If you follow football punditry on television or brave the depths of “football Twitter”, there is an overwhelming consensus that Manchester City are way out ahead of the competition when it comes to the Champions League this season. Bayern might look formidable (although not so much in the Bundesliga) and Messi may have found his groove in Paris, but it is City, buoyed by the incredible form of Erling Haaland, that gets the nod as the chosen ones this term.
Bookmakers firmly agree. Pep Guardiola’s men are clear favourites in the Champions League betting with every major bookmaker. Their odds, somewhere around 2/1, are far ahead of the next two in the markets, PSG and Bayern, at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively.
Of course, we have been here before with City. In fact, they have started the campaign as favourites numerous times over the last several years. The Haaland factor might persuade some punters that things are different this time, but you can’t help but feel that 2/1 looks somewhat short for any team to triumph in the world’s premier football competition at this early stage.
The World Cup factor
In fact, we might argue that there are too many variables between now and the Champions League Final on the 10th of June next year. Most notably, there is the World Cup. Yes, a lot of people have pointed out that Norway have not qualified, and thus Haaland will be resting up while the majority of other elite players will be racking up the minutes, but this is but one player, even if he has started the season in record-breaking form. Moreover, you can hazard a guess as to which club sent the most players (16) to the 2018 World Cup. And by our rough count, City will send a similar number of players to Qatar.
More pertinently, the World Cup will benefit some clubs and prove a disadvantage to others, and there is no guarantee that City will fall into either bracket. It will be almost like the season starts over again in late December, and we know from experience that long breaks can take the wind out of some clubs’ sails.
Despite that, it’s hard not to agree with those that believe City should be way out ahead of the pack. City’s current swagger has echoes of the great Pep Guardiola-led Barcelona team of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Not in their style of play, as such, but in the level of superiority and belief that their tactics will eventually win out. But again, despite being in agreement that City should be favourites, the odds just look too short.
Some clubs will benefit from a reset
So if not City, then who? This was not meant to be a prediction article; rather it was to analyse City’s odds. But the fact that the World Cup offers a reset for some teams might be beneficial for those looking for value in the odds. Liverpool, who are currently available at 7/1, look like a team that needs to find to find its feet. But if you snapped up that 7/1 now, you might feel pretty happy with yourself come springtime. Elsewhere, you can find the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona at odds in double figures, and even Chelsea (in huge need of a reset) can be found at close to 30/1 with some bookies.
Perhaps overall, the advice is to be careful ploughing into City at 2/1. Too many times over the last several years have punters backed the Manchester club, then watched in horror as City somehow trip over themselves. The Haaland factor might be persuasive, but City have been the best side in Europe before without getting over that final hurdle. Maybe they will become European champions for the first time in June next year, but you can be sure that a lot of punters will feel comfortable not taking them at short odds so early in the competition.