Champions League outright latest odds and free bets

We’re halfway through the group stage of the Champions League and an opportune moment to reflect on the latest odds for Europe’s premier club competition. Despite a scare from Celtic, it is FC Barcelona that remain favourites to lift the European Cup at Wembley in May

Barca are a best price 5/2 (Paddy Power free bets) to claim victory and they are firmly on course for a place in the last sixteen after three straight wins although they have twice had to come from behind, including the 2-1 win against the Scottish champions which saw Jordi Alba score in the dying embers of injury time.

The defence is currently a concern for Tito Vilanova who recently saw his team ship four goals against Deportivo although there is little denying that they are fearsome in attack and Lionel Messi is a player that can singlehandedly win games on his own.

According to the odds, there’s a strong chance of a Spanish club winning this season’s competition and Real Madrid are a 7/2 chance (William Hill bookmaker) following a decent enough start to life in Group D where Jose Mourinho’s men have claimed wins against Manchester City and Ajax before defeat away to Borussia Dortmund.

Real are a team full of goals and they also possess the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo who helped his side recover twice from behind against Manchester City, while the manager clearly has the knowledge when it comes to winning the Champions League, having lifted the trophy with Porto and Inter Milan.

There are at least three English clubs that should progress to the knockout stage of the competition and Manchester United are practically home and hosed after three straight wins against Galatasaray, Braga and Cluj, although Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that the defence is a problem area, especially with Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones on the sidelines.

The Red Devils do have Robin van Persie who can help them score more goals than ever and they are the shortest-price Premier League side at 11/1 (BetVictor), with top spot in the group likely to yield a favourable last sixteen fixture.

Chelsea are the current holders after amazingly beating Barcelona over two legs before winning the final at the Allianz Arena last season. Since then, Eden Hazard and Oscar have arrived to complete a new-look midfield although the Blues have some work to do in order to get out of a group including Juventus and Shakhtar. That is why they have been pushed out to 18/1.

As for Arsenal, a lacklustre performance against Schalke means that the Gunners are out to 28/1 (BetVictor free bets) and Arsene Wenger was left scratching his head after the team carved out just one shot on target against their German opponents.

Manchester City were among the favourites to win the competition before it began, although bet365 now offer 50/1 about Roberto Mancini’s team following a 3-1 defeat at Ajax which once again highlighted the team’s tactical deficiencies in Europe.

The bookies seem to think that a German name on the trophy come May is more likely than an English one, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund now among the favourites and it’s the latter who have shone the brightest so far, especially when playing Manchester City off the park at the Etihad Stadium before drawing 1-1.

Dortmund are the German champions and are now a best price 14/1 after a win over Real Madrid gave them seven points from their first three matches, while Bayern are an even shorter price to make amends for last season’s final loss, even if they lost 3-1 at BATE Borisov in one of the Champions League shocks of the season.

Perhaps the bookies are overlooking a third German side, with Schalke as big as 50/1 to win the Champions League despite reaching the semi-finals two years ago and winning at Arsenal to strengthen their claims on winning Group B. They have a predator in the form of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who is prolific for both club and country.

Paris St-Germain are another team that must stand a chance of going a long way, especially as they have Zlatan Ibrahimovic spearheading the attack and the lofty Swede was on hand to see them win at Dinamo Zagreb in their last away match.

The French side are 22/1 with Boylesports to claim victory in their first foray into the Champions League since 2004, with PSG being heavily backed financially and Carlo Ancelotti has a lot of European Cup experience to fall back on.

Juventus are the other team that need to be respected and they are a 22/1 chance following three successive draws although a recent point at Nordsjælland was definitely a case of two points dropped and that home match against Chelsea could be the decider in terms of which team goes through the group.

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