The UEFA Champions League Group Stage didn’t disappoint and now we’re down to the best 16 teams in Europe.
Ajax, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool each won all six games, but neither team is the bet online favorite to win the title. Chelsea’s hope of back-to-back titles remains intact, but the Blues aren’t the favorites, either. That privilege belongs to Manchester City, last season runners-up, at +275.
That’s right, the UCL is so competitive that Manchester United, Inter Milan and Real Madrid are considered dark horses to win it all.
UEFA Champions League Recap
Who’s in Round of 16?
As expected, Manchester City won Group A with a 4-0-2 record. They lost to PSG and RB Leipzig, both on the road. They’ll face Sporting Lisbon, which finished second in Group C, in the Round of 16. The English side dominates the soccer odds for the first leg with a -270 price.
Since I mentioned PSG, the Parisians will face Real Madrid in the best Round of 16 matchup. That means Lionel Messi and los Blancos will meet again. Not having to face him in La Liga has been a relief for Real Madrid, which owns a 3-2-1 record in its last six meetings with PSG.
Liverpool won the Group of Death with an unbeaten record and now will collide with Inter Milan. Inter couldn’t beat Real Madrid in the Group Stage, but don’t forget that we’re talking about the Serie A champions. The Reds are favorites to advance.
No other team scored more goals than Bayern Munich with 22. Their next challenge is to eliminate RB Salzburg, which qualified thanks to a victory in the last fixture. Bayern is offering a +350 price in the sportsbook to win the title. For me they’re the team to beat.
Chelsea will take on Lille, the Ligue 1 champions. The Blues shouldn’t have too much trouble beating them. Same for Ajax, which will collide with Benfica after winning Group C with 20 goals for and only five against.
UEFA had to redo the draw after making a mistake regarding Atletico Madrid. They didn’t include Manchester United as a potential opponent for los Colchoneros. Well, now Atletico Madrid and Manchester United will collide in the Round of 16.
Finally, Juventus comes in as the favorite to eliminate Villarreal, but the Yellow Submarine won’t be easy prey. They still are the UEFA Europa League champions and deserve some respect.
Barcelona. That’s it. I mean, that could be it but let’s elaborate. We all knew that Bayern Munich was going to win Group E. That left Barcelona as the favorite to finish in second place, but then Benfica appeared.
Yes, Messi left, but Barcelona’s roster is still very talented. So that’s no excuse to have finished in third place with a 2-1-3 record. Los Azulgranas only scored two goals. That’s crazy considering their attacking unit includes Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong and Philippe Coutinho. I didn’t mention Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati because they barely played due to injury.
Not even the signing of Xavi Hernandez as its new head coach made a difference. Barcelona had to beat Bayern Munich in the last fixture to advance and … they lost 3-0, even though Bayern had already won the group.
But enough about Barca, let’s talk about other disappointing teams. AC Milan returned to the UCL after a seven-year absence and finished last in Group B. Erling Haaland couldn’t help Borussia Dortmund to advance. Next season he’ll be playing for another team.
I would also include Atalanta and Sevilla. The Italian side lost the last fixture at home, while Sevilla only won one game.
Golden Boot Race
Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the top scorers, but neither sits at the top. That place belongs to Sebastian Haller. He led Ajax to the Round of 16 by scoring 10 goals, including at least one in each game.
Lewandowski comes in second place with nine goals. The thing is that Bayern Munich is a huge favorite to go all the way, so that’s an advantage for him. That’s why he’s offering a -175 price to win the Golden Boot.
If you were looking for a dark horse to include in your soccer picks, go with Mohamed Salah at +800. Liverpool played in two of the last four finals and Salah has scored seven goals. He also leads the English Premier League scoring chart with 14 goals.