Tuesday and Wednesday will be huge days for European soccer fans. They’ll be particularly enjoyable for anyone who happens to have the TV subscription and/or and wall full of TVs necessary to watch all eight 2019-20 Champions League group stage games taking place both days.
This early in the season, there a lot of teams we do not know a ton about, and a number of match-ups between a juggernaut and an un unknown. Below is our 1-through-16 take on the most interesting games to watch, from the best (Barcelona-Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern??)* to the worst (Club Brugge-Galatasaray??)
*All times listed are U.S. Eastern, and the home team is listed first.
Tier 1 – Actually worth watching
1. Atlético Madrid (+143) vs. Juventus (+220) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
This one is intriguing for several reasons. First of all, it’s our first look at new-look Atleti vs. a formidable opponent. We’re really high on Diego Simeone’s team, and especially João Félix, despite Los Rojiblancos’ surprising 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad this weekend. Juve, whose offseason additions were headlined by Matthijs de Ligt, has already dropped points domestically (they settled for an ugly 0-0 draw Saturday vs. Fiorentina), a rarity for them. This is also a rematch of last year’s round of 16, when CR7 broke his longtime rival’s hearts with a hat trick in Leg 2.
2. Borussia Dortmund (+195) vs. Barcelona (+130) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
If we were going strictly by on-field intrigue, this would top the list – and honestly, these first two games are probably 1A and 1B. Barcelona is always compelling, full strength or not. With Lionel Messi’s status unclear, Ernesto Valverde’s team becomes even more must-see (with Messi 100%, they’re out of just about everybody else’s league). We’ll probably know by Monday whether to expect the Argentine to suit up (he’s currently doubtful, but who knows). BVB has won three of four to start the year, including a couple blowouts. The Germans will be a tough test for a Barcelona squad that has struggled against much weaker opponents than this one this year. Considering homefield advantage and the possibility Messi doesn’t take the field, the Bundesliga side is a good bet at these odds.
3. PSG (+114) vs. Real Madrid (+220) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Real Madrid and PSG both endured summers marked by just a touch of drama. RM are also dealing with a slew of injuries that explain why they’re the underdogs here. Neymar’s return to the lineup on Saturday ended with him scoring a stunning game-winner to help his team beat Strasbourg 1-0.
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) September 14, 2019
Tune into this one to see if Neymar and Gareth Bale can continue to play at a high level despite spending all summer dominating headlines for the wrong reasons. Anyone betting the over of 4.5 at +370 could be in for a payday, as both these teams are much better at scoring than defending against elite offensive foes.
4. Chelsea (-124) vs. Valencia (+350) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
If anyone from a big-five league in this tournament is poised for a nosedive, it seems like it’s Valencia. I say that based on the recent sacking of Marcelino and their form against Barcelona on Saturday in a 5-2 loss. Chelsea has taken seven points from their last three in the EPL, including a 5-2 blowout win over Wolverhampton this weekend – they’re a good bet to win at -124.
5. Ajax (-200) vs. Lille (+540) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
With all due respect to their Eredivise foes and the teams they knocked out to get out here (Apoel and PAOK Salonika), the current, Frenkie-De-Jong-and-de-Ligt-free version of Ajax is untested. Lille has already lost twice in Ligue 1 and is no European juggernaut, but this should be a good battle. The line is probably as lopsided as it is because of Ajax’s homefield advantage, as the crowd in Amsterdam will be rocking.
6. Napoli (+200) vs. Liverpool (+135) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Liverpool is no massive favorite here despite looking every bit as good as they did a year ago. I would imagine that’s a sign of respect for a solid Napoli club that has two wins and a nail-biting loss to Juve through three games in Serie A this year. On the road, the Reds will be tested, and maybe this will be a game where Alisson is missed, but Liverpool still ought to be getting more respect from oddsmakers, IMO.
Tier 2 – Worth a look (and a shorter breakdown)
7. Benfica (+175) vs. RB Leipzig (+150) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
Benfica is a fixture in this tournament, but how will they look without Félix? Check this matchup out to see whether Benfica looks like a threat to reach the knockout round. It will also be fun to see RB Leipzig, a team that we expect to make noise in this group.
8. Olympiakos (+340) vs. Tottenham (-114) Wednesday, 12:55 p.m.
Tottenham is all over the place, and on the road, they could stumble despite being the heavy favorite. Spurs showed us last year they can work some serious magic in this tournament. But it would be just like them to stumble to a draw or loss and make group play a heavier lift than it should be. Will this be the group who lost to Newcastle 1-0 or the club that just smoked Crystal Palace 4-0?
9. Inter Milan (-250) vs. Slavia Prague (+700) Tuesday, 12:55 p.m.
We expected big things from a team managed by Antonio Conte and led by strikers Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez. Sure enough, they’re rolling in Serie A and should cruise here. This one should be fun to watch just to see whether Inter look as potent as we think they are.
10. Dinamo Zagreb (+260) vs. Atalanta (+110) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Atalanta is another Italian team we’re high on, largely because of their high-powered offense, which led Serie A in goals in ’18-19. If they’re humming on the road at Dinamo Zagreb, that will be a good sign they deserve respect in this tournament.
Tier 3 – there’s always worse things to be doing than watching soccer
11. Shakhtar Donetsk (+900) vs. Manchester City (-335) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Like ‘em or not, Man City are undeniably fun to watch, and they’ll be fuming after their disaster this weekend.
12. Bayern Munich (-1,667) vs. Red Star Belgrade (+3,000) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Bayern Munich deserves your attention, regardless of how much a cakewalk this will be.
13. Brugge (-109) vs. Galatasaray (+310) Wednesday, 12:55 p.m.
A rare matchup where neither team plays in a big five league, but the odds say this one should be pretty close.
Tier 4 – admittedly not sure what to say on these
14. Lyon (-139) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (+390) Tuesday, 12:55 p.m.
15. RB Salzburg (-182) vs. Genk (+450) Tuesday, 3 p.m.
16. Bayer Leverkusen (-265) vs. Lokomotiv Moscow (+850) Wednesday, 3 p.m.
Where to Bet Champions League in the US
In the US, you can legally bet the Champions League online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.