Champions League Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Projections & Best Bets, Featuring Real Madrid vs. Manchester City (May 3-4)

Champions League Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Projections & Best Bets, Featuring Real Madrid vs. Manchester City (May 3-4) article feature image

Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images. Pictured: Manchester City players celebrate a goal.

This is it. The second legs of the Champions League semifinal matchups take place this week, which will decide which clubs reach the May 28 final in Paris.

We are starring down the barrel of Manchester City vs. Liverpool: Round 4 after both English clubs gained significant advantages in their respective first-leg affairs, with the Cityzens earning the win in a 4-3 thriller against Real Madrid and the Reds cruising to a 2-0 victory against The Yellow Submarine.

Needless to say, both Spanish clubs need to erase the deficit in the reverse fixtures or else its a second consecutive all-EPL championship match.

The turn. The run. The finish!
Magical from Vini Jr. 🎩

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 26, 2022

If you are reading this article for the first time, 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.

You can use these projections to identify betting value on current lines, plus follow me in The Action Network App to see any bets I make during the week.

Champions League Projections

Villarreal vs. Liverpool

Villarreal Odds+360
Liverpool Odds-145
Over/Under2.5 (-145 / +105)
Day | TimeTuesday | 3 p.m. ET
How To WatchCBS | Paramount+ | fuboTV
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Villarreal’s performance in the first leg was not encouraging at all. It was the same type of showing it displayed against Bayern Munich from a tactical perspective in the second leg of the quarterfinal tie; just more conservative.

Liverpool was the deserving 2-0 winner, as it won the expected-goals battle by a 1.75-0.05 margin, outshot Villarreal via a 20-1 advantage and had 45 touches in the penalty area compared to just three for the losing side.

The biggest problem with The Yellow Submarine's performance — and why I am concerned about it in the second leg — is it succumbed to the Reds' high press. The club tried to slow the game down and build from the back, which is what it successfully did against the Bavarians. The Reds had a 39% pressure success rate, with 45% of their pressures coming in the final third of the pitch.

*(graphic via

That's not what you want to see from Villarreal, which for the season has been solid at playing through pressure. The Yellow Submarine ranks fifth in La Liga in Offensive PPDA and fourth in pressure success rate allowed.

For Villarreal to have any hope in this leg, it has to take the game right to Liverpool. Manager Unai Emery has to set his side up to press at a frenetic pace and not get caught with 10 men behind the ball, thus defending for their lives against Liverpool’s attack.

The Yellow Submarine has nothing to lose and if it sets up and plays a similar style it did against Bayern Munich in the first leg, I think it has a puncher's chance of getting back in this tie.

When it comes to projections, I have Liverpool at -130 odds on the moneyline and the total set at 3.26 goals, so there isn't a ton of value in this match for me. 

Pick: Pass

Real Madrid vs. Man City

Real Madrid Odds+200
Man City Odds+110
Over/Under2.5 (-185 / +130)
Day | TimeWednesday | 3 p.m. ET
How To WatchCBS | Paramount+ | fuboTV
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Despite the 4-3 scoreline, Manchester City completely dominated the first leg at Etihad Stadium. The Final xG stat line was 2.5-1.6 in favor of the host and the Spanish side had a penalty.

Now, the question is if this match will be as chaotic as the first. The easy answer is no because manager Pep Guardiola will slow this match down for Manchester City, with the club trying to control possession and see it through to the final. However, the EPL giant is likely going to be without Kyle Walker, John Stones and Nathan Ake.

That means Oleksandr Zinchenko, who isn't a good defender, is going to have to play left back again. And that's an area Real Madrid can exploit, because João Cancelo will be back at right back after suspension in the first leg.

Another key for Real Madrid is Casemiro will be back in the lineup, which will be vital in help protect center backs David Alaba and Éder Militão, who did not have great performances in the opening contest.

95 seconds in, Manchester City score the fastest goal in a #UCL semi-final. 🔥

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) April 26, 2022

So, Los Blancos' ability to defend in this match concerns me, especially if Manchester City is going to hold 60% possession again even with Casemiro back on the pitch.

Now, what should give you hope if you are Real Madrid is the way Atlético Madrid was able to dominate City away from home in the second leg. In that match, Los Blancos almost doubled the Cityzens in terms of shot-creating actions, touches in the penalty area and box entries.

With Real Madrid being much more lethal, City could get "Benzema’d," but given how dominant the latter side was in the first leg, I don’t see how the host stops them on the defensive part of the pitch.

That said, I'm backing Manchester City to clear 1.5 goals at -125 odds to protect myself against the great Benzema and a Real Madrid comeback.

Pick: Manchester City — Team Total Over 1.5 Goals (-125)

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