far-fetched, though Mourinho should at least guide them to a solid quarter-final appearance with RB Leipzig their Last 16 opponents.


Julian Nagelsmann has done a fine job and continues to build upon his burgeoning reputation, but his team benefited from a kind draw in the group stages where they were pitted against Lyon, Benfica and Zenit.


A young and inexperienced defence should be downed over two legs, especially considering their main port of call will be a heated title race with the likes of Bayern and Dortmund.


Napoli


Napoli are still capable of giving anyone a game on their day, demonstrating this ability across four fixtures against Liverpool since the start of last season, as well as in recent domestic victories over Juve and Lazio.


However, they last reached the knockouts of Europe’s premier club competition back in 2016/17 and were duly dumped out 6-2 on aggregate by Real Madrid.


They’re enduring a horrendous season both on and off the field, languishing in the bottom half of Serie A, which explains their huge price. The squad has been in open revolt with president Aurelio De Laurentiis, while Carlo Ancelotti has been replaced by Gennaro Gattuso at the helm with mixed success.


The signing of Kostas Manolas from Roma in the summer had fans dreaming of a solid pairing alongside the excellent Kalidou Koulibaly, but Napoli have been far from watertight at the back and a Last 16 clash against Barcelona makes them easy to reject.


Chelsea


Chelsea’s success this season will be measured by a top-four finish and not by European efforts, and it’s hard to see them going the distance with so many inexperienced first team players.


Frank Lampard is also a rookie at this level in management, while his team were a tad fortunate to have qualified for the knockouts. 4-4 and 2-2 draws with Ajax and Valencia respectively demonstrated their shortcomings at the back, meaning a clash with this season’s current top-scorers Bayern isn’t the ideal tie for them.


By contrast, the Blues have conceded more than any other team to make the knockouts, so reaching a first quarter-final in this competition since 2013/14 would possibly be regarded as an overachievement.


Borussia Dortmund


Dortmund are interesting given only four other teams are at bigger prices, though while Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland are wrecking all in their wake, there’s good reason to think that defensive deficiencies will ultimately cost them.


This was brutally demonstrated in 3-2 and 4-3 defeats to Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen in their last two on the road, and while capable of causing an upset or two, they’re well worth leaving alone to go the distance.


Atletico Madrid


At first glance, Atletico appear attractive at the prices, though they have been handed the daunting task of tackling Liverpool in the Last 16.


They’re off the pace in La Liga and while their obdurate defence remains largely impregnable, Jurgen Klopp’s team will seriously examine its sturdiness.


Atleti’s output is the lowest of the top eight teams domestically and they only managed eight goals during the group stages, so it’s hard to see how they’re going to penetrate the Reds.


Alvaro Morata is a doubt for the first leg and Joao Felix has struggled badly to live up to his enormous price tag, while full-back Kieran Trippier (who is second for assists at the club this term) has recently been ruled out of the first leg too.


Champions League Betting Tips


None of the sides beyond the top seven in the market appear capable of realistically challenging this year. Of the main contenders, Bayern appear too short for a team in transition, while Barcelona’s ability to self-implode on the road and a lack of support for Messi up front leaves them unattractive. Man City remain outright favourites despite having only once reached the semi-finals (in 2015/16 under Manuel Pellegrini) and we’d prefer Liverpool over them at the bigger price.


Beyond the reigning champions, PSG could finally click if Tuchel is brave enough to eschew playing all his stars at once and elects to deploy the more balanced midfield trio of Gueye, Marquinhos and Verratti.


A Last 16 tie with Dortmund is tricky, but not to the same extent as Man City and Real Madrid’s assignment with one another. Zinedine Zidane’s men will come down sharply in price should they overcome Pep Guardiola’s outfit, and look a good price to qualify from their evenly matched Last 16 tie.


However, Juventus appear the tastiest option in the market beyond Liverpool in the outright with a comfortable Last 16 matchup against a depleted Lyon.


Ronaldo isn’t the Italian’s sole threat going forwards with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala also enjoying fruitful campaigns, even if the trio have rarely been on the pitch all at the same time.


There’s a good depth to this squad and like the Real Madrid side when Ronaldo plied his trade there, a strong bench ensures Maurizio Sarri will have options to switch things up. Liverpool are undoubtedly the team to beat, but Juve are strong dark horses and worth a small punt.


Liverpool Outright At 4/1


0.5pts: Juventus Outright At 11/1


Real Madrid To Qualify v Man City At 2/1


0.5pts: Spurs To Qualify v RB Leipzig At 17/20


 



 


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