The rattle that Lyon gave Manchester City in their drawn encounter last night has, in the words of Pep Guardiola, served as a reminder of the “huge quality” on display in the top-tier continental competition that marks it out as being “completely different” to the domestic game that they’ve dominated over the last couple of years.
The fact that the Sky Blues’ boss, in his post-match comments, was so keen to stress the difficulty of manoeuvring a path through the competition makes questioning their position as 7/2 favourites for the competition worthwhile.
For all that Guardiola’s men have made undoubted improvements in their continental excursions over the past couple of years, a 2015-16 semi-final appearance is the closest they’ve gotten to conquering Europe and there’s a far more consistent outfit that’s worth a look further down in the betting.
Atletico Madrid have been an ever-present at the business end of the European footballing calendar in recent seasons and are a value play at the 14/1 mark.
Losing finalists at the hands of their old foes Real in both 2014 and 2016, Atleti claimed Europa League glory last year and are well positioned to go deep into the Champions League once more.
Progression to the group stages from Group A is almost assured for Diego Simeone’s men; they’re just a point away from mathematically assuring it, and there are few better teams better suited to the peculiarities of the knockout rounds.
An embarrassing 4-0 reverse to Borussia Dortmund earlier this season might be what’s keeping their price so generous, but they were stung while chasing that game and the result could have flattered the Germans somewhat.
All things considered, 14/1 looks meaty price at which to get a team that’ll fight for your slip until the bitter end onside.
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