With all due respect to Champions League matchday 2, this is more like it!
A week after our second-best game was Manchester United-RB Leipzig, we’ve got a slew of can’t-miss matchups this week (or at least more than two). Because we’re on our third week in a row of these rankings – last week’s are available here — I’m going to dispense with any further throat-clearing and move onto the list for this week.
Notes: the tiers are self-explanatory, I hope. All kickoff times listed are U.S. eastern and the home team is listed first. Also, I should mention that each of these match-ups will be run back on Matchday 4 (November 24-25).
TIER 1 – MUST-SEE
1. Real Madrid (-115) vs. Inter Milan (+280) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
For me, this is the most interesting match-up of group play, at least to this point. Even if both these teams had performed well in their first couple games, this one would have been plenty intriguing.
Antonio Conte vs. Zinedine Zidane. Achraf Hakimi vs. his old team, which could really use him right now. Romelu Lukaku (and Lautaro Martínez) vs. Karim Benzema (and Eden Hazard??). And more accurately, it’s Lukaku and Martínez vs. Sergio Ramos and Los Blancos’ back line, with Benzema and Hazard hoping to take advantage of a back line that has struggled in domestic play (Inter has allowed 10 goals in six Serie A games this season).
Though I alluded it to it earlier, I still kinda buried the lede: both these teams are desperate. RM have secured one point (barely) through two matches, while Inter (two points) has settled for a couple of draws. The loser of this one is going to be in serious danger of not making it out of group play. That’d be disastrous for a Real Madrid team that won this tournament in ’14, ’16, ’17 and ’18. But it might even be a bigger problem for Inter, which also failed to reach the knockout stage a year ago.
Los Blancos remain the favorite to win the group (+175) and are -167 to finish top-2, while Inter is second-favorite to win the group (+185) and -155 to advance. Surely, those odds will change in a big way for whoever loses (assuming this doesn’t end in a draw). The loser’s outlook will be that much more bleak if first-place Shakhtar beats Monchengladbach at home this week to get to seven points. The line on that, by the way, is Shakhtar at +190 compared Monchengladbach at +130.
Hazard’s performance – check out the shot below! — over the weekend in a rare offensive outburst for RM, which beat Huesca 4-1, makes Real Madrid at -115 seem like a good idea. But I’ll believe a good UCL performance from this team when I see it.
Prime Eden hazard is back!!!! The turn and the finish my word 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/7JRq1gabeN
— N (@Nino12x) October 31, 2020
2. Atalanta (+220) vs. Liverpool (+110) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Even the best teams in Europe are struggling with the compressed schedule, as the cluster of matches over the last few weeks has forced every manager to rotate their lineups liberally. Jurgen Klopp is pressing the right buttons for Liverpool, though. The Reds are atop the table domestically and won their first two UCL group matches despite going from VVD to Fabinho (injured last week) to No. 47, Nathaniel Phillips, at center back vs. West Ham on Saturday – but it will be Rhys Williams in that spot vs. Atalanta.
If there’s any team you don’t want to face while dealing with a revolving door at a key spot in your back line, it’s the Serie A side, which scored six goals combined in its first two games in this group. The over at 3.5 vs. Ajax (-115) last week felt like free money, and sure enough, that was a hit for anyone who took it. This week, Vegas has Over 3.5 at -104.
Two pieces of advice: go in on that, and make sure you tune in to this clash of two of Europe’s best offenses.
3. RB Leipzig (+230) vs. PSG (+116) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
The winner of this one is going to be in good shape in Group H despite both teams’ embarrassing losses to group leader Manchester United. Leipzig’s 5-0 (!!) loss to ManU last week was the most shocking UCL result I’ve seen since … Lyon beat City in last year’s quarters?? On a related note, while I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good idea, I sincerely apologize for calling RBL at +230 in that ManU loss a “good bet.”
I’m curious to see how Leipzig responds this week vs. a PSG team yet to resemble the squad that was cruising through group play this time last year.
4. RB Salzburg (+700) vs. Bayern Munich (-305) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
This has to be the most one-sided line of any Tier 1 game in the history of these rankings. But I have Bayern here because right now, they’re worth watching no matter who’s on the other side of the pitch.
RB Salzburg nearly beat Atleti last week, losing 3-2, and could get a couple goals in this one. A 4-2 or 5-2 win for Bayern seems like a distinct possibility, so the Over 4.5 (+138) is a great bet.
TIER 2 – WORTH A LOOK (AND A SHORTER BREAKDOWN)
5. Shakhtar Donetsk (+190) vs. Monchengladbach (+130) Tuesday, 12:55 p.m.
More than anything else, this one’s interesting because of what it means for Real Madrid and Inter. With only one other game (Lokomotiv Moscow-Atleti) on at this time, you’ve got no excuse not to keep an eye on this one.
6. Club Brugge (+450) vs. Borussia Dortmund (-167) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This one is here because … well, it’s not *not* because we’re looking at a pretty top-heavy slate. But with Club Brugge (4 points) leading BVB (3 points) in Group F, the stakes are high for Erling Haaland and Co. I like them to handle the Belgian side and move into a solid position to advance to the round of 16.
7. Zenit St. Petersburg (+170) vs. Lazio (+165) Wednesday, 12:55 p.m.
Zenit-Lazio is this week’s winner of the prestigious “honestly, neither team is terribly compelling, but the line tells us it should be a close game!” award.
TIER 3 – THERE’S ALWAYS WORSE THINGS TO BE DOING THAN WATCHING SOCCER
8. Lokomotiv Moscow (+1,000) vs. Atletico Madrid (-295) Tuesday, 12:55 p.m.
If you haven’t watched Joao Felix this season, now is the time to change that. He’s piled up four goals in his last two games (two apiece in the Champions League vs. RB Salzburg last week and against Osasuna over the weekend). He’s a huge reason his always defensively stout club is finally scoring enough to entertain, and more importantly, avoid settling for a goalless draw every other match.
— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) October 31, 2020
9. Porto (-125) vs. Marseille (+370) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Another battle of two teams that lack star power, but Porto-Marseille should at least provide a less lopsided final score than the other games on tap this week.
TIER 4 —ADMITTEDLY NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY ON THESE
10. Barcelona (-835) vs. Dynamo Kiev (+2,000) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
11. Istanbul Basaksehir (+700) vs. Manchester United (-245) Wednesday, 12:55 p.m.
12. Manchester City (-560) vs. Olympiacos (+1,300) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
13. Chelsea (-295) vs. Rennes (+800) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
14. Sevilla (-375) vs. Krasnodar (+1,050) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
15. Ferencvaros (+1,300) vs. Juventus (-455) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
16. Midtyjylland (+440) vs. Ajax (-165) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
WHERE TO BET THE 2020-21 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.