PSG and Manchester City are fancied for Champions League success but who will challenge them? Tom Carnduff picks out his best bets for the 2021/22 season.
1.5pts e.w. Bayern Munich to win the Champions League at 8/1 (William Hill 1/2 1,2)
1.5pts e.w. Chelsea to win the Champions League at 8/1 (General 1/2 1,2)
Less than four months after Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy in Porto, Europe's top club competition returns with 32 clubs hoping for success on one of football's biggest stages.
There's little surprise in seeing who heads the market this season. Manchester City - constantly fancied for the title but have never been able to deliver it - have been bumped down to second in the betting. This time, it is French giants PSG who are fancied to end their wait in this competition.
It's justified given their remarkable summer business - they have cemented their place in football history given the additions they made and the little upfront cost they paid in terms of transfer fees to make it happen.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Lionel Messi all joined as out of contract players while €60m was paid to Inter to secure the services of Achraf Hakimi. They weren't done there though - Nuno Mendes was a loan capture from Sporting on deadline day.
The question always comes up regarding Manchester City due to their often short odds in the outright market. However, PSG's summer activity has thrown them into favouritism and there can't be too many complaints about that.
Infogol's model calculates that PSG have an 18.2% chance of winning the 2021/22 Champions League. The best odds available of 4/1 provide an implied probability of 20% while the shortest odds of 3/1 move that probability percentage to 25.
For City, Infogol gives them at 14% of European glory. The 9/2 best prices puts the implied probability at 18.2% while the general price of 7/2 suggests that it's a 22.2% chance.
Odds correct as of 16:15 (07/09/21)
Not only does Infogol's model say that both have a smaller chance than the implied probability from the odds, meaning there is no value in backing either, but the prices are also quite short for an investment that does last over eight months or so. There is also the fact that both teams have struggled in this competition in recent years and final appearances haven't been as regular as they should have been.
By all means they could well be the winners of this competition and it would be far from a surprise to see them battling it out for the trophy. However, at short odds, there's just not enough interest.
There is usually some hesitancy when it comes to tipping previous winners - particularly teams who have won it in recent years - but 2019/20 champions BAYERN MUNICH represent value at 8/1 to overcome the disappointment of their showings in this competition last season.
The best price of 8/1 also gives returns at 4/1 as a losing finalist on an each-way bet and that means profit even if they are beaten by one of the favourites in Saint Petersburg at the end of May.
The German champions delivered at 14/1 when we tipped them for success two seasons ago and they continued to go from strength-to-strength, comfortably winning another top-flight crown under the guidance of Hansi Flick. Even after Flick's departure in the summer, they can expect more success this time around.
They have replaced him with Julian Nagelsmann - a man from Bavaria tasked with ensuring the club remain top of the pile. He'd led one of their biggest domestic challengers, RB Leipzig, to the semi-finals of this competition when Bayern last won it and he's developed a reputation for solid tactics in big games.
Placing him in charge of Germany's best team is an exciting prospect - and while they haven't looked as fluent as we'd perhaps expect in the opening exchanges of the Bundesliga season - they should be a force among Europe's elite once they have fully got settled in to the new Nagelsmann system.
There is also the fact that they have Robert Lewandowski leading the line and you're always guaranteed goals with him in the side. Questions remain about the supporting cast - most notably Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry at this current time - but much like the system, they may get into the swing of it by the time the Champions League is fully underway.
The midfield duo of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka is one of Europe's best, while the defensive line is solid enough, albeit slightly shaky as they adjust to their new roles this season. The pace of Alphonso Davies will continue to cause issues for opposition defences - you see quality wherever you look in this Bayern squad.
There is also the fact that the 8/1 gives an implied probability of 11.1%, while the Infogol model has them as 12.9% shots - making the German champions a value bet based on the statistical model.
CHELSEA's success in 2020/21 highlighted the incredible level of improvement they saw under Tuchel's guidance. Having inherited a side sat 8th in the Premier League table, they would secure a top-four finish alongside Europe's top trophy.
While Premier League glory will now be the target, Chelsea's incredible squad means that they can still rotate and provide a strong second string to help manage the number of competitions they are in. Although, we should expect the first XI to be used in the Champions League.
It should be a fairly comfortable experience in the group stage with Juventus their only real concern in the challenge for top spot. Zenit and Malmo make up the remainder of Group H and the Blues won't have to worry too much about those teams. Rotation may even come into play here.
Winning the group gives them an advantage as they did last season. On the whole, the Champions League has been won by a team who topped the group they were in, although it isn't necessary - Liverpool (2018/19) and Real Madrid (2017/18 & 2016/17) were two of the most recent examples.
The additions of Saul and Romelu Lukaku during the summer window have made the Stamford Bridge club even stronger and it gives them more options to work with when it comes to balancing this talented group of players. Crucially, both also have a lot of experience in this competition.
Tuchel has created a system which works for this team. A back-three that doesn't limit their creativity and ability to attack, it's tough for teams to find a way to better Chelsea and that's demonstrated in the way they both finished the 2020/21 campaign and started the current season.
PSG and Manchester City's short enough odds for success has pushed the Chelsea price out with 8/1 eye-catching for the current holders to retain their crown. We'd expect to see them much closer to the front pack had it not been for their summer activity.
That does create extra value in betting on Chelsea to make it back-to-back though with each-way odds of 4/1 returning a profit if they make another appearance in the final. That said, we can hold confidence that they have the ability to win this competition again.
Odds correct at 1615 BST (07/09/21)
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