The UEFA Champions League is Europe’s premier football club competition, featuring 32 of the best on the continent at the crucial money-spinning group stage.
The origins of this tournament go back to 1955 when the European Cup, as it was popularly and later officially known, was founded but back then only domestic champions could qualify whereas now some of the strongest leagues in Europe are permitted two, three or even four teams.
Given that in international football teams naturally are made up only of what players are available to them by virtue of their birth or other qualifications, the Champions League is now seen as the world’s highest quality tournament with major clubs able to spend hundreds of millions on building the best possible squads to compete.
Read on for our guide to betting on the Champions League.
UEFA Champions League Format
Up to 79 teams can enter the Champions League initially, the leagues they come from having been ranked using the UEFA Coefficient. The better leagues are given more entries, some of them going straight into the group stage, while the others must go through various qualifying and play-off matches in the summer played over two legs.
Games from the group stages onwards are split between Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to ensure maximum exposure of the competition for TV rights. This continues all the way through the tournament until the final which these days is played on a Saturday evening, one week after the FA Cup Final in England and two weeks after the end of the Premier League season.
Once the qualifying rounds are over, we are left with 32 teams, each drawn into groups. There are eight groups of 4 teams who play each other once at home and once away meaning a six-game group stage for every side.
The top two from each group qualify for the knockout stages which are played from February onwards, all third-placed finishers drop into the last-32 of the Europa League and only the bottom finisher in each group is eliminated from Europe altogether at this point.
With sixteen teams left, each side plays their first knockout game over two legs with one game at home and one away. From there, the eight surviving teams play over the same format in the quarter-finals, the remaining four go into the semi-finals and then the final is to be played at a neutral venue.
Stadiums such as Wembley, Camp Nou and the Allianz Arena have hosted the Champions League final which moves each year, being played either at the end of May or the first Saturday evening in June after all major European leagues have ended for the season.
The Champions League’s Biggest Teams
This is the pinnacle, and so even though there has been the occasional relative surprise winner over the decades, multiple winners of this competition really are the best of the best in Europe.
Giants Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each won the European Cup/Champions League five times, Liverpool is easily England’s most successful side with six titles, former greats AC Milan have won an impressive seven times but by far and away the winning most club in Europe is Real Madrid with an incredible 13 successes to their name.
UEFA Champions League Betting Markets
As is the case with the Europa League, punters should learn to bet differently according to what stage of the competition we are at.
During the group matches, teams tend to be more carefree and the best strikers in the world so often capitalise on open games, leading to plenty of goals. That changes from the last-16 onwards when tactics are more defensive as players and coaches naturally want to take fewer risks.
Keeping that in mind, these are the Champions League markets to concentrate on:
- Match Betting – 1X2. These are the best teams in the world by and large and the strikers are very reliable. In the group stage then, backing a strong home favourite is OK.
- Total Goals ‘Over’ – once more in the group stage, top teams like to attack and that leads to a high yield on total goals, so backing over 2.5 or even over 3.5 often pays out.
- Total Goals ‘Under’ – from the last-16 on, therefore the knockout stage, betting on fewer goals per game in first leg ties is often successful as teams are nervous and defensive.
Betting on the Champions League
In no other tournament, not even the World Cup, will you find so many great players in one place so betting on the quality of this competition is great and can be done with one of our recommended online bookies.