Champions League Best Bets (2/15/23)
After Tuesday gives us a thrilling Valentine’s slate of games to re-kick off UCL action, we’ve got a couple more fascinating matchups on our hands the next day. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for Wednesday’s tough-to-call matches.
Club Brugge vs. Benfica
It’s always fun when we get a matchup of two relative underdogs in this competition- we’re assured that one of them will get through to the next round, and it should be a tightly contested draw. Brugge were one of the surprises of the group stage, as they beat each opponent once in a group that included Atlético Madrid, Porto, and Bayer Leverkusen, en route to comfortably securing qualification for the knockouts. Benfica also pulled off a stunner- not only did they qualify far above a miserable Juventus side, but they fought to two tough 1-1 draws with PSG and then hammered Maccabi Haifa 6-1 in the final matchday to draw level with PSG on points and the first three tiebreakers; they won the group on the fourth.
In the group stage, both of these teams impressed with their defenses. Brugge kept a clean sheet in 5 out of their 6 group stage matches, including two scoreless draws and three shutout wins. As for Benfica, they held the high-powered PSG attack to one goal in each matchup, and only allowed more than a single goal once across group competition. Benfica’s attacking duo of João Mário and Gonçalo Ramos scares me a bit- the pair have 12 goals apiece in the Primeira Liga this season. But scoring is always tough on the road in Europe, and Brugge’s Simon Mignolet is a veteran keeper who has been in these moments before. He has had an excellent UCL campaign thus far as well, twice earning man of the match status as per FotMob. Given this background on both sides, I’m a big fan of the wager of under 2.5 goals at +100 odds.
I don’t feel strongly enough about the result of this one to have a true best bet on the moneyline- on paper, Benfica have this one nailed down but I don’t love betting them in the minus on the road against a team that really has been good in this competition thus far. That being said, they are the more talented team so I don’t feel great about Brugge either, while the draw is a bit of a niche result for my liking. If forced to pick a side I would go with the draw; I doubt Benfica would particularly mind that result, and with Brugge’s defensive record, it wouldn’t stun me. But that doesn’t really tough “best bet” status, so I would advise sticking to the total.
Best Bet: u2.5 goals (+100)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Chelsea Best Bet
Americans may recognize this matchup as the Christian Pulisic derby, although the winger is currently hurt, and hasn’t picked up enough time for Chelsea this year even when healthy. More relevantly, this is a matchup between teams who have had their ups and downs this season, and could use some Continental success to spur on a strong finish to the campaign. For Dortmund, I’d say things are trending in the right direction. Recently, they exploded in a 5-1 demolition of Freiburg in which feel-good story of the year Sebastien Haller bagged his first goal for the club, and yet another Bundesliga American, Gio Reyna, chipped in a goal. Chelsea, on the other hand, still look incredibly mortal despite their superhuman transfer window, as the new signings have yet to make their mark; the team’s three most recent Premier League results were a pair of 0-0 draws against Liverpool and Fulham, and then a 1-1 draw against West Ham. That being said, they were in great form to finish the group stage, so we’ll see if that carries on within this competition.
The goalscoring total of 2.5 (-125 for over, -105 for under) is a tough one for me to nail down in this match. I’m leaning towards the under; I don’t believe that Chelsea will be able to secure a road goal in one of Europe’s toughest playing environments, and Dortmund might be perfectly content to score one or two goals, slow the match down and take the victory. Besides, it’s not like the post-Haaland Dortmund attack is THE most explosive in Europe. That being said, that’s not really the Dortmund way to sit back; they play open, end-to-end football, and they are coming off of a 5-goal romp. I like the under more than the over, but I’m not confident enough to make it a best bet.
What I do feel great about is an ascendant Dortmund team with plus-odds on the moneyline, playing at a home stadium where they have an indisputable and meaningful advantage, against a Chelsea team that looks completely lost these days. Dortmund +145 is my emphatic pick in this one, but I think we can go a bit further. A couple of props that intrigue me are “no” on both teams to score, at +125, while Chelsea’s team total of u0.5 at +265 odds is betting on a very similar idea, with a much better payout.
Lastly, if you want a bet that’s really out there, I’m very tempted to sprinkle on the correct exact scoreline of 2-0 in favor of Dortmund, with odds of +1100. There’s a lot of value plays on the board when it comes to Chelsea not scoring goals, your selection just depends upon how much risk you want to assume. Personally, my favorite of the bunch is the Chelsea team total- Dortmund shut out Man City at the Signal Iduna, for crying out loud; I think they’ll be able to deal with Potter’s downright non-magical mishmosh of attackers.
Best Bets: Dortmund ML (+145), Chelsea TT u0.5 (+265)