2021 Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections for Opening Matches, Including Real Madrid

2021 Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections for Opening Matches, Including Real Madrid article feature image
Credit:

Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images. Pictured: Real Madrid star Karim Benzema.

  • The 2021-2022 Champions League rolls on Tuesday and Wednesday with the first matches of group play.
  • BJ Cunningham breaks down his model projections and a few of his favorite bets, including Real Madrid and the over in Dortmund vs. Besiktas.
  • Get all his favorite bets for this week's Champions League slate below.

The Champions League is finally back this week with the first round of group-stage matches. There’s a ton of intrigue heading into this year’s European soccer showcase, with the competition truly up for grabs.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain aren’t only the favorites to take home the trophy, but they’re also in the same group.

Let’s take a look at the teams, projected odds and totals, as well as some of the best bets entering the Tuesday and Wednesday matches.

2021 Champions League Odds

Team Odds
Manchester City +300
PSG +350
Bayern Munich +700
Chelsea +800
Liverpool +900
Manchester United +1400
Real Madrid +1600
Barcelona +2000
Juventus +2000
Atlético Madrid +2500
Borussia Dortmund +3300
Atalanta +4000
Inter Milan +5000
Ajax +6600
Sevilla +6600
AC Milan +8000
RB Leipzig +10000
Benfica +15000
Porto +15000
Lille +15000
Sporting Lisbon +15000
Villarreal +15000
Wolfsburg +15000
Shakhtar Donetsk +15000
Salzburg +15000
Besiktas +25000
Dynamo Kiev +25000
Zenit St. Petersburg +25000
Malmo +75000
Young Boys +75000
Club Brugge +100000
Sheriff Tiraspol +150000

I will be putting out these projections every week there are Champions League matches until the end of the tournament. If you’d like to read more about how I determine my projected lines and totals using an expected goals model, you can read about it here.

For Champions League, my projections factor in UEFA Coefficients for every country represented in the competition. The projections also factor in the talent of each squad based on their total transfer value on TransferMarkt. That way, the projections can account for the strength of the domestic league each club plays in and talent level of each club.


Total Squad Values (via TransferMarkt.com)

You can use these projections to identify early betting value on the opening lines, and follow me in The Action Network App to see any bets I make throughout the week. 

Champions League Projections

Best Bets

Sevilla vs. Salzburg

Sevilla Odds -150
Salzburg Odds +375
Draw +310
Over/Under 2.5 (-162 / +120)
Day | Time Tuesday | 12:45 p.m. ET
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Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here

Sevilla is one of the more underrated teams in Champions League, as they’ve consistently been the fourth-best team in Spain, which is ranked second by UEFA Coefficients. They’ve built off a fantastic 2020-21 campaign by being one of the best La Liga sides through their first three matches, putting up a +4.46 expected-goal differential.

Tactically, Sevilla use a fantastic blend of pressing and defensive structure out of its 4-3-3 formation. Depending on the opponent, they might press high up the field or sit back and take away key passing lanes in the middle.

It has shown in their underlying metrics as well, as Sevilla only allows 0.91 xG per 90 minutes when playing out of that setup. That blending style should work very well against an all-out pressing teams like Salzburg.

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Their opponent dominated the Austrian Bundesliga last season, scoring 2.15 xG per match and allowed only 1.07 xG per contest. So far this season, they’ve cruised through their first seven matches, going 7-0-0 and outscored their opponents by a 19-4 margin.

However, they’re in a bit of a transition with former manager Jesse Marsch now at RB Leipzig. They also sold their best players — Patson Daka and Enock Mwepu — during the last transfer window.

This is going to be a massive step up in competition for Salzburg because by UEFA Coefficients, Austria is only the the ninth-most difficult European league.

I have Sevilla projected at -204 odds, so I think there’s some value on them at home at -143 via Caesars to get all three points.

Pick: Sevilla ML (-143)

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Lille vs. Wolfsburg

Lille Odds +160
Wolfsburg Odds +170
Draw +235
Over/Under 2.5 (-110 / -115)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here

Wolfsburg and Lille were two of Europe’s best defensive club teams last season. The reason Lille won France’s Ligue 1 was because its defense only conceded 0.67 xG per match.

As for Wolfsburg, they only yielded 1.15 xG per outing in the high-scoring Bundesliga. That number wound up being the second best in the German top flight, behind only RB Leipzig.

Last season, Lille’s offense was completely inept as well, as they only created 48.07 xG for the entire season, which was ninth best in France. For a little perspective, Lorient, Nantes, and Strasbourg — who all finished below 15th place — created more expected goals than them.

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They’re also in a period of transition after seeing their manager leave to take over at Nice. Their former starting goalkeeper is now with Italian giant AC Milan, plus Renata Sanchez — one of their best players — is out injured for at least a month.

Offensively, Wolfsburg is also due for some negative regression, as they scored 61 goals last season but only created 51.69 xG. Lille also plays out of a very defensive 4-4-2 formation, which Wolfsburg isn’t used to seeing in the Bundesliga since their matches are usually so wide open, so I think goals are going to be hard to come by here.

I only have 1.83 goals projected in this spot, so I love under 2.5 goals at -115 via PointsBet and would play it up to -130 odds.

Pick: Under 2.5 Goals (-115)

Beşiktaş vs. Dortmund

Beşiktaş Odds +490
Dortmund Odds -185
Draw +330
Over/Under 3.5 (+144 / -178)
Day | Time Wednesday | 12:45 p.m. ET
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Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here

This is going to be a wide-open, high-scoring affair between two fast-paced offensive teams.

Beşiktaş are the champions of Turkey and completely ran the table in the Turkish Super Lig last season. So much so they actually have the second-best xGDiff of anyone in the Champions League behind only Ajax, averaging 2.83 xG per match and allowing 1.12 xG per contest.

That’s right. Their matches averaged 3.95 xG, which the highest average of any UCL club. They also have some guys you might have heard of like Miralem Pjanic, Michy Batshuayi and Canadian international Cyle Larin.

However, I have no idea how they’re going to slow down the Borussia Dortmund attack, led by Erling Haaland. Dortmund is flying high under new manager Marco Rose, creating 10.03 xG through their first four Bundesliga matches. The Black and Yellows are also averaging a whopping 29 shot-creating actions per game, which is the Bundesliga’s highest mark.

However, Dortmund’s defense has a lot of question marks, as it’s relying on Manuel Akanji and Axel Witsel, whose natural position is central midfield, as their center-back pairing, which clearly isn’t working since they’ve allowed nine goals in their first four contests.

I think this one has chaos written all over it, as I have 3.62 goals projected for this affair. So, I love over 3.5 goals at +144 via FanDuel and I would play it down to +110 odds.

Pick: Over 3.5 Goals (+144)

Inter Milan vs. Real Madrid

Inter Milan Odds +140
Real Madrid Odds +185
Draw +250
Over/Under 2.5 (-144 / +118)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here

Inter Milan is in a transition period after selling their best player — Romelu Lukakau — to Chelsea and also having to replace ex-manager Antonio Conte.

Lukaku leaving pretty much kills Inter’s chance of not only repeating as Italian champions in Serie A, but competing for a UCL title because he was everything to the offense, scoring 30 goals and carrying a 0.73 xG per 90-minute scoring rate. They are in the exact same group (minus Borussia Mönchengladbach) they were in last time around and, boy, did they struggle.

Inter finished dead last in the group, going 1-2-3 (W-L-D) with both losses coming to against this same opponent. Real Madrid also handily won the xG over the course of the two matches, finishing with a 3.30-0.94 xG advantage.

Even with Lukaku, Inter was only fifth in Serie A in shot-creating actions behind Atalanta, Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli. It was also third in xG per match, so there’s going to be offensive regression after scoring 89 goals during its championship campaign.

Real Madrid has been solid through their first four La Liga matches, as they’re atop the table with 10 points and a +2.82 xGDiff. Even though the group stage was a little chaotic for Los Blancos, they still ended up on top with a +5.40 xGDiff in six matches. So, I really don’t see how things are going to drastically improve for Inter from their two defeats to Real Madrid a year ago.

I have Real Madrid projected as +125 favorites on the road at the San Siro, so I think there’s some value on the visitors via the Draw No Bet line of +118 at FanDuel and would play anything up to -120 odds.

Pick: Real Madrid — Draw No Bet (+118)

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