Champions League Betting: City now favourites

Is it City's year?
Is it City's year?
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After what seems like ages, the Champions League is finally back. James Horncastle previews the midweek action and assesses the main contenders...

"Madrid, and crucially Ronaldo, are hitting form."

The race to Kiev

So convincing have Man City been under Pep Guardiola on all fronts this season that the exchange now makes them favourites to lift the trophy in Kiev in May @ 4.67/2.

Not far behind, unsurprisingly, are PSG @ 6.25/1 which bestows upon the competition the feel of a nouveau-riche duel. A Sheikh-down between Abu Dhabi and Qatar. Bearing in mind City and PSG have never been European champions, why not check out the First Time Winner market where that eventuality is priced @ 2.3211/8.

Perhaps not enough respect is being afforded to Barca 6.611/2 - who remain undefeated in La Liga - and Bayern 6.86/1. Jupp Heynckes looks to have turned the clock back to 2013 when the Bavarians won the treble.

Mo Salah: Dragon slayer?

Porto have dropped just two points all season at the Dragão in Liga Nos. Sergio Conceicão has turned the ground into a fortress again and looks poised to end four years of hurt in Benfica's shadow. Liverpool remain favourites to qualify @ 1.42/5. But this is unlikely to be as pleasant as one of those port tasting tours Oporto is famous for.

If joint top scorer Vincent Aboubakar shakes off a groin strain and midfield anchorman Danilo returns in time, Porto will be confident of keeping the tie alive going into the second leg at Anfield. The Dragons had a good defence last year under Nuno Espírito Santo and Conceicão has galvanised it further. Porto have conceded just 10 league goals this season but it's fair to say they have yet to play a team with as fast and furious an attack as Liverpool's.

The Reds are undefeated on the road in the Champions League this season. They beat Hoffenheim in the play-offs, racked up seven in Maribor and were 3-0 up at half-time in Seville. The threat posed by Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on the counter always gives you confidence Liverpool can get away goals. Of the English teams, they're second favourites to win the competition @ 17.5. A victory on Wednesday night is priced @ 2.35/4

The Old Lady misses Matuidi

Since the start of the season, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has expressed the view that the Champions League will be tougher to win this year because of the presence of five English teams. It was only a matter of time, in his opinion, before their wealth led the Premier League's representatives to become more competitive in this competition and the time is now.

In terms of experience Juventus, runners' up in two of the last three seasons, have an edge but Spurs have matured in Europe this season, putting in head-turning displays against Madrid and Dortmund. They won't be fazed by what lies in wait for them in Turin even though the Allianz Stadium is one of the hardest places to go on the continent.

Juventus have lost just once there in Europe and that was nearly five years ago. Given they have also conceded only one goal in 16 games, which includes the visit of Barcelona, Roma and trips to Naples and Florence, even a goalscorer as prolific as Harry Kane is going to have to be realistic about how many opportunities Spurs might get.

Of encouragement to him and his teammates is the injury to Blaise Matuidi whose instant impact at Juventus makes the Frenchman a big loss for the Old Lady. More so than Paulo Dybala. Matuidi is very important for the balance of the team and Pochettino will have noted how the midfield did not look completely right without him on Friday in Florence. Reason to take Spurs on Double Chance @ 1.9520/21 perhaps.

Don't write off Madrid

It is perhaps not entirely surprising in light of how far adrift Real Madrid are of Barcelona in La Liga to see them @ 1110/1 on the exchange to become the first side since Bayern in 1976 to win the Champions League three years in a row.

But, as in 1997, when Madrid ended a long wait for this trophy by upsetting Juventus in the final, their season comes down to this. They have nothing else to play for other than qualification for next season's competition. For all the flaws that have emerged in this team Madrid remain formidable and have scored 12 goals in their last two league games at the Bernabeu.

Obviously PSG represent a different proposition from struggling Depor and Real Sociedad. And Madrid's inability to keep a clean sheet remains a concern. Los Merengues have shipped 13 goals in their last nine outings, hardly reassuring ahead of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani's visit to Chamartin on Wednesday.

But Madrid, and crucially Ronaldo, are hitting form. Remember the five-time Ballon d'Or winner scored in every game in the group stages. It contrasted starkly with his form in La Liga where he managed just four goals in his first 19 appearances. A hat-trick at the weekend, though, made it seven in his last four. And memories of Ronaldo finding a new gear and turning it on this time last season, as if he'd been saving himself for the business end of the campaign, should make PSG think twice about this year being their year.

Madrid are 2.526/4 to win on the night and 2.35/4 to qualify.

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