Champions League Futures: There's a new Sheriff in town

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October 15th, 2021

Next Tuesday and Wednesday will see the resumption of Champions League play, with Matchday 3 fixtures seeing numerous key matchups that could solidify qualification hopes for some and put others in perilous positions. While a few groups have already seen a distinct outlining of who will advance from the group, some are still quite up for grabs.

Let’s examine the Champions League futures and see where the best value lies!

2021-22 Champions League Futures

Manchester City
Bayern Munich
Paris SG

Sheriff to win Group D (+1100) or finish top 2 (+175)

Nearly everyone enjoys a great underdog story. There might not be a bigger one in sports right now than the outfit from Transnistria, a breakaway state from Moldova that is not even recognized by the United Nations. They play in Moldova’s top soccer league, and the minnows only made the Champions League group stage after navigating multiple qualification rounds. When they were drawn into Group D alongside Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Shakhtar Donetsk, nobody gave them any shot at finishing third and moving to Europa League for the knockout stages—much less advancing from the group.

However, the biggest underdogs in the competition showed their qualification was no fluke on Matchday 1, defeating Shakhtar 2-0 at home. Then they visited the famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, where they were +1000 odds to draw and +2800 to win the match. Two hours later, they left Real Madrid reeling with a stunning 2-1 defeat that gave them sole possession of the group and shocked the entire sport, following a stunning volleyed goal in the final minute of regulation.

One thing to keep in mind is that Sheriff dominates their domestic league, in large part because the club nearly has more money than the rest of the league combined. They are the only team to own their own stadium, and they have won the Moldovan league 19 of the last 21 seasons. This plays to their advantage, as they will be able to rotate and play their best 11 for the remaining four Champions League matches.

Sheriff plays quite compactly, conceding possession at high rates—Shakhtar held the ball for 74.7% of the match with Madrid holding it for 75.6% of the time—and hit on the break with pace and lethal efficiency. They have conceded just two goals in their last eleven matches in all competitions, and yet they still sit at +1100 to win the group and +175 to finish top two.

Given Inter Milan’s struggles both domestically and in the competition, a loss to Sheriff on Tuesday would almost guarantee Sheriff finishing top two. It would also give them a terrific shot at winning the group. I recommend both wagers, but the +1100 to win the group may be one of the best values you can find all year.

Atalanta to win Group F (+175)

When Group F was announced, many felt it was going to be a breeze for Manchester United and Villarreal to qualify. However, after two matches it is the Italian side Atalanta sitting atop the standings, with a trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday to face Manchester United being one of the biggest of the week.

United sit third following a shock defeat to Young Boys, just one point back of Atalanta, but they have not won a match in nearly a month, and they will be missing both Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire in defense. Additionally, they have a matchup with Liverpool on Sunday, and will have to prioritize one over the other.

Villarreal and Young Boys will face off Wednesday, with Villarreal sitting on one point and needing a win to keep pace with the other two clubs. An Atalanta win is very possible, and a win plus a Villarreal win or draw would put them at least three points ahead of everyone else. With the issues going on at United, and Villarreal’s poor form, Atalanta presents the best value of the group and I cannot recommend them enough.

Benfica to finish top 2 and Sheriff to finish top 2 (+340)

Benfica to finish in the top two of Group E currently sits at -167, and I never like to provide picks with juice that high. However, even with a match against Bayern Munich looming on the horizon, I believe that they will qualify for the next round.

Their 3-0 win over Barcelona on Matchday 2 was a dominant performance in which they outshot the Catalans 12 to eight, and repeatedly caused chaos for the Barcelona defense on the counter-attack. Winger Darwin Nunez scored a goal from open play and converted a penalty, with only the frame of the goal denying him a hat trick.

While they will probably lose to Bayern, it would take a massive blowout to not be in second place heading into Matchday 4. Should Barcelona fail to defeat Dynamo Kyiv, the odds of Benfica qualifying go up drastically. A Barcelona win would still see them sit one point behind Benfica, but that is not a given even with their talent gap over Kyiv. Barcelona have yet to score a goal in either of their Champions League matches, being outscored by six.

I would take the solid value on Sheriff to finish top two in Group D, and pair it with Benfica finishing top two in Group E. This would give you a wager paying more than three times your investment, and allows you to pair up two outstanding values while removing the juice.