Champions League Quarterfinals: Will Any Underdogs Provide an Upset?

Champions League Quarterfinals: Will Any Underdogs Provide an Upset? article feature image
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Photo Credit: Agence France-Presse

We’re entering the best part of the soccer season as the Champions League quarterfinals are set to start on Tuesday (2:45 pm ET) with matches between Juventus/Real Madrid and Bayern Munich/Sevilla. Then on Wednesday, Barcelona clashes with Roma, while we get an all-EPL meeting between Manchester City and Liverpool. The opening legs of these quarterfinal matches will be crucial in terms of advancing to the semifinals (played April 24/25 and May 1/2).

 

Here’s a look at the odds via 5Dimes to advance to the semifinals. Keep in mind that each matchup features a home-and-home series, with away goals as the tiebreaker.

OPENING ODDS TO ADVANCE
Real Madrid -195 | Juventus +168
Bayern -630 | Sevilla +465
Barcelona -650 | Roma +475
Man City -235 | Liverpool +195

CURRENT ODDS TO ADVANCE
Real Madrid -220 | Juventus +180
Bayern -820 | Sevilla +560
Barcelona -800 | Roma +550
Man City -245 | Liverpool +205

Since opening a few weeks ago, there’s been considerable movement on favorites Bayern Munich (-630 to -820), Barcelona (-650 to -800) and Real Madrid (-195 to -220). There’s also been a small adjustment on Manchester City, who are now -245 to advance after opening -235. While it’s true that public bettors tend to flock toward the favorites, there’s clearly been some agreement among sharper bettors in each matchup. Now on to the opening legs …

1ST LEG MATCHES

Real Madrid at Juventus (Tuesday, April 3 at 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Juventus +202, Real Madrid +157, Draw +234

Arguably the best matchup of the quarterfinals, this is actually a rematch from last season’s Champions League Final where Real Madrid defeated Juventus, 4-1. This season both clubs had incredibly tough matchups in the Round of 16 but managed to advance — Real Madrid faced PSG, who had been title favorites, and moved on, 5-2, on aggregate. Juventus had to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the second leg at Tottenham to win 2-1, advancing, 4-3, on aggregate.

Before that second leg matchup at Tottenham, Juventus were available at +3000 to win the Champions League, a value I felt was too good to pass up. Obviously they run into another tough matchup, but they’re now listed at just +1200.

Health-wise, Juventus are in good shape as only Alex Sandro appears to be fit enough to start, but they’ll definitely be without both Medhi Benatia and Miralem Pjanic due to yellow card accumulation. Real Madrid are in great shape, too, as only defender Nacho is unlikely for the match.

In terms of form, the Italian giants are coming into the match with plenty of momentum, four points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A. Real Madrid are still a long distance away from Barcelona in La Liga, so the Champions League should be their primary focus right now.

More critically, let’s look at the betting market for this matchup. We’ve seen heavy one-way action on Real Madrid since opening — they’re now +157 after opening +183. Getting a win on the road will be a tall task for the Spanish side, but pubic bettors have flocked toward them with 78% of tickets around the market. This is an incredibly high percentage, especially since Madrid are being offered at plus-money. It’s also significantly lopsided because this will be a highly bet game in terms of the number of tickets, so there will be tons of action worldwide. Bookmakers generally don’t move lines based on public wagers, but the high volume could be factoring in here.

I won’t be backing Real Madrid to get a win on the road, and instead will be fading the public by taking Juventus to win/draw at -200 odds. Real Madrid don’t need to go for a victory since they’ll play the return leg at home next week, and they may be willing to settle for a draw.

Bayern Munich at Sevilla (Tuesday, April 3 at 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Sevilla +465, Bayern Munich -157, Draw +330

The opening leg in Sevilla could prove to be tough for Bayern Munich, especially after seeing Barcelona struggle to a 2-2 draw there on Saturday night in La Liga. It look some magic from Leo Messi off the bench for Barca to salvage anything, so Bayern should be well-prepared tomorrow evening.

Unfortunately Bayern could be missing some key contributors including Manuel Neuer, Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman. Sevilla will also be a bit shorthanded as playmaker Ever Banega is suspended for the game.

Public bettors have been loading up on Bayern Munich to the tune of 76% of moneyline tickets. Oddsmakers have taken notice and bumped Bayern’s line from -126 to -157, a win probability increase of 5.45%. If you still like Bayern to be victorious, the value’s likely all gone at this point, so you’re better off hoping the line comes back down before kickoff.

The high total of 3 goals also helps the road club in what should be an open game. It’s difficult to envision Sevilla keeping a clean sheet at home, which is why I’m reluctant to back the hosts. The two betting options I like for this match are exact scorelines: Bayern Munich 2-1 win (+750), and Bayern Munich 3-1 win (+1200).

Roma at Barcelona (Wednesday, April 4 at 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Barcelona -415, Roma +1300, Draw +575

Heading into the quarterfinal matchups, I’m still feeling pretty good about holding a futures ticket of +650 on Barcelona from September. They play the first leg at home and could put Roma away before even traveling to Italy next week. Barca had a difficult away match on Saturday night but came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in Sevilla, which should provide them plenty of momentum for Wednesday. It also helps that Messi had to play only 30 minutes in that match, so he’ll be well-rested.

To make matters worse for Roma, midfielder Radja Nainggolan is now a doubt after picking up a hamstring injury over the weekend. It’s unlikely that they’ll want to risk further injury in a game where they’re already massive underdogs.

From a betting perspective, we’re actually not seeing lopsided ticket action on Barcelona, but that’s mostly due to the high line. They opened at -360 and have increased to -415, signaling sharp/smart money on the road side. Public bettors have decided to take the big payout options on Roma (+1300) and the draw (+575), but those are bad bets in my opinion. Instead, you’re better off including Barcelona (-415) in a parlay of your choice.

Manchester City at Liverpool (Wednesday, April 4 at 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Liverpool +197, Man City +142, Draw +270

An all-EPL matchup means we’ll see only one Premier League team qualify for the semifinals. Last season, Leicester City were the lone EPL team in the quarterfinals and they graciously bowed out vs. Atletico Madrid.

Both matches between the clubs this year have been crazy — Man City crushed Liverpool, 5-0, in the first encounter in September, but then Liverpool handed the Citizens their only Premier League loss of the season (4-3 at Anfield on January 14th). The familiarity of these two clubs makes things very interesting– Man City clearly have the better overall squad than Liverpool, but they’d rather be facing a non-Premier League opponent like Roma or Sevilla.

The market appears to agree with that, but public bettors do not. Man City (62% of bets) have moved from +132 to +142, Liverpool (26% of bets) have dropped from +214 to +197, and the draw (12% of bets) has increased from +260 to +270. If you were strictly fading the public and following early sharp action, Liverpool +197 is the bet. Add in the fact that the total is set high at 3 goals, and we could see a 2-1 home upset.

You can also find me on Twitter (@ArsenalDMC) for the latest soccer news and updates.


Cover image is of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Casemiro, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos.