The Champions League draw for the last 16 takes place on Monday and there are three strong bets to be placed on the winner market before it's all change, says Jamie Pacheco.
"Yes, that would be the same competition that they’ve won in three of the last four years. So much for no side successfully defending their title since the competition’s inception in 1992-3. Not only did they manage it last year but did so with the minimum of fuss, beating Juventus comfortably 4-1."
The draw for the Last 16 of the Champions League takes place on Monday at 11am. After the draw is made, the prices on the overall winner will look very different to how they look currently once everyone knows who's playing who.
So here are three bets to be placed before an army of ex-superstar footballers, current super-models and UEFA officials take to the stage in Nyon, Switzerland on Monday.
Defending champions Real Madrid far too big
I had to do a double-take when I first saw that Real Madrid were [7.8] joint-third favourites to go on and win the Champions League. Yes, that would be the same competition that they've won in three of the last four years. So much for no side successfully defending their title since the competition's inception in 1992-3. Not only did they manage it last year but did so with the minimum of fuss, beating Juventus comfortably 4-1.
The only possible reason I can think that they're that price, is that they'll be in Pot 2, the destiny that awaits those who finished runners-up rather than those who finished top of the group. But so what? So are Bayern Munich, Juventus and Chelsea. There are three sides they wouldn't want to face, who they've already avoided.
We also know that they can't face Barcelona in the next round because they're from the same country so that's another bonus. So which side can they be drawn against who they'd start as underdogs in? PSG, possibly. Man City, but that would be unjustified. Anyone else and they're favourites to go through anyway.
This is pretty much the same side that has made the competition their own. Cristiano Ronaldo is showing no signs of letting up, as proven by the fact he won yet another Ballon d'Or earlier this week. All the other key players - Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema etc- are all still there.
If anything, the continued progress of players like Isco, Marco Ascensio and Borja Mayoral means they have more options within the squad than in previous campaigns. But the most important thing of all is that they have been there and done it all before.
PSG far from the finished article
Yes, I get it. They're the star-studded line-up that contains in Neymar, the most expensive footballer in history, and in Kylian M'Bappe another of the costliest, when his transfer eventually becomes a permanent one. And I'm going to play devil's advocate for a second and point out that in Unai Emery they have a manager who is no stranger to European success, having guided Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League wins.
That's all well and good, but I'd read a lot more into PSG's 3-1 defeat at Bayern Munich - just starting to find their feet under a new manager than an established side with continuity - than I would into their wins by 5-0 at Celtic and 4-0 at Anderlecht.
One issue I have with them is that Emery seems to have a great Plan A and they look like a million dollars if it works, but his in-game management is questionable. What is Plan B? Another I have is Neymar himself. Not only can he be a little self-indulgent when on the field but with nine bookings and a red already this season, they could soon find themselves with him off the field for a crucial game.
But most of all, my issue is that this is unchartered territory for them. They had every chance to knock out Barcelona last year and bottled it. Why should things be so different this time round?
So how do you price up a side who topped their table with 14 points, was one of only four sides in the competition to have remained unbeaten and was the only team of any to have won all of their three away matches? At [210.0]... That price could represent a perfect back-to-lay opportunity.
It's also worth pointing out that their group - containing Porto, RB Leipizig and Monaco- may have lacked top quality teams but was arguably the only group to not have had any pushovers, either.
Besiktas may be a side made up of maverick misfits - the controversial Pepe, the mercurial Ricardo Quaresma, the unpredictable Talisca, the undisciplined Gary Medel, the wasted talent that was Ryan Babel and many more. But maybe that's the point. These are guys who either feel they have something to prove or perhaps are proving they had it all along
Crucially, their away record in the group stages suggests they're excellent travellers, and there are few who will look forward to facing them at home with their partisan crowd and obscene levels of noise. They're unlikely to win it but if they get through the next round or next two rounds, they certainly won't be the price they are now.
Back Real Madrid to win Champions League @ [7.8]
Lay PSG to win Champions League @ [5.0]
Back-to-lay Besiktas to win the Champions League @ [210.0]