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|Subject: Champions League Odds – Assist Betting 2nd October 2012, 22:43|| |
The Champions League can be a strange tournament at the best, and indeed, worst of times. Last season, Barcelona were seen as clear favourites from the off following their demolition job on Manchester United in the 2011 final and duly sauntered toward the last four of the competition with little difficulty, and with their great rivals Real Madrid in the opposite side of the draw up until the semi-final it looked all set for the first ‘Clasico’ final in the illustrious history of the European Cup.Of course it didn’t quite pan out that way with both of the Spanish giants defeated on their own grounds – after a dramatic penalty shootout in Real’s case – and so the final was to be contested between a Chelsea team who had themselves looked on the verge of elimination following a 3-1 first leg defeat to Napoli in the last 16, and the conquerors of Madrid – Bayern Munich. Now, surely, things would go to form as the underdogs from London, minus some key first team players, would see the luck they had rode spectacularly against Barcelona evaporate as they faced up to Bavaria’s finest in their own back yard at the Alianz Arena.Typically, that didn’t pan out either and one of the most remarkable and least predictable seasons in Champions League history ended with Roberto Di Matteo – who had only taken charge following the Blues defeat in Naples – leading his side to a highly unlikely win on penalties in Munich before an incredulous home support who had expected their side to romp to the title against a depleted side who had just finished sixth in the Premier League.The point here is that little is cut and dry when it comes to knockout football, whereas in a league format the cream will inevitably rise to the top the opportunity can arise for huge outsiders to stake an unlikely claim to the crown over fewer games, and the assists category in last season’s premier European competition followed an equally unusual path in many ways.The most striking thing regarding the winners last time around was just how many of them there were, with a five-way tie at the top of the pile, equally noteworthy was the relatively low total they each accumulated as just five assists were enough to share the spoils between Kaka, Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery, Lionel ‘who else’ Messi and – the joker in an otherwise hugely familiar who’s who of big name players at big name clubs – Nicolas Gaitan of Benfica.So, as opposed to the top goalscorers in the competition (coming in as, in reverse order, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Gomez and, inevitably, Messi) who each hit double figures for their clubs, assists were shared out by a raft of attacking players but the winning totals still appear quite paltry when it is considered that any player reaching the final, as would have been the case with Ribery, could have partaken in as many as 13 matches before the competition had run its course so the ratio of less than one assist in every two games for the Frenchman appears less than groundbreaking.This gives real food for thought for those looking for value in the market although in addition to the relatively low totals of the winners, it is worth noting that each of the five ply their trade at clubs who reached the quarter-finals at least last season, so any player worth backing is only likely to make an impact should they line out for a team that reaches the last eight, so we’ll look at a few performers who are expected to feature in the tournaments latter stages here.Barcelona
The Champions of 2011 will still be smarting from that loss to Chelsea, when Messi proved himself human after all after he missed a crucial penalty in the second leg. The world’s best player will surely be there or thereabouts but offers little value at 8/1 so behind him the brilliant creative triumvirate of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and, particularly, Cesc Fabregas will have plenty of takers at 25/1 while those looking at a punt could do worse than Dani Alves at 66/1.
As was clear from their remarkable comeback to beat Manchester City 3-2 in the opening round of games Real won’t go down without a fight and Jose Mourinho’s side are flooded with creative players although Ronaldo’s reputation for shooting on sight isn’t without merit so his seemingly attractive 25/1 odds don’t appeal. Angel Di Maria was credited with a pair of assists in the City game to see the Argentine midfielder as the early market favourite at 7/1 although the meaty 33/1 available on Benzema to repeat the trick looks fantastic value, as does the same price on Marcelo, as the full-back only finished one behind his French team-mate in the standings last May.Bayern Munich
As last season’s beaten finalists – and runners-up in both the Bundesliga and German Cup – Bayern have much to prove this time out and were given a good start when they beat Valencia 2-1 in their opening fixture. Ribery and the hugely talented and equally irritating Arjen Robben are both available at odds of 20/1 but the French international is the far better bet of the pair given his importance to the team from set-piece duties although there could be good winnings to be had on Toni Kroos at 33/1 while Bastien Schweinsteiger looks far too big a price at 80/1 considering the midfield general is often at the hub of his team’s creative output.Manchester United
Embarrassed for very different reasons over the past two years in the competition, the three-time European cup winners were also unconvincing in their 1-0 win over Galatasaray on matchday one but they have to be fancied to at least get out of their group this time around and should they do so it looks likely to be Shinji Kagawa who will provide the ammunition for Robin van Persie and co. The Japanese already has one assist to his name and given the relative lack of quality elsewhere in United’s group Kagawa could reach the knockout stages with a couple more to his name so although odds of 20/1 place him right among the top contenders the playmaker has the ability to make it worthwhile while Van Persie’s own odds of 33/1 ignore the Dutchman’s capacity to create for others as well as himself.
Other outside shots worth investigating are Arsenal’s terrific new signing Santi Cazorla at 33/1, who is revelling in the flowing football the Gunners have made their trademark with Andrea Pirlo and Juan Mata available at the same odds and likely to feature as creative sparks for teams who should at least come through the group stages. At double those odds, Oscar, who grabbed a brace on his Champions League debut for Chelsea in the first game of their title defence is far more likely to make chances than score them over the course of the tournament as is Javier Pastore for PSG. The French giants will surely prove that money talks at this level and coast through a powder-puff group and at slightly lesser odds the Argentinean’s team mate in the French capital Jeremy Menez looks a decent shout at 50/1, much like Claudio Marchisio at the same price as the Italian international was hugely impressive as he continually probed and created havoc in Juve’s 2-2 draw at the home of the champions in the Old Lady’s return to the big time.