Champions League Semifinal Preview: Finding Value in the Opening Legs

Champions League Semifinal Preview: Finding Value in the Opening Legs article feature image

Liverpool FC

The Champions League semifinal features teams from four different countries (Spain, Germany, England and Italy) for the first time in eight years. The first legs will take place on Tuesday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 25, followed by the second legs on Tuesday, May 1 and Wednesday, May 2. The Champions League Final will take place on May 26 at 2:45 p.m. ET in Kiev, Ukraine.

Here are the semifinal matchups and current odds to advance to the final:

  • Liverpool (-225) vs. Roma (+180)
  • Real Madrid (-125) vs. Bayern Munich (+105)


Liverpool opened -225 to advance against Roma, and there’s hardly been any movement yet. Real Madrid opened -130 and saw all the early action in their matchup, moving up to -145, before buyback came in on Bayern Munich. Real Madrid are also the current favorites to win the title at +205.

Now, where’s the value for each opening-leg match? I’ve broken down the betting market for both Liverpool-Roma and Real Madrid-Bayern Munich to find the best bets for each.

Roma at Liverpool (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Liverpool -182, Roma +535, Draw +360

Liverpool blew a two-goal lead in their most recent match, a 2-2 draw at West Brom in the Premier League. Meanwhile, Roma earned a 3-0 win at SPAL, a result that left no doubt that the Italian club is ready for Tuesday night.

There hasn’t been much movement on which team will advance (currently Liverpool -225/Roma +180), but the line has fluctuated considerably for the opening leg at Liverpool. On multiple occasions, bettors moved Liverpool up to -190/-195, and every time Roma buyback brought it back down to -175/-180. At the time of publication, Pinnacle was offering -182, but other books have the odds higher in the -190/-200 range.

Nearly 75% of public tickets have come in on Liverpool, but money wagered is more balanced so far. While it was impressive to see Liverpool beat Manchester City twice in the previous round, Roma’s ability to completely stifle Barcelona to overcome 25-1 odds has bettors on alert.

I’m not quite ready to jump on Roma since away matches are different beasts than home games, and Anfield will be rocking on Tuesday night. However, I believe Roma will be able to capitalize on one of their chances and at least grab a vital away goal, even if it’s in a loss. Liverpool winning by a 2-1 scoreline at +700 is my favorite wager here.

Real Madrid at Bayern Munich (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET)
Moneyline odds: Bayern Munich +106, Real Madrid +275, Draw +274

Despite their “struggles” in La Liga, Real Madrid have arguably been the most impressive team in the Champions League this season, led by top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo (15 goals this tournament). They managed to advance past the group stage despite being drawn with Tottenham and Dortmund, easily dispatched PSG in the Round of 16, and then held on against Juventus in the quarterfinal. No other club has faced such stiff competition through this tournament.

Bayern Munich, on the other hand, have had a much easier road to the semifinal. They easily got through the group stage which included Celtic and Anderlecht, then advanced past Besiktas and Sevilla to reach the semifinal. Most of the storylines in the semifinal have focused on Liverpool, Roma and Real Madrid, which may suit Bayern Munich just fine.

As mentioned earlier, Real Madrid opened -130 to advance and moved up to -145 before Bayern buyback hit the market. The current odds to advance are Real Madrid -125/Bayern +105, while some squarer sportsbooks, such as Bovada, are offering lines such as Real Madrid -140/Bayern +110. Although limits are lower there, we get a good indication that public bettors are riding Real Madrid to reach the final.

As for the opening leg in Germany, there’s been heavy public support for Real Madrid as +275 road underdogs. Bettors have no problem taking Real Madrid with those odds, especially since they’re rarely offered at such a price and because of all their attacking firepower. It will be difficult for Bayern to keep Real Madrid from scoring, and it doesn’t help that they’ll be missing key piece Arturo Vidal due to a knee issue. Real Madrid +275 to win and the draw at +270 are certainly tempting wagers.

However, 60% of tickets on Real Madrid have me very wary of the Spanish side winning outright. Add in some sharp, reverse-line movement on Bayern Munich from +116 to +106, and there’s a strong case to be made for the home side. Real Madrid could still get a valuable away goal (or two), but I think it comes in a loss. They’re just too much of a trendy underdog right now, especially going on the road against a team that’s completely under the radar. Take Bayern Munich +106 to win the opening leg.

I’ll have a betting preview coming next Monday for the second legs of the Champions League semifinal, so be on the lookout. You can also follow me on Twitter (@ArsenalDMC) for the latest soccer news and updates.

Cover photo features Liverpool’s Mo Salah