Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections & Best Bets, Including Barcelona & Chelsea (Nov. 23-24)

Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections & Best Bets, Including Barcelona & Chelsea (Nov. 23-24) article feature image
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Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images. Pictured: AC Milan standout Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Champions League returns to action this week for the fifth round of group-stage matches. With only two group-stage games left for each club, things are starting to heat up and we have a few contests that could decide who goes to the knockout round.

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.

Champions League Projections

Best Bets

Barcelona vs. Benfica

Barcelona Odds -165
Benfica Odds +425
Draw +330
Over/Under 2.5 (-160 / +130)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Barcelona earned a 1-0 win over Espanyol in Xavi Hernández’s first match in charge, but they didn’t look overly impressive.

They’re only goal came on a Memphis Depay penalty kick, but outside of the that Blaugrana only created only 0.69 expected goals on 13 shots, which isn’t good. Even if we go back to the first time these two played each other, Barcelona only created 1.34 xG in the match.

They have been improving offensively in La Liga play, ranking third in NPxG per match. However, they’re going to be without Pedri, Sergiño Dest, and Ansu Fati for this fixture, so they’re likely going to struggle to create chances against a good Benfica defense. 

I don’t really knock Benfica for their two performances against Bayern Munich in their most recent UCL matches, but they’re struggling on offense. The club has only created 5.77 xG in their last five games across all competitions. The Eagles did beat Braga, 6-1, this past weekend in Portuguese Primiera Liga, but they only created 2.34 xG in the victory.

Defensively, if you remove the two matches against Bayern Munich, Benfica is only allowing only 0.64 xG per match. 

So, with Barcelona’s injuries up top and also considering they don’t really have to go for the win considering Bayern will likely be resting guys for the next round after already having wrapped up the group, I think this is going to be a low-scoring meeting.

I only have 2.45 goals projected for this matchup, so I think there’s some value on the alternative total staying under three goals at -120 odds via DraftKings and will make it my top pick.

Pick: Total Under 3 Goals (-120)

Chelsea vs. Juventus

Chelsea Odds -150
Juventus Odds +450
Draw +285
Over/Under 2.5 (+105 / -125)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Even though Chelsea is overperforming and due for a lot of negative regression, I love the club in this spot.

If we want to compare NPxGDs, Chelsea has a +12.94 NPxGD through 12 matches, while Juventus only has a +6.59 NPxGD thus far. So, even though the Blues aren’t a 30 goals for and four goals against squad, they’ve been much better overall than Juventus this season. Then, if we factor in UEFA Coefficients, England is 25 rankings points higher than Italy. 

Putting the seal on it. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/plQbne2lk6

— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 21, 2021

Yes, Juventus did beat Chelsea, 1-0, at home earlier in the competition, but the losing side completely dominated that match. The Blues held 72% possession and completed 723 passes, compared to only 236 for Juventus. Chelsea also had 17 box entries compared to only five for Juventus. Finally, they had 422 touches in the final third and penalty area, compared to just 77 for Juventus. 

Timo Werner is finally healthy and Romelu Lukaku is questionable for Chelsea, but as the team has shown with those two out, they have plenty of depth up top that it really hasn’t mattered too much. Juventus is also dealing with some injuries, as Paulo Dybala, Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Bernardeschi are questionable to make the trip to London. 

I think what you’ll see is Juventus play very defensive, because all they need is a draw, then a likely win over Malmö at home and they’ll finish in first place in the group.

I have Chelsea projected at -215 odds, so I like the host side at -150 odds on DraftKings to get all three points.

Pick: Chelsea ML (-150)

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Man City vs. PSG

Man City Odds -145
PSG Odds +380
Draw +310
Over/Under 2.5 (-170 / +135)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Manchester City completely dominated the last meeting with Paris Saint-Germain, but got nothing to show for it.

The Cityzens won the xG battle by a 1.90-0.80 margin, had 47 touches in the penalty area compared to 18 for the Parisians and held a 31-9 in box entries. If we combine that game in Paris with the two semifinal matches last season, Manchester CIty has out-created PSG, 3.93-2.53, in the xG category.

*(graphic via infogol.net)

Every match Manchester City has played against PSG, the French side has had the same game plan. The Parisians play two low blocks, absorb the Cityzens’ attack and send Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi out on the counter and hope they create chances.

That’s because their midfield and defense aren’t good enough to play an open match with manager Pep Guardiola’s side. The visitors aren’t used to playing this way, because against pretty much any other team in the world besides Manchester City and Bayern Munich, PSG is able to have the ball and build from back. However, Manchester City’s press doesn’t allow them to do that. 

Through their four UCL matches, PSG has a -1.1 xGDiff, while Manchester City has a +10.4 xGDiff overall. Even if we compare domestic xGDiff, Manchester City sits at +19.57 through 13 matches, while PSG is only at +11.54 through 14 games. So, factoring in UEFA coefficients, England is the most-difficult league in the Europe, while France is the fifth-most hard league.

I have Manchester City projected at -242 odds and FiveThirtyEight has the host at 67 percent. That said, I love the Cityzens at -145 odds to clinch Group A with all three points on home soil.

Pick: Manchester City ML (-145)

Atlético Madrid vs. AC Milan

Atlético Madrid Odds -165
AC Milan Odds +475
Draw +310
Over/Under 2.5 (-115 / +100)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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This is a must win for both teams who need three points to keep their hopes alive for qualifying for the Round of 16 of the competition. Atlético Madrid put up a really bad performance against Liverpool at Anfield and the same could be said for AC Milan against Porto.

AC Milan might be putting up great offensive numbers in Serie A, which is traditionally a very high-scoring, open league, but in Champions League they’ve really struggled offensively against defensive teams like Atlético Madrid and Porto.

AC Milan has a total of 26 shots and 33 shot-creating actions, which is dead last in Champions League. The last time they squared off Atlético Madrid did get a red card in the 29th minute and ended up only creating 0.54 xG with only one shot inside the penalty area..

Atlético Madrid is still playing out of their patented 4-4-2 formation under manager Diego Simone and have been the top defensive side in the Spanish top flight, allowing 9.17 NPxG through 13 matches. What’s even crazier is they’re not allowing their opponents to create anything from open play.

Atlético Madrid has allowed 13 goals this season, with only five coming from open play. They’ve had some bad penalty luck, giving up three penalties. And they’re due for some positive regression on set pieces, because they’ve conceded five set-piece goals off only 3.11 xG thus far. Botton line, they’ll need to be good on set pieces because AC Milan has been good on them.

LUIS SUAREZ BREAKS MILAN HEARTS FROM THE PENALTY SPOT IN THE 97TH MINUTE 😳 pic.twitter.com/8PQxUTCNQz

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 28, 2021

Offensively, Atlético Madrid hasn’t been that dominate both domestically and in Champions League play. They’re only averaging 1.46 xG per match in Spain and have just 4.7 xG through four UCL games. On the other side, AC Milan has been really good defensively in the Italian top flight, only conceding 0.93 NPxG per match, which is the second-best mark in the league.

Also, Atlético Madrid had a questionable 90th-minute penalty the last time these two met in Milan. So, if you take away that penalty, they only created 1.37 xG despite being up a man for the final 60 minutes of the contest. 

I only have 2.22 goals projected for this match, so I think there’s a little value on the total staying under 2.5 goals at solid +100 odds.

Pick: Total Under 2.5 Goals (+100)

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