Checking out the top sportsbook sites (see our online sportsbook reviews here) we can see that the sportsbooks have adjusted their odds significantly in response to the first round of UCL games. Manchester City are a shorter price after their opening win, as are PSG, now rated as +450. Barcelona and Napoli are the other significant moves and are now at +1100 and +4000 respectively, while the biggest move the other way was from Liverpool, who are now +800.
The scheduling effects of the World Cup are a big element in the planning of teams approaching the UCL Group Stage. The Group Stage timescale has been shortened as the World Cup will take out a huge chunk of the schedule from mid-November through the end of December.
Of course, teams will still play six games, but they will be spread out over a shorter period. The Group Stage will now end on November 2 rather than early December.
In-form teams will therefore be favored more than usual by the competition’s initial phase’s shortening, while teams like Liverpool, who have had a rocky start to the campaign, may find that they quickly drop out of contention. Teams with smaller squads, who will be playing two games a week throughout the fall, may also feel the pressure of the shortened schedule.
The 4-0 victory in Sevilla was a statement of intent by Manchester City and a warning for their European rivals. The acquisition of Erling Haaland seems to have elevated Pep Guardiola’s already strong team to a new level, as they aim to finally lift the one trophy that has eluded them.
In his last eight games across all competitions for the defending Premier League champions, Haaland has scored 12 goals, and if he keeps up this pace, it will be difficult for anyone to defeat City. However, we recommended City at +285 before the tournament began so their new odds are less appealing.
Paris St-Germain, one of the other top contenders, also got off to a winning start, defeating Juventus at home. However, problems continue off the pitch, and there have been media suggestions that the French club is considering moving Neymar to settle a dispute between Kylian Mbappe and the Brazilian. That seems unlikely at this stage, given the vast fee that Neymar would command, but the persistent stories of dressing room discontent make PSG a hazardous bet at low odds.
While Jurgen Klopp’s squad may turn things around eventually, Liverpool’s decline may have some way to run before then, and their 4-1 loss to Napoli was worrying. By contrast, Bayern Munich earned a creditable 2-0 victory at the San Siro in their opening game against Inter, and they can still represent a good value wager in the futures market.
Barcelona’s 5-1 success in their opening match has caused their price to drop in the UCL winners’ market, but that victory came against Victoria Plzen, the Group’s weakest team, so it doesn’t tell us anything about their tournament chances. A better case can be made for betting on fellow challengers Real Madrid, who beat an in-form Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow. Their odds have shortened, but if you can find +800 or higher, they surely represent excellent value given their status as defending champions.
Last time we looked at this market, I suggested that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel could be vulnerable and after the Blues were beaten by Dinamo Zagreb, the German coach was sacked. Soccer bettors should be cautious not to overreact, however. Anyone who has followed Chelsea since the early 2000s will know that this move is not unusual nor does it indicate a crisis.
Chelsea had a reputation for frequently changing managers under the previous owner, Roman Abramovich, yet they have consistently placed in the top four of the Premier League and won their fair share of prizes. Their long-term strategy is centered on establishing solid and reliable frameworks for recruiting and development, with the manager being the most expendable component.
At most clubs, firing their manager in September would be a sign of trouble, but Chelsea may be an outlier. Although it seems counterintuitive, this is the perfect time to gamble on Chelsea to win the competition, and if you need convincing, remember that Tuchel himself guided the team to Champions League triumph after succeeding Frank Lampard in January of last year.
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