Champions League Preview 4/7
All times EST
Hi everyone! This article will hopefully help to provide you with an insight into tomorrow’s soccer games. With the help of Statsational’s model, we will analyze where there is value and which spots would be best to avoid. Soccer can be a fickle sport, so I typically stick to smaller (0.25-0.5) units. Also, please note that I am not a coach and thus these picks should always be considered unofficial and for fun. Good luck!
As always, if you have questions about any team or matchup, feel free to ask in the free public #soccer channel on the SBA Discord!
3:00pm: Paris Saint-Germain @ Bayern Munich
The quarterfinals of the Champions League continue tomorrow as Bayern Munich (1st, German Bundesliga) hosts Paris Saint-Germain (2nd, French Ligue 1) in the first leg of this rematch of the 2020 final. In that game last year, Bayern Munich came away with a 1-0 victory. This year, both teams come into the game with significant injuries, with Bayern missing Robert Lewandowski and his 42 goals and PSG missing star midfielder Marco Verratti. Bayern has thus far proved more than capable without their top scorer, and find themselves in the midst of a seven-game win streak. They just defeated 2nd-place RB Leipzig to increase their lead in the Bundesliga, and are looking to repeat as champions there as well as in the Champions League. Bayern Munich is one of the deepest, most well-rounded teams in all of soccer, and they, along with Man City, are the odds on favorite to win the whole tournament.
Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, has struggled to find their identity this season amidst myriad injuries. Top striker Neymar has been hurt much of the year, but that didn’t stop Kylian Mbappe from torching Barcelona in the previous round. Neymar will be back for this one, but his last outing against Lille was rife with disappointment and saw him pick up a red card in his return to action. Luckily for him and PSG, the red card doesn’t apply to Champions League and he will be eligible to play, though he certainly does not look fully healthy at this point. PSG have struggled without him in Ligue 1 play, going only 2-3 over the last five and allowing Lille to gain a three-point lead for 1st place. If Paris Saint-Germain is to win tomorrow, it will almost certainly need to be off a stellar performance from Mbappe.
Taking a look at the lines for this game, we find Bayern Munich is the expected favorite with odds of -103, while PSG currently sits as a +255 underdog. The expert model from Statsational has fair lines for this game at -140 and +361, respectively. This means we have some solid value on Bayern Munich here, and I couldn’t agree more. Despite the talent of Mbappe and Neymar, Bayern is simply a better team from top to bottom. They have shown the ability to win across all competitions and I would not be surprised to see them once again make it all the way to the final. They should definitely take care of business at home tomorrow. I recommend betting Bayern Munich to win 0.5 units at -103 odds.
3:00pm: Chelsea @ FC Porto
The next game features the Cinderella story of the Champions League, FC Porto (2nd, Portuguese Primeira Liga), hosting Chelsea (5th, English Premier League). Though Porto is designated as the home side in this one, both legs of this matchup will be played in Seville due to COVID-19 restrictions. Porto may be an underdog here, but they are no slouches as they proved in the last round after dispatching Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus. Two of their top players, Mehdi Taremi and Sergio Oliveira, will miss this game due to match suspensions, which will hamper Porto’s attack in the first leg. Still, Porto has shown resilience in the face of adversity, as they played with only 10 men for the last hour against Juventus and still found a way to advance to the quarterfinals. I fully expect Chelsea to control most of the possession tomorrow, but FC Porto is at their most dangerous on the counter-attack, which just so happens to be one of Chelsea’s few weaknesses. Porto certainly has the ability to win this matchup and absolutely deserves to be here, but they will need to play mistake-free soccer in order to advance to the semifinals.
Chelsea has had a tale of two seasons. After starting the season in questionable form with inconsistent results, they fired their manager and hired Thomas Tuchel, who just so happened to lead PSG all the way to the Champions League final last season. Under Tuchel’s guidance, Chelsea has found their footing and went unbeaten for 14 straight games before losing last weekend to relegation-bound West Brom. At first look, it was an ugly 5-2 loss, but Chelsea did take an early 1-0 lead before a red card in the 29th minute saw them play for over an hour with only 10 men. Still, it was an embarrassing loss, and Chelsea will look to right the ship here and continue their impressive Champions League campaign. U.S. national Christian Pulisic will be healthy and available for this match, though he has not been much of a factor for Chelsea since Tuchel’s arrival.
As expected, FC Porto is once again the underdog in this matchup, with odds of +410 compared to Chelsea’s -130. According to Statsational’s model, the fair lines for this game would see Chelsea only a -111 favorite, while Porto should be +375. This means we find a small value on FC Porto in this one, with a positive EV of 2%. As much as I want to recommend this bet, and as exciting as it would be to see Porto continue their magical run, I just don’t see it. Without two of their best attacking players, I think Porto will struggle to score and Chelsea will look to stifle them defensively. Porto has shown an ability to defend well when they need to, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game end in a tie. I do think Chelsea finds a way to win, however. Unfortunately, the model does not see enough value for me to recommend a bet on this one, but if you really want some action on it I would definitely lean towards Chelsea.