Champions League group play is back!
We start off with a strong slate, even if Lionel Messi’s Champions League debut with PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo’s UCL (re-)debut with Manchester United are not exactly must-see given their opponents. But it doesn’t get much better, at least brand-wise, than Barcelona-Bayern Munich and Liverpool-AC Milan, to name just a few of the big clashes we’ll be treated to this Tuesday and Wednesday.
From stars like Messi (and all of PSG) and Zlatan (AC Milan) to currently-starless-but-always-entertaining clubs like Ajax and Atalanta, this field offers something for everyone, starting Tuesday at 12:45 p.m. Eastern.
Notes: the tiers are self-explanatory, I hope. All kickoff times listed are U.S. Eastern and the home team is listed first. All matches in the US are on CBS All Access.
TIER 1 – MUST-SEE
1. Barcelona (+245) vs. Bayern Munich (+100) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
No fan of either team has forgotten the last meeting between these two, which was as one-sided a match-up as anyone could ever hope to see. Barcelona is missing a certain Argentine, and it says a lot that they’re +245 (!!) at home, but have you seen Memphis Depay over the past few weeks?!
🇳🇱 Memphis Depay = hat-trick hero 🎩💫
— European Qualifiers (@EURO2020) September 13, 2021
Bayern Munich, on the other hand, just dominated RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga and once again look like a strong candidate to push for, if not win, this tournament. Bayern at +100 are a great bet and a must-watch for anyone who hasn’t seen them under Julian Nagelsmann yet this season.
2. Liverpool (-190) vs. AC Milan (+500) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
AC Milan is back in the Champions League for the first time since the ’13-14 season. That’s hard to even process, and it will (rightfully) be talked about plenty before, during and after Wednesday’s battle with Liverpool. We will also hear plenty about the meeting between these two in the ’05 UCL Final, which I doubt Liverpool fans will mind one bit.
The Reds are off to a strong start in the EPL, including an impressive 3-0 blowout of Leeds United over the weekend. AC Milan is undefeated through three games in Serie A and has a great chance to turn heads here. Their season-opening wins over Sampdoria, Cagliari and Lazio have – for some strange reason – not earned them much respect, as evidenced by their +500 price here.
3. Inter Milan (+145) vs. Real Madrid (+180) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Plenty of teams in Europe lost a lot this offseason, but these two have both have a strong claim for the worst summer of 2021. Real Madrid lost two of the cogs of its back line in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane (though they did sign David Alaba), while Inter Milan lost their coach (Antonio Conte), best striker (Romelu Lukaku) and best young player (Achraf Hakimi). Otherwise, they had an OK summer!
As the line indicates, this should be the closest of the Tier 1 games, and it will be particularly interesting given Inter Milan’s struggles in this tournament the last couple years.
4. Man City (-350) vs. RB Leipzig (+900) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This is probably the most lopsided line on a Tier 1 game in High Press Soccer Watchability history, but I think it’s a hell of a lot more compelling than oddsmakers would have you believe. Despite getting smoked by Bayern over the weekend and their poor form in the Bundesliga – RBL is in 12th place, with just three points from four games – I believe in Jesse Marsch’s team, or at least I really want to.
TIER 2 — WORTH A LOOK (AND A SHORTER BREAKDOWN)
5. Atlético Madrid (-160) vs. Porto (+550) Wednesday, 3 p.m
Atleti is showing a dangerous, but very entertaining, penchant for last-second theatrics so far in domestic play. After a couple of boring wins to start the season, they scored maybe the luckiest goal you’ll see to equalize against Villarreal in the 95th on August 29, then snatched a game-winner against Espanyol in the 99th (!) over the weekend. So watch this one til the final whistle!
6. Villarreal (+145) vs. Atalanta (+180) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Villarreal and Atalanta might lack household names outside Spain and Italy, but they both have shown us over the last couple years that they deserve our attention. At the risk of disrespecting Young Boys, it seems safe to say that the winner of this one will have a great shot to come out of Group F alongside Manchester United. Given their Champions League track record, Atalanta at +180 are worth a close look.
7. Sevilla (-155) vs. RB Salzburg (+380) Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.
Sevilla miiight just have a shot at La Liga this year, and I feel even better about their chances of at least reaching UCL knockout play. On Tuesday, they face one of the most entertaining teams in Europe in RB Salzburg, who feature one of the USMNT’s most entertaining young players in Brenden Aaronson.
TIER 3 – WHAT ELSE ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR AFTERNOON?
8. Sporting Lisbon (+185) vs. Ajax (+145) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Most of us probably can’t name a ton of players for either team (the list of Ajax guys who were around back in ’18-19 unfortunately just keeps shrinking). But Ajax always makes things interesting, and Sporting Lisbon are coming off their first Primeira Liga title since ’02.
9. Besiktas (+450) vs. Dortmund (-180) Wednesday, 12:45 p.m.
If there’s one player who guarantees his team’s games are Tier 3 or higher, it’s Erling Haaland.
10. Club Brugge (+1,100) vs. Paris St. Germain (-425) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
No, I don’t see Club Brugge keeping this one terribly close. But PSG has too many stars to be in Tier 4.
11. Lille (+170) vs. Wolfsburg (+180) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
This was going in Tier 4 until I saw the line. It doesn’t get much more even than +170 vs. +180.
TIER 4 — TIER 4 – BACKGROUND SOCCER (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
12. Sheriff Tiraspol (+360) vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (-125) Wednesday, 12:45 p.m.
13. Malmo (+600) vs. Juventus (-225) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
14. Chelsea (-525) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (+1,500) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
15. Young Boys (+650) vs. Manchester United (-270) Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.
16. Dynamo Kiev (+230) vs. Benfica (+120) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
WHERE TO BET CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IN THE US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in more than two dozen states. You can bet online in some states, but only in-person betting is allowed in most of them.
DraftKings Sportsbook is available in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
FanDuel Sportsbook is available in Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.