Champions League

Every sport has a crowning competition, for club football, it's the UEFA Champions League. Football clubs, teams, players and supporters recognise the Champions League as the unparalleled highest achievement attainable. Succeeding and lifting the 'big ears' trophy brings consummate jubilation, triumph, glory and stature to all clubs who are fortunate and earn the right to be called 'the winners', and there's some who have experienced the label of 'winners' on a frequent basis, and then there are those who simply competing in such a distinguished and well-known competition is reward in itself. The Champions League assembles the biggest clubs from around the world each season to compete in qualifying, play-off and group rounds, knock-out, quarter-final, semi-final and final matches.

Latest Champions League Betting News

The 2016/17 Champions League has now reached the semi-final stage with just four teams remaining in the competition. With the final coming from Cardiff at the start of June, we take a look at the chances of the four sides left and analyse just who we expect to lift the trophy in the Welsh capital.

Real Madrid

Zinedine Zidane's side are bidding to become the first side in the modern-era of the competition to win back-to-back titles. They have managed to reach the semi's after a pretty tough encounter with Bayern Munich in the last round, when they required extra-time and some favourable refereeing decisions to make it past the German champions. Having won 2-1 in Munich, they suffered defeat by the same scoreline at the Santiago Bernabeu. However in extra time, two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo to complete his hat-trick and one Marco Asensio eventually ensured their place in the last four. However that is only half the story, with Bayern aggrieved at a number of decisions such as Ronaldo's second goal coming from an offside position and Arturo Vidal being harshly sent off. Nonetheless, it's the Spaniards who are through and they will take on their city rivals Atletico Madrid for a place in the final. Real have knocked out their neighbours in this competition for the last three years in a row, including beating them in the 2014 and 2016 finals. The dynamics for this one however are slightly different with the second leg coming at Atleti's Vicente Calderon. Will their fierce home support be able to inspire them to victory? Real are likely to be without Gareth Bale for the two games due to injury and whilst they have the star names, we're not quite sure they justify such short odds. They can be found as the joint favourites with many of the bookies at odds of 7/4 ahead of the first legs and we simply do not see the value there.

Juventus

After a 3-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg, many detractors wondered whether Juve would suffer a similar collapse to PSG and end up on the wrong end of another incredible Barcelona comeback. That however was never on the cards and Massimliano Allegri's men defended quite magnificently at the Camp Nou and came away with a 0-0 draw. It was a real show of strength for the Italian champions and they are now considered the joint favourites with Real. However if you're going to take those 7/4 odds on anyway, then Juventus are currently looking the more solid option. They are unbeaten in this competition and perhaps even more impressively, they are yet to concede once in the knockout stages. As well as their formidable defence, they have a potent attacking duo in Argentine pair Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala and just look so strong all round. Their up against Monaco and it should be a great contrast between attack and defence but the Italians' defence should see them through.

Atletico Madrid

A side that has grown in to a genuine European powerhouse in recent years and have consistently found themselves in the latter stages of this competition. However as were earlier alluded to, they seem to reach their glass ceiling when they come up against their rivals from across the Spanish capital. So can they finally do it this year? This season they are out of contention in the La Liga title race and will focus all of their attention in these two games and you can bet on one for thing for sure; Diego Simeone will have his men more motivated than ever. With Antoine Griezmann leading the line and their rugged, determined style of football, we all know they can be a match for anyone on their day. They are third favourites given the fact that Real are the big favourites for their tie but I certainly wouldn't advise backing against them to go through.

Monaco

The side from the principality have captured the imagination of football fans all of over Europe with their young team's impressive attacking football. Kylian Mbappe has emerged as a genuine superstar and the young striker has notched five goals in the competition so far, scoring in the previous rounds against both Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. Alongside Mbappe, the likes of Tieumoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva have all attracted the attention of scouts from across the continent whilst Falcao has also rediscovered his goalscoring touch. Given their lack of experience at this level, they are the rank outsiders but they have defied the odds to make it this far so could they possibly go all the way? Well they are currently 8/1 to win the trophy and they do have the capabilities to trouble any side. We do think that Juventus will provide too much for them but at 8/1 they are still tempting.

Betting On The Champions League

Football betting in general is extremely popular with punters, and Champions League betting is a huge part of that football betting wheel. The Champions League has an extensive following and a global audience, with every game previewed, streamed live, reviewed and analysed, punters have the knowledge, inside scoop and know-how to bet successfully on the Champions League. Let's face it, with online websites dedicated to bringing punters the latest news, results, statistics and expected starting line-ups, we know all there is to know about the teams competing in the Champions League, far more at least than teams playing in lower competitions, and this can be a huge advantage to punters when it comes to Champions League betting.

One of the golden rules when it comes to football betting, and specifically betting on the Champions League and other European tournaments, is to do your research. Many fall into the line of thinking that if you haven't heard much about a 'foreign' team, player, or a club from another country to your own, “they mustn’t be any good”. This couldn't be further from the truth, and this is certainly an area to consider should you wish to bet successfully on the Champions League, as all teams are playing at the highest level in their respective leagues. Coming around to this way of thinking opens up the possibilities of finding 'the value' selections when it comes to Champions League Match days, and backing the 'un-fancied' teams from the 'lesser-known' leagues to cause an upset.

Another important area to factor in when mulling over your Champions League bets is travel. Many teams play in their respective domestic leagues at the weekend, and can sometimes travel across the world to compete in the traditional mid-week Champions League matches. If a team has had a busy schedule or a tough weekend domestic fixture, once you factor in travel and potential fatigue, they might not look a 'sure thing' after all. Whilst this is any area to consider, remember these are elite sportsman, conditioned to compete at the highest level, so don't over think it.

The betting opportunities available to those who are considering placing a free bet on the Champions League is vast. From the very early stages, we can bet on the outright winner of the Champions League, we can name the finalists, the runners-up, highest scoring team, origin of the winner, top goalscorer of the whole tournament, special combinations of the winner and top goalscorer, along with the traditional football betting markets.

Qualifying for the Champions League

Each respective country has a set number of direct route's to the coveted Group Stages through their individual leagues, thus insuring that club football's elite make it onto the grandest stage and UEFA's biggest platform. Further 'spots' are awarded to each country, but a Group Stage position must be earned through Qualifying and Play-Off matches, that traditionally begin in early July of each year. A spectacle is made of the Group Stage draw where club's from across the globe gather to learn their fate. The 32-club's are drawn into eight groups, consisting of four teams. Each side plays home and away against each of their drawn opponents, traditionally matches are played between the months of September and December. The two teams who end this phase positioned 1st and 2nd in their respective group's qualify to the first knock-out round. The team that finishes in 3rd position is awarded will a place in UEFA's 'younger brother' tournament, the Europa League. The team that finishes the group at the bottom (4th) is knocked-out altogether.

The exciting knock-out phase is contested between the renaming 16-teams (Winners & Runners-Up from each of the eight groups). Group winners are paired with group runners-up through another draw, commonly assisted by former legends of the sport, although two teams from their own pool or country are protected and cannot be drawn together (this stipulation is lifted and the draw becomes free from the quarter-final phase). Clubs play two matches against each other, home and away, with an additional advantage for scoring an 'away-goal', introduced to help separate sides after both games have been played. This factor is used throughout the competition, bar the group stages and final. A further draw occurs and the winning teams play through the semi-final and quarter-final legs to reach the match all yearn to compete-in, the final. The final is played at a neutral venue each season, over a single match and without the aforementioned 'away-goal rule'

 

History & Winners of the Champions League

Founded in 1955, then known as the “European Champion Clubs' Cup”, but referred to as the “European Cup” was contested by only the winning champions from each country in a straightforward knock-out competition. In the early 90's, the tournament began to be expanded, and it's current format of implementing the group stages was introduced in 1992.

The first ever tournament was held during the 1995/96 season, and was contested by only 16-teams in total, including AC Milan, Anderlecht, Hibernian, PSV and Real Madrid. The very first European Cup match was between Sporting CP and Partizan on 4th September 1995, and ended in a 3-3 draw. The final itself in the first season of the competition was staged in Parc des Princes in Paris France, between Stade Reims and Real Madrid. Two goals from Argentinian footballing hero Alfredo Di Stefano helped Madrid come from behind to win 4-3, and lift what would be the first of many European Cup's in the club's dazzling and illustrious history.

The tournament has since been contested every season, and it wasn't until the 1960/61 season that the trophy felt new hands, as Madrid followed on from their first win in 1955/56 to lift the European cup a further four times in succession. Including in-front of a record attendance of 124,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid, Spain) in 1956/57, and the demolition of Eintracht of West Germany in the 1959/60 final held at Hampden Park, as Alfredo Di Stefano scored a hat-trick in a 7-3 triumph. The Portuguese side Benfica were the next to add there name onto the trophy the following season with a 3-2 win in the final over Barcelona, and repeated their success by retaining the European Cup the year after, beating Madrid 5-3 in the Amsterdam final. Benfica's extreme happiness was followed by a decade of hurt, as they would make it to a further three finals in the 60's, finishing runners-up on each occasion. The 60's were chiefly governed by the Italian clubs Inter (3) and AC Milan(2), winning the trophy on five occasions between them. Madrid won another in the 1965/66 renewal, while Manchester United and Celtic would also add their names to the roll-call of champions.

Ajax emerged as the next dominate force in the competitions history, winning the first three finals of the 70's, beating Panathinaikos of Greece, and the Italian clubs Inter and Juventus respectively, all without conceding a single goal, with a team constructed by footballing legends such as Johan Cruyff. The 1973/74 season saw Bayern Munich take over the baton of superiority by beating Atletico Madrid 4-0 in a replay two days after the staged final ended in a draw. Wins over Leeds and Saint-Etienne of France followed, before Liverpool would win two European Cups in succession, in what proved to be a string of victories for English clubs, as Liverpool (4), Nottingham Forest (2) and Aston Villa (1) would go on to win seven of the eight finals between 1976/77 and 1983/84.

In 1992, the first season the competition was extended to include the group stages, Barcelona beat Sampdoria 1-0 thanks to a Ronald Koeman free-kick in extra-time to win their first European Cup, in front of 70,827 supporters at Wembley Stadium, London. Unlike the dominance seen in previous decades, there was no such centre-stage team in the 90's. The trophy was shared between clubs from Yugoslavia (Red Star Belgrade), Spain (Barcelona, Madrid [2]), France (Marseille), Italy (AC Milan, Juventus), Netherlands (Ajax), Germany (Borussia Dortmund) and England (Manchester United).

Between 2000/01 and 2009/10, clubs from Spain and Italy had the upper-hand with Madrid and Barcelona sharing three Champions League titles, two being won by the latter. Clubs from Italy matched that feat with AC Milan winning on two occasions, and their rivals Inter winning in the 2009/10 season. This period also bore witness to one of the most dramatic and breathtaking Cup finals to ever take place in the history of the tournament. 72,059 packed the Olympic Stadium in Istanbul for the 2004/05 final between AC Milan and Liverpool. Seemingly at half-time, with a comfortable 3-0 lead, AC Milan's name began to be carved onto the famous trophy. Goals from footballing icons Paolo Maldini and two from Hernan Crespo had given the Italian's the lead, and with a team full of Champions League symbols, such as Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Clarence Seedorf, Andrea Pirlo, Jaap Stam and Alessandro Nesta, there was surely no-way-back. However, a second-half fight back with goals from Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso took the final through to a penalty shoot-out, in which Liverpool prevailed 3-2 to win their fifth European Cup. The current holders of the Champions League are Real Madrid, who beat local rivals Atletico on penalties in Milan in May. This was their 11th triumph in the competition and also the second time they had defeated their city rivals in the final.