While headline matchups Barcelona-Bayern Munich and Manchester City-RB Leipzig earlier this month were completely one-sided, Liverpool-AC Milan and Inter Milan-Real Madrid were both close. I would even call them “close and entertaining,” but that would be awful generous to Inter-RM.
The great news on Matchday 1 was that plenty of the games we never expected to be interesting provided plenty to talk about. A couple of the highlights nobody saw coming included Manchester United losing to Young Boys and PSG settling for a draw against Club Brugge. If nothing else, results like those show that even the games in Tier 4 are worth your attention.
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 U.S. are on CBS All Access/Paramount+.
TIER 1 – MUST-SEE
1. PSG (+200) vs. Manchester City (+135) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
It doesn’t get any better than PSG-Manchester City, and it fortunately sounds like Lionel Messi will be on the pitch for the Parisians.
This match-up of the tournament’s two current favorites – City is +350 to win it all, followed by PSG at +400 – is fascinating in a million different ways. It starts with the star power on each roster. We’re also talking about two clubs that want UCL success more than anything after years and years of domestic success but no UCL hardware. You have to tune into this game, even if the stakes are somewhat low given both teams are locks to advance from Group A.
2. Juventus (+300) vs. Chelsea (-105) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Juve is off to a dreadful start in Serie A, as they’re currently in 10th place on 8 points – of a possible 18 – through six games. They’ve played better in recent weeks, drawing AC Milan on September 19 and beating Spezia and Sampdoria since, but this team has all kinds of issues right now. The fact an organization like Juve is +265 at home tells you two things: A) It’s gotten really bad in Turin and B) they’re facing a great club in Chelsea (no matter how bad Thomas Tuchel’s side looked against City over the weekend).
3. AC Milan (+185) vs. Atlético Madrid (+165) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
AC Milan proved two weeks ago at Anfield that they deserve our respect, but oddsmakers don’t seem sold. Given Atleti’s recent form and the fact AC Milan are at home, they’re great value at +190 here. Atlético Madrid hasn’t looked against anyone in weeks, and against a tough team like AC Milan, they’re going to struggle again. Whether you prefer AC Milan (+190) or AC Milan Draw No Bet (+100), put your money on the home team in this one.
4. Manchester United (-210) vs. Villarreal (+550) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This one might not be a headliner for those who didn’t watch last year’s Europa League final. But anyone who saw Villarreal pull that upset knows why I have this game in Tier 1. This is also compelling after ManU’s loss to Young Boys last week and Villarreal’s draw against Atalanta. If there’s a loser in this one, that team is going to be in serious danger of not making it out of this group. That means we should see an intense game. I’m not saying I expect a draw (I like ManU, but not at -210). However, Villarreal has gotten a draw in five of six games in La Liga so far this year, which makes Draw (+360) awful tempting.
TIER 2 — WORTH A LOOK (AND A SHORTER BREAKDOWN)
5. Benfica (+190) vs. Barcelona (+145) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Barcelona would have been worth watching given their struggles prior to Sunday’s blowout of Levante. If not for that result, and the successful return of Ansu Fati, I’d be advising people to tune in because of a strong chance of Barcelona losing. But after that 3-0 win, with strong performances from Fati and a couple of Barca’s promising young (academy) players, I expect a win from Barcelona here. Yes, I think this team’s new No. 10 (Fati) makes that much of a difference.
6. Wolfsburg (+190) vs. Sevilla (+155) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This line has moved in favor of Sevilla – Wolfsburg was just +170 over the weekend, before their surprising 3-1 loss to Hoffenheim – but it’s still close enough to tell us we can safely expect a tight one. Sevilla has been steady in La Liga this year and has more UCL experience, but their back line looked awful against RB Salzburg two weeks ago, so don’t be surprised if Wolfsburg pulls the upset at home. Draw (+225) is not a bad idea.
7. Porto (+380) vs. Liverpool (-145) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Jurgen Klopp’s team is always worth watching, even if I don’t expect this to be a terribly difficult afternoon for them.
TIER 3 – WHAT ELSE ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR AFTERNOON?
8. Atalanta (-210) vs. Young Boys (+500) Wednesday, 12:45 p.m.
Can USMNTer Jordan Pefok lead Young Boys to another upset win? I have my doubts, but he’s done it before!
9. RB Leipzig (-185) vs. Club Brugge (+500) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
At home, RB Leipzig should have better success against Club Brugge than PSG did. If they don’t, it will be time to get to know Club Brugge.
10. Borussia Dortmund (-310) vs. Sporting Lisbon (+800) Tuesday, 3 p.m
Even without Erling Haaland, BVB should have no problems against Sporting Lisbon, based on what Ajax did to the Portuguese club.
11. RB Salzburg (+100) vs. Lille (+285) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
RB Salzburg was unlucky (or maybe they just suck at PKs??) against Sevilla on Matchday 1. Lille is also coming off a draw on Matchday 1, but is in ninth place in Ligue 1, so RB Salzburg should be able to handle them.
12. Ajax (-750) vs. Beskitas (+1,600) Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.
I have too much respect, and curiosity, for Ajax right now to put this in Tier 4, but this line tells you not to expect a very close match.