Champions League Best Bets (2/14/23)
If it feels like it’s been ages since we last saw Europe’s elite square off in UCL action, that’s because it has been. Group play ended earlier than usual due to the November World Cup start, so the layoff was extended. Now, we have eight fascinating rounds of 16 matchups ahead of us, starting on Tuesday, which happens to be Valentine’s, perfect timing for those of us who truly love the beautiful game. Let’s take a look at the odds for the first two matchups and make some picks.
AC Milan vs. Tottenham Hotspur Best Bet
One of Europe’s most elite clubs returns to the last 16 this year, as AC Milan, second all-time with 7 UCL titles, makes their first knockout appearance since the 2013-14 campaign. They’ll be squaring off with Tottenham, a club that has much more European experience in recent years, but famously has no silverware to show for it. Domestically, both sides are locked into tight top-four battles for berths in this competition next year. Neither one is in particularly great form, although while Spurs recently notched a huge win over Manchester City, Milan are in a ridiculous four-match tailspin.
Spurs have unquestionably been an attack-centric side this year, as Harry Kane, now the club’s all-time leading goalscorer enjoys yet another fantastic campaign. Son Heung-min hasn’t been quite at his best, and Dejan Kulusevski has been streaky, but that’s a World-class attacking trio if they get going. Milan of course have their own league MVP forward in Rafael Leão, but he’s not quite been in the form in which he finished last season. The team is clearly suffering from missing some injured and departed contributors from last season’s title-winning team, as well as a dip in form from some incumbent players.
I can’t in good conscience pick the Rossoneri to win, even at home, where they were picked apart by Chelsea, a Premier League side far inferior to Spurs. Tottenham’s odds to win are +195 and a draw is +230; if you’re going to bet one end of the three-way line I’d go with the draw, but given the defensive form of both teams, there’s better value on the board. Over 2.5 goals is decent value at -110, but the game parlay of Tie or Tottenham and o2.5 is +180, which is a slam dunk from a value perspective. To be safer, you can bet the same parlay with o1.5 as the goalscoring component for odds of -135, but the way the Rossoneri have been playing, I could see Spurs covering 2.5 on their own.
One more prop I really like is Tottenham to score first at +100; until a 1-0 win this weekend, Milan had conceded first in each of their 6 previous games, a streak that dates back to January 11th when they lost 1-0 in overtime to 10-man Torino. Meanwhile, Spurs have opened the scoring in each of their past 5 matches across all competitions- they’re used to getting off to a good start, and Milan are a great team to do it against.
Best Bets: o2.5 goals + Tottenham or Tie (+180), Tottenham to score first (+100)
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Bayern Munich Best Bet
This is becoming quite the familiar matchup- these two teams have met twice in recent UCL campaigns, most recently in the 2021 quarterfinals, which Paris won on the now-defunct away goals tiebreaker. And of course, in a tightly-contested final in 2020, which was claimed by Bayern to secure their sixth title. Now, these two have been drawn into a highly anticipated Round of 16 tie, the winner of which will be seen by many as the favorites in this competition.
I’d be lying if I told you this was the most dominant PSG campaign yet- they’ve already dropped 2 games in the league and fallen out of the Coupe de France, all fairly recently. Still, they’re comfortably on pace to win Ligue Un. In the UCL, they managed to pick up 14 points and still not top their group; after a tie with Benfica was decided on the fifth tiebreaker. So now they have the pleasure of facing Bayern, who won every game in a group that featured Barça and Inter.
These are two teams whose identities center around their attack, although both have a key forward injured. For Bayern, who are adapting to life after Lewandowski, it’s Sadio Mané, as the Senegalese winger is not particularly likely to be ready in time for the first leg against PSG. On the other side of the pitch, there’s injury concerns for two thirds of the best attacking trio on the planet- arguably the best player on earth, Kylian Mbappé, and the newly-crowned greatest of all time, Lionel Messi. Both are expected to play, but how can we know for how long, and how effectively? To complicate matters further, Bayern have just added former Man City superstar fullback João Cancelo, who has provided an undeniable boost to their defense.
With two outstanding but injured attacks, and ridiculous odds on over 2.5 goals (-225), the goalscoring line is a stay-away. I could see both sides struggling- neither is in their best attacking form over the past few weeks, and most defenses they play are not as good as either one on the pitch in this clash. That being said, it’s still Bayern and PSG. Messi, Neymar, Musiala, Müller, are just a few of the attacking stars on the pitch- this one could be a goal-fest pretty easily as well, so I’m not touching the total.
Put simply, Bayern are regaining their form faster than Paris are. The arrival of Cancelo has been a massive boost on both ends of the pitch, albeit across a small sample size. I like Bayern here, especially with ambiguous health situations for Messi and Mbappé, but I don’t love the idea of betting on PSG to lose outright at home with no protection. So, that leads me to the Draw No Bet prop for Bayern, with odds of -110. A void in the case of the draw is not a disaster, and outside of that, you’re looking at essentially even odds on maybe the best team left in the competition.
Best Bet: Bayern Draw No Bet (-110)