If you close your eyes, you can almost hear the sound of the intro playing.
After a few months of rest, Europe’s best will launch the 2021-22 Champions League campaign into orbit Tuesday, with eight matches on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Headlining the Tuesday slate is Bayern’s return to Barcelona in their first meeting since Bayern’s 8-2 smackdown of the Spanish giants.
As for Wednesday’s action, the marquee match of the day is Leipzig’s visit to the Etihad and AC Milan travelling to Anfield.
But which sides are the best bets across the whole Matchday One slate? Here are the two teams I’ll be backing, with odds courtesy of PointsBet Sportsbook. As always, odds are reflective at time of writing.
Best Bet #1 - Bayern Munich Moneyline (-108) vs. Barcelona
Unless something catastrophic happens to Bayern, this could very well be the only time their moneyline price is shorter than -150 in the group stage.
Combine that fact with Bayern receiving a majority of the money, and I believe there’s a touch of value in their visit to the Camp Nou.
While the Barca attack is certainly capable of generating goals, what separates these sides is their underlying defensive metrics.
Ronald Koeman’s side have yet to keep a clean sheet in any of their opening La Liga matches, conceding four times on nearly 3.0 xGA.
Meanwhile, the bounces have been a little unlucky for Bayern, as they’re generally preventing high-risk chances.
In two matches against Koln and Leipzig, for example, they conceded three times on just 1.3 xGA.
For me, Barcelona will need to generate at least two goals, perhaps more to get points. However, in their last two La Liga fixtures, they’ve combined for only 2.5 xGF against inferior opposition.
Given Bayern will likely dominate possession and limit Barcelona’s ability to create through the midfield, I have a hard time seeing how the chances will come for the hosts.
Bayern have the edge historically as well as in Spain. The German champions have won four of the last five overall and three of the last away from the Allianz.
Finally, there’s one last piece of betting calculus at play for me.
Historically, this fixture rarely produces draws - only one fixture has finished level in the last 11.
Translation? Either Bayern are going to completely lay an egg and we’ll regret this play immediately or Barcelona could be in for another long day at the office.
Best Bet #2 - Wolfsburg Draw, No Bet (-125) vs. Lille
Wolfsburg have the hot hand entering their first Champions League fixture since the 2015-16 season, so why not feed it?
In their first four Bundesliga fixtures, Wolfsburg are a perfect 4-0-0 and have both their offensive and defensive schemes clicking.
They’ve managed six goals on 7.4 xGF while only allowing one goal on 3.8 xGA. In the Bundesliga, only Bayern and Dortmund have better expected goal differentials, whilst only Bayern and Leverkusen have better actual goal differentials.
Lille’s metrics, meanwhile, suggest they’re a Champions League side fumbling around in the mid-table. In Ligue 1, their xGD is ninth-best in the league, while their actual goal differential is sixth-worst.
Given those trends, I trust that Wolfsburg will be able to do no worse than a point against a side that doesn’t have superb historical trends either.
In Lille’s last UCL appearance, they failed to win any of their three home group fixtures and have lost their last two UCL home matches against German opposition.
Plus, in their only prior head-to-head meetings, Wolfsburg won once and drew once in the 2014 Europa League group stage.
Consider too that in their last five European road fixtures, the Wolves have won the expected goal battle on four occasions.
While some may be drawn to Lille’s greater UCL experience, Wolfsburg are simply the better side at this moment.
Given I would make this price closer to -140, I’m willing to lay the number and hope the German side avoids defeat in France.
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