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Previewing the 2021 Champions League Knockout Stages

| December 13, 2020 3:26 am PDT
Betting on the UEFA Champions League Knockout Stages in 2021

Following a dramatic finale to the Champions League group stage, we now know which teams will be competing in the Round of 16 when the tournament resumes in February 2021.

Real Madrid scraped through to the knockout stages on Matchday 6, leaving Inter Milan bottom of Group B. Meanwhile, Manchester United fell at the last hurdle, with PSG and RB Leipzig advancing from Group H.

Defending champions Bayern Munich cruised through the group stage, finishing seven points clear of Atletico Madrid in Group C. Manchester City and Chelsea also enjoyed unbeaten group-stage campaigns.

In this post, I check out the bookies’ latest 2020/21 Champions League winner odds. I also cover the standout talking points from the group stage before discussing the main contenders.

Latest 2021 Champions League Winner Odds

Following the group stage, the bookmakers have updated their Champions League winner odds. Let’s take a look at the latest prices, courtesy of 10bet.

You probably won’t be surprised to see that the bookies favor Bayern Munich (3.75) to go all the way again. Hansi Flick’s men have picked up where they left off last term, dropping just two points in the group stage.

As you can see, English sides Man City (5.00) and Liverpool (7.00) are expected to challenge. PSG (10.00) – last season’s beaten finalist – is also right up there with the favorites.

Having failed to impress so far in 2020/21, Spanish giants Barcelona (17.00) and Real Madrid (17.00) aren’t currently among the bookies’ frontrunners, although that could easily change as the competition unfolds.

What We Learned from the Group Stage

Join me as I look back at some of the key talking points from the group stage.

Bayern Munich Looks Unstoppable Again

11 straight wins saw Bayern clinch the Champions League in style last term, while four victories at the beginning of the current campaign extended the club’s European winning streak to 15 games.

A draw with Atletico Madrid on Matchday 5 brought an end to the Bavarians’ remarkable run, yet they still managed to qualify for the knockout stages unbeaten.

Flick’s men netted 18 goals across their six group games, despite star striker Robert Lewandowski contributing just three. Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane, and Leon Goretzka all chipped in along the way, with Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich providing the bulk of the assists.

Whoever Bayern draws in the Round of 16, the reigning champions have already proved that they are ready to defend their crown.

Man City and Chelsea Qualify Unbeaten

Liverpool advanced to the knockout stages with one defeat to their name, yet EPL rivals Man City and Chelsea both qualified without tasting defeat.

Pep Guardiola’s men finished three points clear at the top of Group C, scoring 13 goals while conceding just once. Their sole draw came against Porto in Portugal on Matchday 5.

Chelsea dropped points on two occasions, with draws against Sevilla and Krasnodar. However, four wins saw the Blues edge last season’s Europa League winners by a single point at the top of Group E.

The Londoner’s finished with an eye-catching goal difference of +12, having scored 14 times. Frank Lampard’s side only conceded two goals, with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy keeping four clean sheets in the process.

We all know that Man City invariably coasts through the group stage, but Chelsea wasn’t expected to make such light work of their opponents. Both teams will be worth keeping an eye on in the next round.

The Spanish Giants Are Faltering

Real Madrid generally has qualification for the Round of 16 wrapped up with one or two games to spare, but this season, Los Blancos left it unusually late.

Two shock defeats to Ukrainian underdogs Shakhtar Donetsk left Zinedine Zidane’s side needing to beat Borussia Monchengladbach on Matchday 6. A Karim Benzema brace saw Real advance, yet ten points from a possible 18 is a below-par return for the record UCL winners.

Barcelona found group-stage life a lot easier. Juventus was the only real threat in Group G. Minnows Dynamo Kiev and Ferencevaros offered very little resistance both home and away. However, Juve crushed Barca 3-0 on Matchday 6.

With the Classico rivals – most notably Barcelona – struggling in La Liga, too, it is clear that the Spanish giants are not the forces they once were.

On the flip side, Atletico is flying high in La Liga and only lost one Champions League group game this term. It could be argued that Diego Simeone’s side is the most feared Spanish team in the Round of 16.

Goalscoring Outsiders Can’t Be Written Off

Okay, Borussia Dortmund isn’t exactly an outsider. But the Germans aren’t expected to lift the trophy this season. Still, with Erling Haaland, it feels like anything is possible.

The 20-year-old notched up six goals in just four group-stage appearances, bagging back-to-back braces against Club Brugge. You cannot disregard BVB with Haaland leading the line.

Gladbach and Lazio also have sharpshooters in their ranks. Indeed, Alassane Plea and Ciro Immobile each have five UCL goals under the belt in 2020/21. Plea netted a hat-trick against Shakhtar before hitting a double against Inter, while Immobile has scored in every European game he has featured in.

At the end of the day, any team that possesses a regular goalscorer stands a chance of going deep into the tournament.

Assessing the Bookmakers’ Favorites

Can Bayern do it again? Or will Man City finally end their wait? Let’s take a look at the frontrunners.

Can Bayern Make it Two in a Row?

Of course, it is still early days. But judging by the Bavarians’ group-stage exploits, I think you would be pretty foolish to bet against them securing back-to-back Champions League titles.

Not only do the Germans have last season’s experience to build on, but they are also arguably stronger this time around. With world-class wingers Leroy Sane and Douglas Costa signing in the summer, Flick’s squad is now overflowing with talent.

Plus, when Lewandowski starts firing on all cylinders, Bayern will only score more goals. If the backline can match the team’s attacking prowess, the defending champions will be difficult to stop.

Will the Cityzens Break Their Curse?

Last term, it looked as though Man City would finally come close to winning the trophy that has eluded the club ever since Guardiola took over. Yet a shock quarter-final exit at the hands of Lyon ended the pursuit for another season.

There is no denying that the English side has the players to go all the way. Kevin De Bruyne is widely regarded as the best midfielder on the planet, while Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, and Ferran Torres all shone during the group stage.

However, it remains to be seen whether or not Guardiola’s men can break the mental barrier and remain consistent throughout the entire campaign.

Can Liverpool Overcome Injuries?

If you haven’t heard about Liverpool’s injury crisis, where have you been?

The Reds’ problems have been well documented this season, with key defender Virgil van Dijk among the host of notable long-term absentees. But Jurgen Klopp seems to be finding ways to navigate the stormy waters.

The importance of Diogo Jota’s arrival cannot be overstated. The forward has bagged four UCL goals already this season, including a hat-trick against Atalanta. Youngsters Rhys Williams, Curtis Jones, and Neco Williams have also deputized admirably when called upon.

If the Merseysiders can continue to cope without their sidelined stars, imagine what they could do when certain players return from injury.

Is PSG Ready to Go One Better?

The Parisians came agonizingly close to claiming their first-ever Champions League triumph last term, only to fall to Bayern in the final. Needless to say, Thomas Tuchel’s side would love nothing more than to go one better this season.

PSG endured has endured a tricky European campaign up to now, albeit in a tough group. Tuchel’s men lost to Man Utd and Leipzig before beating both teams to advance, although a 5-1 thrashing of Istanbul Basaksehir showed what the team is capable of.

Neymar netted a hat-trick on Matchday 6, while Kylian Mbappe bagged a brace. If PSG’s superstar duo can replicate that kind of performance in the knockout stages, last season’s beaten finalists could be this season’s winners.

Can Ronaldo Help Juventus Triumph?

Sure, soccer is a team game. But I can’t help but feel that Juventus’ 2020/21 Champions League hopes depend on the goals of one man – Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 35-year-old only featured in four of the Bianconeri’s group games, yet he still managed to score four goals. A double against Barcelona on Matchday 6 sent out a big message not only to Lionel Messi but to the rest of the competition as well.

Alvaro Morato has also proved his worth in the UCL this term, with his six goals helping Juve to finish ahead of Barca in Group G. Still, there are question marks over the team in other departments.

The Wrap-Up

With Real Madrid and Barcelona flagging, it feels like Bayern’s route to the final is even easier this season. But there are still plenty of other teams capable of ending the Germans’ dominance.

As well as the favorites that I covered above, teams like Chelsea, Dortmund, and Atletico will also be quietly confident of building on their promising group-stage campaigns and going deep into the knockout stages.

We will be covering the Champions League extensively when the Round of 16 kicks offs in February. In the meantime, why not check out our betting picks section for other sports?

Ben Morris
Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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