Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections & Best Bets, Including Barcelona & Juventus

Champions League Odds, Picks, Predictions: Projections & Best Bets, Including Barcelona & Juventus article feature image
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Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images. Pictured: Paulo Dybala.

Champions League returns to action this week for the third round of group-stage matches.

The last time out there were some historic upsets as well, with Benfica drilling Barcelona in a 3-0 rout and Club Brugge earning a 2-1 victory at RB Leipzig. However, there was no bigger surprise than FC Sheriff Tiraspol stunning Real Madrid in a 2-1 shocker in the Spanish capital as a +2800 underdog.

WOW. Sheriff stun Real Madrid. #UCL pic.twitter.com/JqIS99G8fV

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 28, 2021

Before we jump into this round of matches, let’s take a look at how the odds to win the Champions League has changed from the opening numbers:

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

Atlético Madrid vs. Liverpool

Atlético Madrid Odds +220
Liverpool Odds +130
Draw +240
Over/Under 2.5 (+105 / -125)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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A massive clash of two completely different styles of play, Atlético Madrid obviously is going work out of their very defensive 4-4-2 formation, while Liverpool is going to play high tempo, high press, heavy metal football. 

Atlético Madrid has been good in La Liga this year, securing 17 points from their first eight matches that has generated a +4.64 npxGD, but they haven’t faced a team like Liverpool that’s going to press them high up the pitch. That said, I’m interested in seeing how Colchoneros handle it.

Because if we go back to last UCL campaign, Atlético Madrid was in a group with Bayern Munich, which played a similar style under Hans Flick and Atlético Madrid had no answers for it. 

🌟 Highlights in 2020 🌟

😮 Kingsley Coman 🆚 @Atleti 💪🤩#UCL | @FCBayern | @FCBayernUS | @FCBayernEN pic.twitter.com/lh1W45PUyC

— UEFA.com DE (@UEFAcom_de) January 4, 2021

I have Atlético Madrid projected as a small favorite, but I’m not walking in front of Liverpool’s offense right now, might be the best in the world. The Reds lead the Premier League in NPxG per match, big scoring chances and shots per 90 minutes.

However, Liverpool’s defense is due to concede some goals. The Reds have allowed 10.1 xG through their first eight matches, but have only conceded eight actual goals. 

Offensively, Atlético Madrid has added a ton in the transfer window, with Antoine Griezmann back at the club to join Joao Felix and Luis Suarez. And if Liverpool scores first in this game, it’s is going to open right up.

I have 2.75 goals projected for this game, so I think there’s betting value on the total over 2.5 goals at +105 odds via DraftKings and will make it my top pick.

Pick: Total Over 2.5 Goals (+105)

PSG vs. RB Leipzig

PSG Odds -255
RB Leipzig Odds +650
Draw +425
Over/Under 2.5 (-130 / +110)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Paris Saint-Germain is going to be one of those teams I think I will be fading every match throughout this Champions League, which is crazy considering they have Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, and Lionel Messi. However, their last match against Manchester City was a microcosm of what happens when the Parisians face a talented attacking team.

The French giants got pinned in for most of the contest and basically just sent their stars out of the counter. They just don’t face talented attacks week in and week out in Ligue 1 play and it shows, because France is fifth-most difficult league in Europe based on UEFA coefficients.

The biggest problem is while their front three are amazing going forward, none of them are going to defend, so that makes things very difficult for PSG, who doesn’t have an elite defense. Basically, the club is relying on goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to stand on his head every match. 

Now, RB Leipzig was in the same group as PSG last season in Champions League and actually were the better side in both matches, as they won the expected-goals battle a combined 3.69-2.60 margin.

However, things have changed for RB Leipzig. The Red Bulls, who have a new manager in Jesse Marsch and two new center backs, haven’t had things go that well for them so far. They’re allowing 1.44 NPxG per match, but the attack is still there. Leipzig is averaging 1.76 xG per game and torched Manchester City’s defense, which is one of the world’s best, for three goals in defeat.

I only have PSG projected as a +130 favorite, so I do think there’s value on RB Leipzig’s spread of +1.5 at -135 odds at DraftKings and would play it to -145 odds as my top selection.

Pick: RB Leipzig +1.5 (-135)

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Barcelona vs. Dynamo Kiev

Barcelona Odds -400
Dynamo Kiev Odds +1000
Draw +550
Over/Under 3 (-125 / +105)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Obviously, Barcelona is without Messi and not nearly scoring at the rate they did last season. In La Liga this season, Blaugrana are averaging 1.59 non-penalty expected goals per match, when last year they averaged 2.05 NPxG per outing.

"Ronald Koeman will be the scapegoat for Barca's failures, but the troubles run much deeper than the man in charge.

"The impact of losing Lionel Messi can't be understated – he contributed to 45% of Barcelona's total xG in La Liga last term."

🤔 Is Koeman being unfairly blamed?

— Sporting Life Football & Infogol (@InfogolApp) October 4, 2021

 

Yet, defensively, Barcelona has been really good, only allowing 0.89 NPxG per game, plus they’ve conceded the third-fewest shot-creating actions, have the best pressure success rate and have yielded the fewest touches in their own final third, per fbref.com.

Blaugrana was terrible defensively in their first two matches, but Dynamo Kiev is not that great of an offense. They’ve only created 0.91 xG total in their first two matches against Bayern Munich and Benfica. Plus, they’re only averaging 1.81 xG per game in the Ukrainian Premier League, which is the 11th-most difficult league in Europe based on UEFA coefficients

Dynamo Kiev does have pretty good defense. Domestically, they only concede 0.58 xG per match. They also held Benfica to only 1.15 xG, and Bayern Munich to 1.96 non-penalty expected goals and one big scoring chance. So, I don’t think it will be that easy for Barcelona to create high-quality chances.

I only have 2.26 goals projected for this match, so I think there’s some value on the total staying under three goals at +105 via DraftKings and would play it down to -120 odds.

Pick: Total Under 3 Goals (+105)

Zenit vs. Juventus

Zenit Odds +270
Juventus Odds +110
Draw +235
Over/Under 2.5 (+100 / -120)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Zenit looked really good against Malmö, cruising to a 4-0 home triumph. The club out-created its foes in the xG battle by a 2.81-0.45 margin as well. They’ve been very dominant in the Russian Premier League this season, even though they’ve lost their last two matches to Arsenal Tula and Sochi.

However, Zenit was so unbelievably unlucky in both of those fixtures, because they out-created those teams a whopping combined 5.2-1.73 xG in the defeats. In the Russian Premier League, they’re averaging 2.11 xG per match and only allowing 1.08 xG per outing, with Russia ranked as the ninth-most difficult league in Europe based on UEFA coefficients.

They do have some talent on their roster as well. Malcolm, the former Bordeaux and Barcelona attacking midfielder, is averaging 0.72 xG + xA per match domestically and will be a problem for Juventus’ back line.

Malcom makes it look so easy ✨✨✨#RPL #Zenit #Malcom pic.twitter.com/gVQ5vgmwcO

— Russian Premier Liga (@premierliga_en) July 9, 2020

Juventus’ offensive numbers have taken a bit of dip since Cristiano Ronaldo left. Last season, Juventus averaged 2.00 npxG per match, while this season they’re averaging 1.75 NPxG per contest. In Serie A, Juventus is eighth in shot-creating actions; 10th in touches inside the opponents’ penalty area; and 10th in box entries.

So, it’s not the elite attack we saw last season. Defensively, they’ve still been pretty good in Serie A, allowing 8.88 npxG in their first eight matches. However, The Old Lady is conceding the third-most touches in their final third, per fbref.com. They also lost the xG battle against Roma on Sunday despite earning the 1-0 victory in the Italian top flight.

Also, the projected weather for this evening match forecasts the temperature to be just above freezing at 38 degrees with rain in Saint Petersburg, when it has been in the mid 60s in Turin this past week.

I only have Juventus projected at +161, so I think there’s value on Zenit’s spread of +0.5 (-125) offered at DraftKings and would play it to -140 odds.

Pick: Zenit +0.5 (-125)

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