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Barcelona Champions League Odds Hint At Vulnerability
Real Madrid have won this competition in each of the last three seasons, but the bookies’ Champions League odds and consensus opinion suggest they will not enjoy a fourth straight triumph in the 2018-19 edition, writes Nick Dorrington.
Madrid were near the top of the bookmakers’ rankings prior to the start of this year’s competition, but their domestic struggles and lack of firepower following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo have left them looking in far from ideal shape to retain their trophy.
It would be dangerous to completely rule them out. After all, they only finished third in Spain last season, 17 points behind champions Barcelona, yet were still able to go all the way in Europe, defeating Liverpool in the final. They are the most successful side in the competition’s history and have reached at least the final four in each of the last eight seasons.
Madrid are certainly weak enough to suggest that there are at least four or five teams who have a better chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the final in Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium on 1st June, 2019.
Spanish rivals Barcelona are one of them. They always feature highly in the UK sports betting sites’ rankings, even though they have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in four of the last five seasons. While they are again the favourites to win their domestic title, their campaign to date hasn’t been without its up and downs, and they, too, are probably weaker than normal.
If a Lyon side with plenty of good young talent who were able to take four points from Manchester City during the group stage bring their A-game, it isn’t inconceivable that Barcelona’s campaign could end as early as February.
Barcelona and Madrid have between them won the Champions League in each of the last five and seven of the last 10 seasons. Perhaps it is time for another team to get a look-in.
The two sides slugging it out for the Premier League title are among the prime candidates. Potent in attack and good in defence, Liverpool and Manchester City are both strong enough sides to put together deep runs. Man City have certainly benefited from a favourable draw by being paired with Schalke in the last 16.
Liverpool were last season’s beaten finalists, eliminating City along the way, but have a tough round-of-16 tie against Bayern Munich standing between them and significant progress this time around. After emerging from a group featuring both Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain, and in the face of a Bayern side in a slightly awkward transitional phase, they will, however, be fairly confident of advancing.
PSG are another of the favourites, even though they are yet to make it beyond the last eight in the six seasons since significant Qatari investment elevated them to the presumed status of one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Their attacking talent, headlined by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, is obvious; less so, whether they have the defensive smarts to go all the way.
Manchester United await the French champions in the last 16. For all that they have enjoyed a resurgence since former striker Ole Gunnar Solksjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho in mid-December, they will certainly enter that tie as underdogs.
If Juventus can traverse a tricky round-of-16 encounter against an Atletico Madrid side going through problems in attack yet sufficiently battle-hardened to nevertheless make their way through a two-legged knockout tie, they, too, are potential winners. With Ronaldo on board, the team who have twice been losing finalists in the last four seasons might just go all the way this time around.
Atletico have extra motivation to prevent that from happening due to the fact that the final will be played in their own stadium. They have thrice been losing finalists in the competition, twice in the last five years, without ever winning it. They are part of a group of sides also featuring Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund who are good enough to go far if things fall their way but probably not quite good enough to win it.
Roma fell to Liverpool in a thrilling and goal-packed semi-final last season, after producing an extraordinary comeback to down Barcelona in the last eight. While they have not been as impressive domestically or in Europe so far this season, a first knockout round tie against Porto provides them with a decent chance of at least making the quarter-finals.
Check out the latest Champions League odds from the top bookmakers in the comparison table above.