Halfway through Champions League group play, it looks like Bayern Munich is once again untouchable.
No one who watched Hansi Flick’s team during any of their first three matches in Group A is wondering who should be No. 1 on our list of the 16 teams “most likely to reach knockout play.”
But it’s interesting to think about who should be ranked where from 2-16, so that’s what this piece will focus on.
While the battle to advance is far from over in a few groups, we’re basing “most likely to reach knockout play” on the futures odds to finish to-2 in each group. Below are the favorites to advance, by each group:
Note: The groups with more than two teams legitimately in the mix to advance get an asterisk.
2020-21 Champions League group odds
Group A: Bayern Munich (top-2 odds off the board); Atlético Madrid (top-2: -715)
*Group B: Real Madrid (top-2: -400); Monchengladbach (top-2: -182). Inter Milan is +110
Group C: Manchester City (top-2: off board); Porto (top-2: -835)
*Group D: Liverpool (top-2 odds off the board); Atalanta (top-2: -155). Ajax is +100
Group E: Chelsea (top-2: -10,000); Sevilla (top-2: -10,000)
Group F: Borussia Dortmund (top-2: -2,000); Lazio (top-2: -400). Club Brugge is +200
Group G: Barcelona, Juve (top-2 odds off the board for both!)
Group H: ManU (top-2: -560); RB Leipzig (top-2: -200). PSG is -134.
Ranking the top 2020-21 Champions League contenders
1. Bayern Munich
Somehow, this team might be even better than the one that cruised to the title a year ago. The Bavarians were on another level from the rest of the field, and that was before injuries began piling up for Liverpool in particular, but for just about everyone, to one extent or another. Bayern has the depth to better withstand the setbacks everyone will be facing from COVID-19 and/or the inevitable injuries from the absurd schedule demands on Europe’s best players.
2. Manchester City
Based on this team’s history, I should have them much lower. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s how I got here: Liverpool at +600 would be my pick for No. 2 if I thought their roster was going to hold up, but the Reds are too shorthanded now that Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Joe Gomez are all out for so long. Unfortunately, the list of injured players for this team is much longer than that, but we’ll focus on centerbacks here. If I had more faith in FSG going out and adding a world-class centerback, like RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, I’d have Liverpool here, but I don’t think that’s happening.
I probably ought to at least mention the team I do have ranked No. 2 in this space. I like City here because A) I’m smart enough to respect the oddsmakers and not go with anyone that is +1,300 or longer over a team that is +500 and B) depth. If anyone other than Bayern is made for a season like this one, it’s these guys.
See above. However, none of Barcelona, Juve or PSG seem like better bets than Liverpool, regardless of all the personnel issues Klopp is battling.
4. Atlético Madrid
The Atleti we hoped we’d see after that torrid stretch of pre ’19-20 friendlies is here — better late than never!
This defense is about what you’d expect from a Diego Simeone team, despite how they looked vs. Bayern. And with João Félix (seven goals including La Liga and the Champions league) now looking like the player everyone raved about prior to his move to the Spanish capital, these guys might be as dangerous as anyone. It’s hard to overstate how big a deal it is that this club finally has not only a competent offense, but maybe — it might still be too soon to say – a legit one.
With four goals in three UCL games and 17 (!) in seven La Liga matches, this team has a good enough attack to complement that always stout defense and pose a big threat to whoever they face in knockout play.
To me, this spot had to go to either Juve, Barcelona, Real Madrid or PSG. There is simply too much uncertainty — and volatility from one game to the next — for me to trust Barcelona, and PSG’s form means I don’t like them here either. I’m also not convinced Sergio Ramos is going to be available as much as his team needs him, and we’ve seen what RM looks like without him. So I’ll go with Mr. Champions League, CR7, and Co. as the next-best bet after Atleti.
I have Barcelona here because of Lionel Messi, but I have more questions than answers about the rest of this squad. The problem is that based on his lineup choices, the same can be said for Ronald Koeman, especially now that Ansu Fati will be out of the picture for a while. Don’t miss Barcelona-Atleti this Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern at the Wanda Metropolitano.
I have the Parisians here because they’re still loaded, but they look extremely out of sorts. They also are in desperate need of a win over RB Leipzig next Tuesday, or else they’re going to need help over the final two matchdays of group play to even advance.
I’ll go with the ridiculous amount of firepower at Frank Lampard’s disposal ahead of Los Blancos, whose last game was a 4-1 (!) loss to Valencia that set off all sorts of alarms.
9. Real Madrid
I don’t think I can put these guys any lower considering their pedigree in this tournament, but the injuries to Fede Valverde and Ramos (even if his turns out to be minor) are huge red flags for a team I’d (hot take warning) like a whole lot more at full strength. Can Martin Odegaard emerge over the next month or two?
10. Borussia Dortmund
BVB’s attacking pieces give me reason to rank them ahead of a dysfunctional Manchester United club.
11. Manchester United
This team deserves some love for beating PSG and blowing out RB Leipzig, but their inconsistency makes them extremely hard to trust. Nobody who loses to Istanbul Basaksehir, not to mention all their bad results in the EPL, deserves to be considered a threat in the Champions League.
At this point, this roster seems good enough to succeed in either the Champions League or La Liga, but not both. As much as I like the nucleus of Julen Lopetegui’s team, they appear unable to quite balance the demands of this year’s insane schedule well enough to make any serious noise beyond group play.
I still believe!
14. Inter Milan
It’s a big if, but they could so some damage in knockout play, assuming they earn themselves a chance to.
15. RB Leipzig
I don’t think either of the teams at 15 or 16 will have much of a say in the quarters or beyond, but I said the same thing about Lyon a year ago and we saw how that played out. And apologies to Gladbach, whose rightful top-16 spot I’m giving to Inter despite what the oddsmakers say.
Futures odds to win ’20-21 Champions League
The oddsmakers’ futures odds to win the tournament are below.
(This list covers 1-18 because Monchengladbach has the 18th-best odds, while Inter has the 14th-best, despite the Bundesliga club having a better chance to advance from Group B).
- Bayern Munich (+250)
- City (+500)
- Liverpool (+600)
- Barcelona (+1,300)
- Juve (+1,500)
- PSG (+1,500)
- RM (+1,500)
- Chelsea (+2,000)
- ManU (+2,700)
- Atleti (+3,000)
- BVB (+3,000)
- Sevilla (+3,500)
- RB Leipzig (+4,000)
- Inter (+4,500) *But not favored to advance ahead of Monchengladbach*
- Atalanta (+6,000)
- Lazio (+8,000)
- Ajax (+10,000)
- Monchengladbach (+12,500) *But favored to advance ahead of Inter*
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.