Manchester City, PSG Champions League favorites entering Round of 16

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Manchester City is the slight favorite in Champions League futures, but Paris Saint-Germain can do the field a solid by bouncing two-time defending champion Real Madrid.

With the Round of 16 beginning next week, Manchester City and Kevin De Bruyne are a +350 favorite on the odds to win the Champions League, followed by Paris Saint-Germain at +400, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The next tier down includes Bayern Munich (+550), Barcelona (+600) and Real Madrid (+800) before a plunge to Manchester United (+1400), Liverpool (+1400), Juventus (+1800) and Tottenham Hotspur (+2200).

The tried-and-true sorting method of fading teams that are focused on winning league titles doesn’t apply. The top four teams on the board all lead by healthy margins. Juventus, running second in Italy’s Serie A, is the only high-on-the-board offering that fits this description.

The injury bug that Manchester City is fighting shouldn’t be a factor as it starts the knockout stage at FC Basel (+50000), the lowest team on the board, on Tuesday. The favorable draw buys Manchester City a little time as it embarks upon trying to be the first English team to make it to March extant in four competitions (EPL, Champions League, F.A. Cup and League Cup).

The matchup between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid is more the calibre of a semifinal, but the timing might be in favour of the French club. Real Madrid, which hosts the first leg on Wednesday, has been in a funk and has conceded goals in seven of its last eight games – hardly a promising sign ahead of a game against a team with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. In other words, one who thinks Paris Saint-Germain has the goods to be the first French team in 25 years to win the Champions League likely shouldn’t hesitate, since its price will probably be halved (and then some) if it advances.

Suffice to say, the guarantee that either the defending champs or a ballyhooed contender will be out should be a boon to the rest of the field.

Bayern Munich simply does not get enough of a push in the German Bundesliga to be a threat in Champions League, which it last won in 2013. Barcelona offers a great price that might owe to facing an EPL team, Chelsea, in the last-16 as well as lacking major signing Philippe Coutinho for this competition. However, with attacking midfielders Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, they are dangerous. Barcelona will not have defender Gerald Pique in this round, however.

Manchester United (+1400), with its penchant for defense, is a credible darkhorse play since the Champions League format does lend itself to trying to wring out an ugly tie in road legs. Liverpool, who starts away at FC Porto (+10000), should advance but might be too offense-oriented to make a run at European supremacy. Tottenham and Harry Kane, who start away at Juventus, might not be deep enough to juggle top-flight European competition with a race for a top-four spot in the EPL.

The first legs of the Round of 16 take place over the next two weeks. The return legs are slated for March 6-7 and March 13-14.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Betting Favorite France Still Offers Value on World Cup Final Odds

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No matter how much the betting line moves into minus money, favored France offers plenty of value against Croatia in the World Cup championship game this weekend.

With the biggest sporting event in the world down to the last two teams, France is a -115 favorite on the World Cup final odds with Croatia coming back at +375, while the draw is priced at +230 and there is a 2.0 total, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

France went through the arguably tougher half of the knockout draw to make it to the final Sunday at Luhzniki Stadium in Moscow, defeating Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium. Croatia outlasted Denmark, Russia and England in knockout games that were tied 1-1 after regulation time, a World Cup first.

Six of the last seven World Cup finals have produced a clean sheet. However, with the playmaking talent on both side – think Paul Pogba for France, or Luka Modric of Croatia, who might be the world’s best midfielder – there’s a chance this won’t be the usual cautiously played final. The both teams to score / over 2.5 goals scored prop is priced at +220.

France has kept forward Antoine Griezmann and winger Kylian Mbappe supplied with scoring chances throughout the tournament, so they are 1A and 1B in all goal-scorer props. Bettors who are confident of France winning the midfield battle – which boils down to Pogba and N’Golo Kante against Modric and Ivan Rakitic – might want to back France at +275 to beat the minus-1.5 goals alternate spread.

Croatia defender Ivan Strinic (groin) has an injury issue and is slated to play across from Mbappe, which might make it worth taking a flier on the French teenager to add to his World Cup account.

Croatia has had a remarkable run, as it conceded the opening goal in each knockout game – a pattern that might continue Sunday – before rallying to pull out the win. Modric controls a game as well as anyone, while forward Mario Mandzukic (+300 to score anytime) has shown he doesn’t need a high volume of chances to get on the board.

The main question hanging over the first-time World Cup finalist is whether Croatia has enough left to go toe-to-toe with France after basically playing an extra game  – the 30 minutes of extra time, multiplied by three – to reach the final.

Bettors who believe they can hold France might want to pore over the method-of-victory prop, where a France extra-time win pays +850 and a Croatia extra-time win is priced at +1800. For victory by penalty kicks, it’s France at +900 and Croatia at +1000.

Mbappe (+300) has top prop to be man of the match, followed by teammate Griezmann (+600) and Croatia’s Modric (+750).

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top World Cup betting news check out the OddsShark FC podcast with Andrew Avery, Rob Trites, and Craig Cormier. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsSharkFC.libsyn.com.

World Cup quarterfinals betting preview: Brazil among odds favorites

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It could be a case of bettor beware in the first set of World Cup quarterfinals, since neither of the favorites have reached what is believed to be its peak form.

Brazil is the +110 betting favorite with Belgium coming back at +265 while the draw is priced at +235 on the three-way moneyline, and there is a 2.5 total in their World Cup quarterfinal matchup in Kazan, Russia on Friday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

History – Brazil is a five-time World Cup champion and Belgium last advanced past the quarterfinal in 1986 – might favor Neymar and the talented South Americans. The form, at least with each team’s comparative offensive efficiency during the tournament, might say otherwise.

Brazil has not allowed a goal during open play in its four matches (the only goal it has conceded was via a corner kick). It has been less than the sum of its parts – Neymar, Roberto Firmino, et al. – offensively, however. Belgium, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne generating opportunities in the midfield, is one of the highest-scoring teams in the tournament and has the potential to pull off an upset.

The amount of natural offense on both sides means taking the over, at even money, is advisable. Both teams’ attacks have tended to heat up after halftime and there is a +175 prop on no goals being scored in the first half.

France (+100) will encounter the tautest defensive team left when it faces Uruguay (+350, draw +210) in Nizhny Novgorod in another quarterfinal matchup on Friday.

Uruguay’s defending built around center backs Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin give it a reasonable chance of holding France for the regulation 90 minutes or perhaps the 120 that would trigger penalty kicks. The draw with under 2.5 goals offers +250 on the World Cup odds.

England (-110) takes a curious history against Sweden (+370, draw +225) into a Saturday matchup in Samara, having won only two of the last 15 matchups since 1968. England has the edge in depth and potent scoring through Harry Kane – who is +105 to score any time, and +275 to score the first goal – and Raheem Sterling. Sweden’s ability to suppress deeper opponents warrants looking at the -120 under on the 2.0 total.

And Croatia (+120) hosts Russia (+285, draw +205), and each survived 120-minute marathons and penalty shootouts in the Round of 16. That outcome could happen again. Taking Croatia and midfielder Luka Modric requires a small leap of faith that they have a level to their game they did not show in their last fixture against Denmark.

Russia’s strategy will be containment. Croatia offers +135 for a clean sheet and +220 to win-to-nil, compared to +200 and +400 for Russia respectively.

During the Round of 16, favorites advanced from six of the eight matches. England, however, needed penalties against Colombia, while Belgium needed a three-goal comeback capped by a stoppage-time deciding goal against Japan.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top World Cup betting news check out the OddsShark FC podcast with Andrew Avery, Rob Trites, and Craig Cormier. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsSharkFC.libsyn.com.