Champions League Soccer Betting Preview: Projected Odds, Totals for Round of 16 Matches (Feb. 23-24)
RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Ilkay Gundogan
Champions League returned last week for four of the eight knockout-stage matches and it did not disappoint. Liverpool was only favorite to get a first-leg advantage, while the other three games were utter chaos:
- Paris Saint-Germain defeated Barcelona, 4-1, at Camp Nou without Neymar and Angel Di Maria, as Kylian Mbappe notched a hat trick.
KYLIAN MBAPPE IS MAKING CAMP NOU HIS PLAYGROUND. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/sKHS0NXcim
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) February 16, 2021
- Borussia Dortmund won a five-goal thriller in its 3-2 triumph against Sevilla, getting two goals from young star Erling Haaland.
THAT'S ✌️ FOR ERLING HAALAND 🤖 pic.twitter.com/MFtrepBfNF
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) February 17, 2021
- Porto pulled off a huge upset by beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus side, 2-1, at home after going up 1-0 in the first minute of the match.
61 SECONDS INTO THE KNOCKOUT STAGE 😳 pic.twitter.com/SVA2xNF5Mf
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) February 17, 2021
Now, the attention turns to the remaining four games, which is a fantastic set of fixtures headlined by Atlético Madrid facing Chelsea.
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.
Note: These projections do not take injuries into account. The injury news highlighted below is for players that regularly would start in each team’s starting XI.
Atlético Madrid vs. Chelsea
Atlético Madrid’s dream season in La Liga is starting to come off the rails a little bit, as they’ve only picked up one point from their last two matches. Its 4-4-2 formation is incredibly difficult to break down, and the only team that has really dismantled it was Bayern Munich in its first group-play match.
Manager Diego Simone’s formation is the closest thing to defensive perfection in modern-day soccer. Atlético keeps eight players behind the ball to create a defensive wall that works in unison to deny the opposing team space to play through the center or between the lines. This forces opponents to play through the wide areas to access the penalty area.
Atlético have allowed just 0.82 expected goals against (xGA) per match this season, which is one of the best marks across Europe, so Chelsea is likely going to have some difficulty breaking down Atlético’s defense.
Chelsea’s season was taking a downward spiral in January, but ever since the club fired manager Frank Lampard and hired ex-Dortmund/PSG manager Thomas Tuchel, it has completely turned around their season. The Blues have only conceded two goals in his first six matches in charge, plus the Premier League outfit is absolutely dominating possession.
Chelsea’s possession under Tuchel
We have the ball. We just don’t do a lot with it – at all
— Zak (@zakiavelli_v2) February 21, 2021
Chelsea is allowing only 0.52 xG per match under Tuchel, but also creating 1.69 xG per match, so they are flying high coming into this match.
Tactically, Tuchel changed the system to a 3-4-2-1 from the 4-3-3 used by Lampard, which has allowed Chelsea to be more unpredictable. The main objective of the 3-4-2-1 and 4-3-3 is to overwhelm opposing defenses by outnumbering them on the counter attack.
However, the 3-4-2-1 allows you to very easily transition into a number of different formations based on how the match is going. That has allowed Chelsea to dominate possession and confuse their opponents throughout a match. They should be able to dominate possession on Tuesday since Atlético is not concerned about possession when playing out of a 4-4-2.
Note: This match will be played at a neutral site in Bucharest, Romania, due to England/Spain COVID-19 protocols.
- Atlético Madrid: Jose Gimenez (CB), Hector Herrera (CM) and Yannick Carrasco (LM) are out.
- Chelsea: Tammy Abraham (ST), Christian Pulisic (RW), Thiago Silva (CB) and Kai Havertz (CAM) are doubtful.
Lazio vs. Bayern Munich
Surprisingly, Lazio is the team coming into this match in good form, having won seven of their last eight Serie A matches. However, those results can be a bit deceiving because they only have a +4.48 xGD, which is fifth best in Serie A over that time span.
Lazio typically plays out of 3-5-2, which can be a dream come true for most managers because it allows teams to put two strikers on the field while still fielding three central midfielders who can outnumber or match the opponents, and getting width from two wingbacks.
It can also easily be switched into a 5-3-2 when facing more attack heavy teams, which I think is what we might see from Lazio on Tuesday to try and slow down Bayern’s attack.
Unfortunately, though, Lazio hasn’t had much success playing the 3-5-2 this season with a +2.32 xGD in over 2,000 minutes playing out of the formation.
The defending European and German champions have hit a bit of a bad run of form coming into this match, as they drew 16th-place Arminia Bielefeld, 3-3, at home last Monday and lost to red-hot Eintracht Frankfurt over the weekend.
Bayern has also not been as dominant as advertised in the Bundesliga this season and quite frankly have dropped off big time from where they were in their last campaign.
Additionally, Bayern is going to be short-handed in this match without Thomas Muller, Serge Gnarby, Douglas Costa, and Benjamin Pavard due to injury.
If Bayern isn’t careful, Lazio could gain a first-leg advantage over the German champions.
- Lazio: Luiz Felipe (CB) and Thomas Strakosha (GK) are questionable.
- Bayern Munich: Benjamin Pavard (RB), Douglas Costa (LW), Serge Gnarby (RW) and Thomas Muller (CF) are out.
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Manchester City
Borussia Mönchengladbach has been struggling in the Bundesliga this season, entering this game sitting eighth and fresh off back-to-back home losses to bottom of the table side Cologne and Mainz.
The reason they’ve been struggling this season is because their offense is nowhere close to what it was last season. During the 2019-20 campaign, Gladbach averaged a whopping 2.16 xG per match and were the second-best attack in the Bundesliga behind Bayern.
Fast forward and they are only averaging 1.53 xG per match in the new campaign and have only generated 0.69 xG per match over their last four matches.
During group play, Gladbach took care of business against Shakhtar, winning both encounters, but only were able to earn two points in four matches against Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Going up against the hottest team in the world is not an ideal scenario for Die Fohlen.
Manchester City have been destroying any opponent standing in their way. City’s last defeat came on Nov. 21 against Tottenham Hotspur. Since then, the club has won 15 of its last 17 matches and outscored their opponents by a 40-4 margin. In fact, the Cityzens haven’t even drawn a match in 2021.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 21, 2021
The reason for Manchester City’s run is their defensive dominance. Pep Guardiola made a change at both center back positions back in December putting John Stones and Ruben Dias beside each other. The two have now played together for 13 matches, combining to allow an absurd 0.52 xG per match.
In fact, Manchester City has only allowed three goals during its 13-match winning streak, with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton being the lone foes to find the back of the net. So, it’s going to be tough for a struggling offense like Gladbach to find the back of the net.
Note: This match will be played at a neutral site in Budapes, due to COVID-19 protocols in each team’s respective countries.
- Gladbach: None
- Manchester City: None
Atalanta vs. Real Madrid
Atalanta is starting to find their form in Serie A after a big win over Napoli on Sunday. La Dea has now climbed back into the top four and only has one loss in their last 14 league matches.
Atalanta is known for their explosive offense, which guided them to the quarterfinals in the Champions League last season. This season has been no different, putting up 2.11 xG per match.
For whatever reason, though, Atalanta really struggled at home during Champions League group play. They failed to win any of their three matches and were routed, 5-0, by Liverpool.
However, the most embarrassing match was drawing 1-1 with the Danish champions Mitdjylland, who were one of the worst teams in the Champions League this season.
Real Madrid needed some heroics to win Group B after losing twice to Shakhtar. However, Los Blancos rallied in the final matchday, beating Gladbach and ending group atop Group B.
Coming into this match, the reigning Champions of Spain are dealing with some injury issues. Captain Sergio Ramos and veteran left back Marcelo are out, while star striker Karim Benzema, who has a 0.57 xG per 90 minutes scoring rate, is doubtful.
🎙️ Zidane: "@Benzema is getting better but we're not going to risk him against Atalanta. There's a long season ahead."
— Infinite Madrid (@InfiniteMadrid) February 20, 2021
Real Madrid has been on a great run in La Liga, winning 11 of their last 14 matches and putting up a +12.55 xGD. Zinedine Zidane’s 4-3-3 system has been completely overwhelming teams this season, as Los Blancos are scoring 1.77 xG per 90 minutes and only allowing 0.96 xG per 90 minutes when playing out of that formation.
However, it’s going to be really difficult for Los Blancos to get a result with the amount of injuries they are dealing with at the moment.
- Real Madrid: Sergio Ramos (CB), Marcelo (LB), Karim Benzema (ST), Dani Carvajal (RB) and Rodyrgo (RW) are out. Eden Hazard (LW), Eder Milito (CB) and Federico Valverde (CM) are questionable.