The return of Champions League this week marks the highly-anticipated knockout stages of the competition. Looking ahead to the San Siro in Milan on May 28, 2016, we weigh in on the early favourites to spot on your football tips.
Barcelona the team to beat
Defending champions Barcelona are sat lotus atop the Champions League mountain ahead of the R16, set to get underway on Tuesday, February 16. The market outlook surprises nobody; it’s an extension of the market that emerged after the Spanish giants defeated Juventus convincingly in last term’s final in Berlin and hoisted the coveted trophy.
Back in September, on the heels of the group stage, Barcelona were priced at +300 at bet365 to win it all, with German giants Bayern Munich (+400) and Real Madrid (+500) following closely behinds. As we enter the R16 of the competition, there is absolutely no change in these early favourites. Well, at least in their order, but the odds have been adjusted in accordance to where we are in the competition, the overall accounts of each side in group play and, even, the respective draw of each of the clubs in the last 16, amongst other things.
Barcelona emerge as the +250 favourites to win it all but Bayern Munich are nipping at their heels as the +275 favourites to win it all. Almost side by side on the Champions League odds board, neither really has a kind draw. The defending champions are set to take on Arsenal while Pep Guardiola and his Bundesliga lads are to face last term’s runners-up Juventus.
You can argue that the case for Barcelona is valid. All too often Arsenal haven fallen short of expectations and Arsene Wenger’s precious baubles have been accused of lacking the mettle for the grandest of stages. Can we really make the same claim this season? Consider the Gunners are playing rather well in Premier League with five clashes against top-of-the-table opponents resulting in four wins and a draw; not to mention they felled Bayern Munich 2-0 en route to come-from-behind, Champions League campaign rescuing run. Still, it’s hard to look beyond Arsenal’s poor record against the Catalans in recent instalments of the competition, doubt they’ll overcome the Barca curse, after all.
Whereas runners-up Juventus appear to be rather short-changed on the Champions League odds board, underrated severely at the expense of the Bundesliga stalwarts of the competition. Granted Bayern Munich do cut a credible pose but the Old Lady deserves a bit more respect, surely. Last term, Juventus were dubbed the +2500 long shots of the competition before the group stage, only to defy the odds as they gaily traipsed to the ultimate round in Berlin.
Finally, ten-time champions Real Madrid remain in third place to win outright, but they are in the running as the distant +500 bet. As far as their draw is concerned, it looks the most favourable of the top triplet to reach the quarterfinals: a date against Roma that limped into the knockout stages with some rather unconvincing play can’t be compared to dates with Arsenal or Juventus. What gives then?
If there’s one thing that perhaps has taken the shine off Real Madrid’s chances it’s that they are led by inexperienced coach Zinedine Zidane, who replaced Rafa Benitez after he was unceremoniously sacked. It’s worth mentioning Roma are in the same boat after sacking Rudi Garcia this season and bringing in Luciano Spalleti.
Table 1: Champions League Futures According to Bet365 Ahead of R16
|Team||Champions League Futures|
|Zenit St. Petersburg||+8000|
Another thing that might have affected the market outlook on Real: Los Galaticos…brace yourselves… are remarkably winless in eight trips to Italy and, even, more gobsmacking, they have been unceremoniously dumped out of the competition in their last eight two-legged ties with Italian antagonists, including Roma albeit ten years ago.