THE Champions League resumes this week and we asked Tom Love (TomLove_18) to analyse the outright market and share his favourite fancies.
Atalanta (11/1 Betway)
Atalanta have been one of the stories of the season. The Nerazzurri have become increasingly well-known for their attractive and attacking style of play and rightly so. The affable Gian Piero Gasperini is at the helm, he’s had time to build a squad in his mould and it’s worked a treat with his favoured formation being a 3-4-1-2 but allows a great level of fluidity.
I had the pleasure of watching La Dea in the flesh as they beat Fiorentina in Florence back in February and they exuded confidence, were a constant threat and looked like they could've upped the intensity even more if they wanted to.
It’s not like they’ve broke the bank to achieve the heights they have either, their wage budget ranks as a bottom half side further highlighting the managerial skill of Gasperini.
Not only do La Dea rank as the best attacking side according to the underlying figures in an extremely competitive Serie A, they are surprisingly the best defensive team too along with Inter Milan. That also shows the hike in respect opposition are giving them as well.
Josip Ilicic has been missing for a while but the likes of Duvan Zapata, Alejandro Gomez and Luis Muriel are electric in the final third, whilst the likes of Mario Pasalic and Ruslan Malinovsky can cause carnage as a free roaming midfielder. Width comes from Hans Hateboer, who scored a brace against Valencia earlier in the season and the impressive Robin Gosens on the other side who has nine goals and eight assists domestically.
It’s going to be hard to outscore this side with the 98 goals in 38 league games this season! They are scary numbers and enough to frighten any team. Suffice to say, the Bergamo boys will be giving it a real go in the Champions League and trust they'll fear no one.
It’s incredible that they’re in this position given they lost their first three group games, they now find them in the more favourable side of the draw and although their quarter-final match up with PSG may look daunting I actually think they’re the better side. Should they get past Les Parisiens they will face one of Atletico Madrid or RB Leipzig in the semi-final. So, if they do get to the final they will avoid the two market favourites in Manchester City and Bayern Munich in getting there.
The lack of any crowd may benefit Atalanta too being a relatively small team, it’s purely a football match and in my opinion they’ve been one of the top five teams on the continent this year. It’s no surprise to see that they’ve been cut in the betting, all teams in this side of the draw have, but the 11/1 available with Betway on La Dea has to be worthy of an each-way play.
PSG aren’t a side to be feared, the capital club were lacking any threat in the two recent cup finals in recent weeks and Kylian M’bappe picked up a nasty injury which is a huge blow for them and an equal as seismic boost for the Italians. If they get past them then they could face a Timo Werner-less Leipzig side or an Atletico side that always keep games down to tight margins.
Double figure quotes still appeal, some firms go as short as 17/2 so the 11/1 best price available with the each way terms I’m delighted to lap up.
Atletico Madrid (9/1 Betfred)
If Atalanta are the outgoing, carefree side of the continent, then Atletico Madrid are quite the contrary.
Diego Simeone is well revered for his pragmatic, extremely organised approach that makes them such a threat in a one-legged tournament. They knocked out current champions Liverpool in the Last 16 and although the data may have shown the Reds to be on top, Atleti are more than happy to soak up the pressure, sit in a deep block and stop any dangerous chances.
If there’s one team that will be delighted at a long build up to the game it will be El Cholo and co. No doubt forensic examinations have been taken on opponents RB Leipzig for their quarter-final meeting, they’ll also be delighted with the fact Timo Werner no longer being at the East-German club. Again, they are in the nice side of the draw and have pedigree in this competition.
I was slightly surprised to see just how impressive Los Colchoneros have been on the underlying performance data this term. They’ve kept their steely defensive resolve with an Expected Goals (xG) conceded figure south of one, which is extremely solid, as per.
What’s stood out though is their nod-inducing attacking process with an xG for of around 1.80 per-game, showing that they’re creating more good quality chances this season.
That being said, they haven’t really improved points-wise domestically and that’s partly down to the profligate nature of their forwards. Angel Correa, Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata have all underperformed as they’ve failed to live up to their individual xG figures.
Perhaps this is because they haven’t been used to getting so many presentable opportunities in the past at the Wanda Metripolitano, sharpness could be lacking. I do think it’s more of a variance thing though, and if they can get a bit more luck in front of goal then you’d back their defence to keep things tight as possible.
I want my money to be with a team that you can trust to keep things competitive and that’s almost always the case with Atleti. They’ve been here before and the single game knockout format will suit them better than most. They have seen a bit of money the last few days but the 9/1 (Betfred) is the best price available and is more than fair in my eyes given the nature of the draw and is another each-way play I like the look of.
I couldn’t put anyone off them to win straight up as they have proven that they can keep the door shut against all quality of teams but I think the price is just about big enough to warrant each-way terms.
Nationality of Winner: Italy (6/1 BetVictor)
One alternative market that piqued my interest is the nationality of the eventual winner. I’m staggered that Italy is the rank outsider at 6/1 with BetVictor.
Consider Germany is as short as 21/10 and there’s only two German sides left in the competition – and one of them has lost their star striker – it's slightly baffling.
Italy have three sides left competing with the aforementioned Atalanta already in the final eight. Juventus are still slight favourites to progress in their tie with Lyon and have a fired up Cristiano Ronaldo who lives for this competition. Napoli are all-square with an underwhelming Barcelona and I for one would not be surprised to see Gli Azzurri progress there, especially with their penchant for being a strong cup team under Gennaro Gattuso.
You could argue the Italian sides have the greater match fitness with their league ending just last week and I come back to the fact these are now one-game knockouts – it may take a while for the other nationalities to get going, when there’s simply not enough time for them to do so.
Serie A, for my money, is one of the strongest on the continent with plenty of well-stacked sides. That could prove the difference between Germany or France for example.
I’d personally have this market much tighter and 6/1 is screaming at me to get on.