Following some particularly heroic displays in the round of 16 from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, Ajax by defeating the reigning champions, FC Porto against AS Roma, and Cristiano Ronaldo against his old foes, Atletico Madrid, we have the final eight clubs battling for the UEFA Champions League.
In the quarter-finals, Ajax will face Juventus, Porto and Liverpool will go head-to-head, Tottenham Hotspur have the unenviable task of taking on the tournament favourites, Manchester City, and the rejuvenated Manchester United face an even sterner test against Barcelona.
One of the more intriguing outright markets in the Champions League football betting is the Nationality of Winner odds. With four teams in the quarter-finals, England is the frontrunner to win the trophy at 4/6. Italy’s representative, Juventus, and Spain’s last remaining team, Barcelona, hold their nations at 10/3. Ajax and Porto aren’t seen as enough to the Netherlands and Portugal in high esteem, sitting at odds of 33/1 and 80/1, respectively.
So, let’s see which of these nations is the best to back.
Backing the favourites: English clubs
Only PSG (14) are on a longer winning streak at home than Arsenal (8) in Europe’s top five leagues
Manchester United are on the longest winning streak away (6) in Europe’s top five leagues
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) March 8, 2019
England is guaranteed to have at least one team in the semi-finals as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City face each other, with City being the 2/11 favourites to qualify. Liverpool are also hotly tipped to make it to the next round at 2/9, seen as being just too strong for Porto to pull off another victory. Manchester United will need another minor miracle to make their way past Barcelona and are at 3/1 to move to the next round.
The main element that can count against the English clubs, as it has done many times in previous seasons, is the competitive nature of the Premier League. City and Liverpool are neck-and-neck in the title race while only three points separate Spurs in third and United in fifth in the battle for a top-four finish. This means that the teams can’t let up in their league games too much to better prepare for their Champions League ties.
Strengthened by league dominance: Spanish and Italian giants
Koke must be pretty sick of Cristiano Ronaldo by now:
2017: Scores hat-trick for Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
2018: Scores hat-trick for Portugal vs. Spain
2019: Scores hat-trick for Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid
Three hat-tricks for three different teams for CR7. pic.twitter.com/WKnWO1VJ35
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) March 12, 2019
Both Juventus and Barcelona are the 2/9 favourites to overcome their quarter-final opponents. Ajax took advantage of the floundering Real Madrid team and United were able to capitalise on their momentum and newfound belief to make the most of their second-leg being in Paris.
United and Ajax have an advantage with the second leg being an away game, but few expect Juventus to still be in range after the first leg and Barcelona could put a few against Red Devils if they can’t find their positive play again and shrug off some recent bad results. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has faced Ajax five times in the Champions League, winning all five games, scoring seven goals, and setting up two – and then there’s the rest of Juventus’ star-studded line-up.
In Italy and Spain, Juventus and Barcelona have all-but won the league titles. Barcelona were ten points ahead of Atletico Madrid with ten games to go. Juventus are even more dominant, sitting 15 points up on Napoli with ten games to go. Both teams can afford to rest and rotate their star players to keep them in top condition for their Champions League ties, giving them a huge advantage.
While England does have four clubs left in the competition, it seems likely that City and Liverpool will have to face Champions League titans Juventus and Barcelona in the semi-finals. Both of these draws would be very difficult, and as the dominant Spanish and Italian teams, they can keep their top players fresh and ready for the game.
Given the strength of their teams, the road to the final, and the lack of competition domestically, the Spanish and Italian teams should be given shorter odds than 10/3 to win the Champions League.