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Champions League Odds, Picks: Our Projections & Best Bets, Including Wolfsburg vs. Lille & Salzburg vs. Sevilla (Dec. 8)

Champions League Odds, Picks: Our Projections & Best Bets, Including Wolfsburg vs. Lille & Salzburg vs. Sevilla (Dec. 8) article feature image
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Max Maiwald/DeFodi Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Wolfsburg standout Wout Weghorst.

It’s the final round of the Champions League group-stage matches this week. While some clubs already know their fate, others are still trying to earn a spot in the Round of 16 or in the Europa League knockout stage by finishing in third in the group.

Before we jump into the projections, let’s first take a look at the tiebreaker rules, which have changed for this competition:

Per UEFA.com:

  1. Points in head-to-head matches among the tied teams;
  2. Goal difference in head-to-head matches among the tied teams;
  3. Goals scored in head-to-head matches among the tied teams;
  4. Away goals scored in head-to-head matches among the tied teams;
  5. If more than two teams were tied, and after applying all head-to-head criteria above, a subset of teams are still tied, all head-to-head criteria above were reapplied exclusively to this subset of teams;
  6. Goal difference in all group matches;
  7. Goals scored in all group matches;
  8. Away goals scored in all group matches;
  9. Wins in all group matches;
  10. Away wins in all group matches;
  11. Disciplinary points (direct red card = 3 points; double yellow card = 3 points; single yellow card = 1 point); and,
  12. UEFA club coefficient

Let’s also take a look at how each group sits before the final matches:

*Graphics courtesy of UEFA.com

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

Porto vs. Atlético Madrid

Porto Odds +185
Atlético Madrid Odds +160
Draw +225
Over/Under 2.5 (+115 / -135)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Porto really should have won the first meeting in Madrid. They finished ahead in the expected-goals battle by a 1.68-0.36 muring and were able to create a couple big chances. However, both teams line up in very defensive formations and are still two of the better defending teams in Champions League play. 

Manager Diego Simone has had change up his tactics a little bit with his formations, as Atlético Madrid is playing most of the time out of a 3-1-4-2 setup and only allowing 0.83 xG per 90 minutes when playing that way. Atlético Madrid is still first in La Liga in shots allowed per 90 minutes, box entries and crosses completed into their own penalty area, per fbref.com.

Porto can’t just sit back and park the bus because a draw might not be good enough if AC Milan beats Liverpool. However, Porto has been great in the back, when they don’t have to play Liverpool. If you remove their two matches against Premier League powerhouse, the club is only allowing 0.60 xG per contest domestically and in UCL play.

(graphic via infogol.net)

In the previous meeting between these outfits, there were 11 total shots between the two of them. If Porto scores first, they’re going to sit back and park the bus just like they did against Manchester City in their last UCL appearance when they only needed a point to qualify for the knockout stage.

I have 2.05 goals projected for this match, so I like the total staying under 2.5 goals at -135 odds and will make it my top selection.

Pick: Total Under 2.5 Goals (-135)

Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan

Real Madrid Odds +110
Inter Odds +255
Draw +245
Over/Under 2.5 (-150 / +125)
Day | Time Tuesday | 3 p.m. ET
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There is some game  theory to look out for in this match because Real Madrid only needs a draw to win the group. However, what Los Blancos has shown under manager Carlo Ancelotti is that they’re not really good at playing a very defensive style and seeing a game out.

Take the Athletic Bilbao match last Wednesday as an example. They allowed a little more than two xG and 38 touches in their own penalty area. Inter is the type of team that can torch Real Madrid’s defense, which is still 13th in NPxG allowed in La Liga action. 

Inter is an absolute offensive juggernaut in Serie A this season, putting up 2.30 xG per contest. They’re No. 1 in Italy in big scoring chances, shots per 90 minutes and crosses completed into the penalty area. So, Real Madrid is going to have a really difficult time shutting them down.

HAKAN ÇALHANOĞLU SCORED DIRECTLY FROM THE CORNER KICK AND NUTMEGGED RUI PATRICIO 🔥 pic.twitter.com/9u3UjucKz1

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 4, 2021

Inter didn’t deserve to lose the last meeting between these two sides either. They won the xG in the stats, holding a 2.0-1.1 advantage. However, an 89th-minute Rodrygo goal was the difference. Given the fact that Real Madrid only needs a draw, I think it’s going to be hard for them play in anything other than a defensive structure given how prolific Inter’s offense has been, I think Real Madrid may be in trouble on Tuesday. 

So, given the game theory of Real Madrid only needing a draw combined with their poor defense, I love Inter +0.5 (-125) odds and will make it my top pick.

Pick: Inter Milan +0.5 (-125)

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Wolfsburg vs. Lille

Wolfsburg Odds +125
Lille Odds +235
Draw +235
Over/Under 2.5 (-115 / -105)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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Defensively, Lille has been outstanding this season. Yet, for some reason, opponents are finishing at a crazy rate against them. Lille has allowed 24 goals in Ligue 1, but only conceded 15.71 xG overall. Even in the UCL matches, Lille has only allowed 4.9 xG in five matches.

That said, this game sets up perfectly for Lille and their 4-4-2 formation, because they don’t have to be the aggressors. Wolfsburg needs to go for the win, which will allow Lille to sit deep in their two low blocks and hit Wolfsburg on the counterattack.

Also, don’t be surprised if Lille gets a caught scoreboard watching. If they see Sevilla is up on RB Salzburg, they could shut it down and sit back for a draw because one point would give them the group.

Wolfsburg has really struggled offensively in the Champions League this season, creating only 4.5 xG in five contests. Additionally, Wolfsburg only had two shots in the last meeting against Lille and created 0.1 xG in the fixture. Granted, they did get a red card in the 63rd minute, but that’s still pretty awful.

I understand Wolfsburg has to go for all the points, but I only have 1.85 goals projected for this game, so give me the total under 2.5 goals at -105 odds.

Pick: Total Under 2.5 Goals (-105)

Salzburg vs. Sevilla 

Salzburg Odds +195
Sevilla Odds +155
Draw +220
Over/Under 2.5 (-115 / -105)
Day | Time Wednesday | 3 p.m. ET
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I know Salzburg put up 3.0 xG against Sevilla in the first meeting, but had three penalties and only created 0.75 xG from open play. The game theory on this is Sevilla needs to win and Salzburg can’t really sit back because a Wolfsburg win could see them potentially in last in the Group G standings. 

Sevilla is one of the more underrated in teams in Europe for a couple different reasons. First, they have a +0.73 per match NPxGD, which is the eighth-best mark among the continent’s top-five leagues. Secondly, they play a very pragmatic style, building the play out from the back. Plus, they’e really good at keeping the ball, as they sit second in the Spanish top flight behind only Barcelona, holding on average 63% possession.

Rafa Mir with a brilliant header to put Sevilla up on Real Madrid 😯 pic.twitter.com/hUIzVuLy5h

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 28, 2021

However, even though they play slow, they’re very direct in their attacking play, because they’re sixth in box entries, seventh in progressive passes and first in crosses completed into the penalty area. The biggest thing in this matchup, though, is the fact Sevilla is the top team in Spain against pressure, which is needed against a Salzburg team that plays a high tempo and presses at a very high rate.

I have Sevilla projected at +117 and with the club needing a win to make the Round of 16, it makes more sense to take them on the moneyline rather than take the Draw No Bet protection.

That said, I Iove Sevilla on the moneyline at +155 odds via DraftKings to take all three points and move onto the knockout stage.

Pick: Sevilla ML (+155)

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