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The wait is over.
It feels like it’s been an eternity since group play wrapped up back in mid-December. But the good news is that for each of the next two Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Champions League will provide a ton of great soccer from 3-5 p.m. Eastern.
With so many good match-ups to get to, we’ll keep the intro as short as possible, but there are a few (or maybe like 5) things worth clarifying up top. And be sure to listen to the latest High Press Pod, which talks through these match-ups.
We’ve “ranked” all 16 teams based on who has the best futures odds to win the whole thing, from Liverpool (+400) down to Lyon (+25,000), so that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to “No. 7” Real Madrid squaring off with “No. 2” Manchester City.
With that in mind, here are the latest Champions League futures:
A few more notes if you haven’t read previous editions:
There were, as you remember, four tiers during each round of knockout play.
This time around, because the match-ups are much better, the tiers are: Tier 1: Must-see TV; Tier 2: Worth watching, just not quiite as “must-see”; Tier 3: Still pretty damn good!
This one was a no-brainer at No. 1. Real Madrid is somewhat quietly playing as well as anyone in Europe. Los Blancos had allowed just 14 goals through 23 matchdays in La Liga (matchday 24 is in progress) thanks to some of the best defense in the continent. And Karim Benzema remains a weapon (13 goals and six assists in 22 La Liga games) up top. But the remarkable thing is how many sources of offense Zinedine Zidane has: this team has gotten goals from 17 (!) different players in La Liga.
City, amidst a rough patch regarding their long-term future and miles behind Liverpool in the EPL, will be extremely desperate here. If anyone has the firepower to crack Real Madrid’s back line, it’s Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Co.
This is as good of a battle as you could hope for at this stage of the competition, but I like RM a lot at +150 in the first leg at home. And betting on them to go through at +145 is a great idea.
This is the game to show your friends if you’re trying to get them hooked on the UCL. Both these teams have a ridiculous amount of firepower up top and are also known to allow plenty of opportunities.
BVB were dangerous before Erling Haaland arrived and began his rampage of the Bundesliga, and they’re downright terrifying now.
You can be forgiven for a skeptical take on PSG considering their Champions League track record, but their roster is loaded and they performed at a higher level than anyone in group play.
Barcelona has been up and down and entirely too Messi-dependent this season, but is … maybe finding its stride under Manager Quique Setién?? The 2-1 win over Getafe on Saturday was impressive, and despite all the issues, there’s a reason this team is among the favorites.
Napoli was intriguing in group play, as Liverpool fans can attest, but it’s hard to have much faith in a team languishing in 11th place in Serie A.
A bad season for Los Rojiblancos did not get any better on Friday, when Atleti drew Valencia 2-2. Diego Simeone’s team has a knack for making life difficult for their Champions League opponents, but Liverpool should win easily.
Don’t expect either of these games to be either high-scoring or dramatic, but anything involving Liverpool belongs in the top tier.
Chelsea and Atalanta seem like the hardest teams to predict in the round of 16. It would be easy to see the Blues’ young players stunning the Germans, but a pair of high-scoring, close games that end with Bayern going through seems most likely.
This match-up could very easily have gone in Tier 1, but it felt weird putting more than half of these games in the highest category.
Do we think either of these teams are a real threat to get beyond the quarters? If they somehow draw Lyon, then sure, but otherwise, not so much. Still, it literally doesn’t get more toss-up than “-112 to -112,” and José Mourinho is a guy you can’t ignore, regardless of how you feel about him.
The fact this game is the sixth-most watchable out of eight speaks volumes about the strength of the other games.
With 61 goals in 23 games in Serie A, Atalanta is a team worth getting to know. Valencia has a penchant over the last year or so for winning ugly. This might be the match-up I’d have the hardest time predicting, and the oddsmakers obviously are with me on that.
Oddsmakers are screaming that there’s nothing to see here – especially considering what else is available to watch — and I’m with them. If there’s one game to skip, it’s this one.