The wheat has been firmly separated from the chaff in the Champions League as the final 16 teams entered the hat for the start of the competition’s knockout round.
The usual suspects take their place at the skinny end of the betting, with Bayern Munich named the 12/5 favourites and Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid priced up at 4/1 and 11/2.
However, it is the third Spanish participant, Atletico Madrid, who present the most intriguing case for an outside bet, at 16/1, to reign supreme in club football’s most prestigious tournament.
Diego Simeone’s men were one of just three teams to qualify from their group with an unbeaten record from their six games, where they drew once and won the rest.
Detractors will say that remaining unbeaten against a sometimes indifferent Zenit St Petersburg, underperforming Porto and abject Austria Vienna isn’t the toughest task ever presented to a football club of Atletico’s stature, but, as the old cliche goes, they can only beat what’s put in front of them.
They did so with aplomb, scoring 15 goals and shipping just three, a defensive solidity which no side bettered during the group stage.
Los Colchoneros’ league form is also proof that they can make a run at the latest Champions League edition. They are matching Barcelona stride-for-stride at the top of La Liga so far, something third-placed Real Madrid haven’t been able to do, and have only lost one game in any competition this season.
They’ve also battled the conglomerates of their domestic league three times already this term, drawing both times with Barca and toppling local rivals Real.
Given their form, then, it makes complete sense to side with them as the outside bet for the competition over David Moyes’ struggling Man United, who are the same price, or the shorter Man City (14/1), who’ve never experienced this part of the tournament before.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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