Before Christmas I wanted to squeeze in some coverage of the Champions and Europa League knockouts coming up in February. 

We don’t need huge player by player detail now – lots of this is in Scouting anyway. But I think it is worth thinking about which teams are at risk of a knockout and which have a strong chance of dominating the coming games. 

As covered in SOTM yesterday – whilst we have a lot of complicated stuff going on with market mechanics and what not – when you think about what we can actually do it gets a whole lot simpler.

The best overall strategy right now is likely as simple as challenging the outrageously low prices for well established, high performing, well known players.

CL and Europa involvement is a big plus – not just for the potential extra wins including those massively lucrative knockout Gold Day’s but the very anticipation of those games has a positive effect on the price.

And for those who have tough fixtures they may have negative sentiment ahead of the games – traders fear the knockout. 

The optimal strategy on this seems to change year on year. Often, we’ve had good results from targetting underdogs – they have less pressure to win and start at a low price. Where as heavy favourites start at a high price and can blow up if they get a shock defeat in the knockouts. 

This year – we have a bit of a luxury because of the way prices are right now. We can just fill our boots with the favourites who are very strong and going to be easy to sell later on if/when the market recovers.

It is well worth considering a team’s possible path through the CL/Europa when thinking about which players might be the best value at the moment.

Champions League

The Algorithm

This is the algorithm which I like to use for the CL and Europa. I have used it for years now and whilst it is not something to be followed religiously – I have found it to have a knack for highlighting potential upsets. 

This can help us avoid slipping into lazy assumptions. On a number of occasions it has alerted me to credible opportunities for underdogs to win. 

From memory I recall it highlighting that I was underestimating dogged Getafe. As did Ajax – Getafe went on to dump them out of the Europa. 

And it also called it correctly when Ajax knocked out Juventus in the CL too. In my purely anecdotal opinion – I haven’t done the hard numbers – it does this often enough for it to be more than just coincidence.

The Betting Odds

And I also take a look at the Betting Odds. This is as much to do with the sentiment of who people think will win as much as anything. Bookies do tend to set reasonably accurate odds of winning but they aren’t pure probability – they also factor in things like how much they think punters will wager so they can try to balance their book.

None of these are perfect systems but between algorithm and betting odds plus our own common sense, we’ll get a reasonable idea of the probability of winning which we can factor into trading. 

And most of the time the favourite wins of course but there will be upsets. Good knockout trading isn’t so much about betting just on wins – it’s more about making sure the price we are paying for those players is a) worth it if they do win and b) not too high that an unexpected knockout kills them.

This screen grab is from


Champions League Analysis

Let’s quickly run through the games  to identify the strongest teams we can think about cherry picking from. 

As I say I’ll likely do a full player preview nearer the time but we already have lots of recent coverage on all these sides in the Scouting section.  

For those who want to cheat a bit and don’t fancy reading a lot this close to Christmas – the strongest looking bets for the next round of the CL to my eye would be assets from:

Bayern, Manchester City, Juventus and Real Madrid.

Lazio, Gladbach, Atalanta and Sevilla look up against it – but it may not be so bad as the expectations are low anyway.

Dortmund, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Atletico, Leipzig and PSG all have very competitive games. Doesn’t mean we have to avoid them – often the opposite – but we want to make sure we think about the consequences if they do get knocked out. 

Are they at a reasonable price where a knockout isn’t a total disaster? Do they have any other late season reasons to hold them as insurance policies?

Game by game below.

Bayern Munich v Lazio

Both the algorithm and betting odds have Bayern as nailed on to overcome Lazio.

And that’s hard to disagree with. Lazio are not a bad side – but I’m not exactly running out to bet on them here either.

Loading up on quality Bayern assets seems a good bet right now. They likely get significant optimism ahead of this game and if they get through they will likely be favourites whoever they play in the next round too. 

Being the favourite comes with pressure – if they do unexpectedly get knocked out then they could take a beating. But generally we’ll be able to pick solid players that have other late season reasons to hold them too – like appearing at Euro 2020. 

Regulars will know the drill on this team. Lewandowski. Kimmich. These are probably the easiest two to sell. Goretzka, Muller very strong as well. Gnabry is bang out of form but the price is very low and it’s exactly these sorts of nights where he can (and has) come back with a bang.  

And readers will know my tortured views on Coman as he’s great but his injury record scares me.

As for Lazio – they have a couple of good reliable assets like Immobile and Alberto.Tough draw but the prices are reasonable and nobody will expect them to win here anyway so a knockout shouldn’t do them too much harm.

Barcelona vs PSG

Tough game. Betting odds make Barcelona the slight favourite. Algorithm does too with a 62% chance of winning. 

To me… feels pretty much a toss up. We can expect nerves in the build up as people won’t know who will go through – but if either side takes a decisive advantage in the first leg that could trigger significant optimism.

Not a game to place heavy bets on specifically but if we are content to hold the players longer term and think we can get a low price matched right now it could be ok. 

A knockout really hurts for a Messi, Neymar, Mbappé type player though so this would make me wary. They’ll want the CL related media and extended reason to hold them late in the season. At least Mbappé has Euro 2020 as insurance. And Messi will be more about the transfer too as per Scouting today.

We may be better served with the more low key but still credible picks here like Pjanic, Dest, Griezmann, Ousmané Dembelé. Or at PSG Marquinhos, Florenzi, or Icardi if back. Di Maria if he has a longer contract by then. 

RB Leipzig vs Liverpool

Liverpool are heavy betting favourites but only slight favourites at 61% in the algorithm. 

I think this is one where the algorithm is highlighting some of the jiggery pokery that goes on with bookmakers odds. I’m with the algorithm here – I think 60/40 in Liverpool’s favour feels right. It’s a tough match up and they start away.

It would be nice to have Euro 2020 involvement as insurance but this isn’t true for either of their main 3. Salah or Mané feel like good options at current prices nonetheless. Both have a lot to gain from a longer CL run. 

Or Thiago if back which he should be could really rocket back on to radars very easily. Curtis Jones superb for a long term hold anyway as discussed so I’d be happy with this and not too worried about any CL outcome for him. 

Robertson and TAA both good options as per scouting. (Was going to try not to mention specific players in this article, literally cannot help myself). 

RB Leipzig will be regarded as the underdog clearly but they do have a chance. We’ve got a lot of players here at value who could cause an upset and are just good picks anyway. Sabitzer. Olmo. Nkunku. Upamecano. Angelino. I don’t think they’ll get too much hassle from a knockout as they won’t be expected to win. 

Even Kluivert is improving and on the watch list as per Scouting.

Porto vs Juventus

Betting odds have Juventus nailed on. That makes sense to me and the algorithm gives them a 68% chance of winning too. That’s strong – but it’s no sure thing.

But given the strong domestic form too I’d be pretty confident on select Juventus assets right now. 

Ronaldo as per scouting – an obvious winner if you can stomach the risk as discussed. Dybala if he plays but he has his problems as per scouting. Chiesa and Morata solid picks as are Cuadrado and Sandro. McKennie the youth option and he’s been doing really well lately too.

For Porto… this isn’t a market where we need to be making massive punts like this really. 

Sevilla vs Borussia Dortmund

Algorithm pretty confident on Dortmund at 62% and the betting odds are similar. Not long ago we’d have Dortmund as a shoe in but the recent form is really poor for them and the new coach hasn’t obviously improved things immediately but he’s only had 1 really competitive game.

I think we need to see another couple of games with the new coach before we can really judge.

But right now – I’m a bit wary on Dortmund. Except for Guerreiro who is powering through anyway. And Reus he is close. Sancho… as per Scouting there is lots to say on that but if you are going to get players like that do it when they are down like now.

I’m not sure Sevilla punts are the right play for this round. None of the IPD options look particularly in form although that may look different a month from now. Best options are Ocampos. Rakitic. Suso. Or Joan Jordan in case he gets a penalty. 

Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea

A toss up. Certainly in the algorithm and the betting leans slightly more towards Chelsea – but it tends to for English teams.

Again these scenarios are not one to be placing heavy bets on specifically for the CL.

But we can target players that are decent value anyway provided they are at low prices (who isn’t) and unlikely to get completely savaged by a knockout. 

Afterall – the team that makes it through might get a little boost – at least until the draw for the next round where they are very likely to be underdogs. Such is the peril of the CL and why the Europa can actually give traders an easier time.

Mount. Chilwell. Jorginho. Solid choices in general. Reece James too I just like Chilwell’s price a bit better as per scouting. Depending on Scouting in the next couple of weeks we may be reaching the point where negativity on Werner, Havertz and Ziyech is going too far and that can be challenged. As per scouting Werner looks the closest to a bounce back.

Atletico I covered just today in Scouting – they have reverted to the bad old ways of low possession football. Lemar still looking decent though. 

Atalanta vs Real Madrid

Real are looking strong again lately. Betting odds dead set on them to progress, and the algorithm is confident too at 65%. In current form I’d be confident with going for Real Madrid assets.

Kroos. Benzema. Easy picks. Ramos – if he signs a new deal – would be too. But until then, I’m wary. Vazquez looking a good punt as per scouting. Rodrygo and Vinicius improving. And Odegaard is strong when he plays too – his current price likely to be a strong undervaluation. Players who could be great but aren’t showing it yet – Asensio and Hazard. 

Tough to back Atalanta for this. Gomez has transfer problems. Ilicic could be hitting form but is getting rotated recently as per scouting. I wouldn’t really want to be punting on a risky veteran that late into the season. Probably Zapata or if fit Pasalic would be the choices.

B. Monchengladbach vs Manchester City

A cake walk for City, or so the algorithm and the betting odds say. I have to agree. 

Gladbach are no mugs but City are going to be nailed on favourites and betting against that does not seem wise.

Some solid picks here. KDB is at a very tempting price and he has been very unlucky not to score big more often recently as per scouting. 

Cancelo solid. Dias. Stones if you think he will keep his place. Mahrez. Foden is dipping to a very reasonable price. Rodri can push 300+ with a goal and his base is so strong he may not even need one – particularly on a European night. 

Sterling has been off the boil but it is these runs of big CL knockouts where players like this can really come into their own. And he has Euro 2020 as a little insurance policy.

Pressure is off Gladbach – you may get a shot to nothing as I don’t think anyone is expecting them to win. Plea. Hofmann. Zakaria. Neuhaus. Bensebaini. All decent longer term choices. 

Thuram if you believe in the transfer though he is in trouble and may get a lengthy ban for spitting. Which is exactly the note on which I wanted to end the last article before Christmas on. Thanks Marcus. That was not very Christmassy. 

I will be back tomorrow with Scouting of tonight’s games, though. I’ll try to squeeze in a similar article to this on the Europa if I can, though it may come after Christmas.

error: Right click is disabled to protect members content.
error: Alert: Copying is disabled to protect members content :)