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As ever, Bayern Munich is leading the way for German clubs. Not only are Hansi Flick’s side occupying their usual position at the summit of the Bundesliga standings, they are also safely through to the knockout stage of the Champions League as group winners. RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach will all be aiming to secure their own places in the Round of 16 this week, while Borussia Dortmund will hope to wrap up the top spot in their group.
Bayern is the reigning European champions having beaten Paris Saint-Germain in last season’s final. They have carried last season’s form into this, taking 13 points from a possible 15 in Group A to make a mockery of suggestions that this might be a difficult segment for the Bavarian outfit alongside Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg, and Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayern will top their group regardless of the outcome of their meeting with Lokomotiv on Wednesday.
It is no surprise that DraftKings Sportsbook have Bayern as their +280 favorites to win the Champions League, ahead of Manchester City at +450, Liverpool at +600 and Paris Saint-Germain at +1100. They were the best team in Europe last season and there is little evidence to suggest that has changed this time around. Bayern has an enviable amount of quality all over the pitch, and Flick has proved himself to be an astute tactician despite a relative lack of managerial experience at this level.
Bayern also have an advantage over both City and Liverpool in that they will probably have the Bundesliga wrapped up earlier than the Premier League title race has been decided. Indeed, despite only holding a two-point lead at present, Bayern are overwhelming favorites to once again finish on top of the pile in Germany this season. That could allow them to rest key players ahead of Champions League knockout games at the business end of the campaign.
Borussia Monchengladbach have given an excellent account of themselves in Group B, but that will be scant consolation for Marco Rose and his players if they do not make it through to the next stage. Gladbach has thrashed Shakhtar twice – 6-0 away from home and 4-0 at Borussia-Park – and held both Inter and Real Madrid to 2-2 draws.
They lost to Inter 3-2 last week, though, and head to the Spanish capital knowing that defeat could see them exit the tournament. Indeed, although Gladbach occupies top spot going into matchday six, DraftKings Sportsbook only has them as third-favorites to advance to the last 16 at -112. Madrid are offered at -670, with Inter at -139 and Shakhtar at +450.
Gladbach should not be written off just yet, though. A draw with Madrid would be enough for them to progress regardless of the outcome of Inter’s tussle with Shakhtar. They have demonstrated considerable attacking efficiency in the group stage so far with 16 goals, and may well relish the fact that the onus will be on Madrid to play on the front foot.
Even if Gladbach are beaten by Zinedine Zidane’s side, they will not necessarily be eliminated: a draw between Inter and Shakhtar would see the German side qualify for the round of 16 regardless of what happens in their duel with Madrid.
Gladbach are top of their group and RB Leipzig is third in theirs, despite the fact the latter has amassed one more point than the former from five games each. Julian Nagelsmann guided his team to the semi-finals of this competition last term, but he is up against it to ensure they avoid falling at the first hurdle in 2020/21.
Leipzig have twice beaten Istanbul Basaksehir, the whipping boys of Group H, and also overcame Paris Saint-Germain at the Red Bull Arena. However, they lost to the same opposition at the Parc des Princes and were demolished 5-0 by Manchester United on matchday two. That leaves Leipzig needing a win against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to seal their place in the next stage.
A draw would only be enough for Leipzig if PSG were to lose to Istanbul Basaksehir, and that does not seem likely. United, conversely, know that simply avoiding defeat by Leipzig would secure their passage to the last 16. DraftKings Sportsbook offers -10000 on PSG finishing in the top two, with United favorites to join them at -182 and Leipzig saw as the outsiders at +140.
However, there is a chance that United will be caught between two stools on Tuesday, not knowing whether to play for the win or target a draw. The equation is simpler for Leipzig, and that may well help them.
Like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund are already guaranteed a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League. But unlike the holders, Dortmund has not yet wrapped up first place in their group ahead of the final matchday of the group stage.
BVB lost their first game in the competition to Lazio, but they have bounced back well from that early setback. Three consecutive wins put them in a commanding position before a 1-1 draw with Lazio last week moved them onto 10 points. Lucien Favre’s side cannot finish outside the top two even if they lost to Zenit Saint-Petersburg on Tuesday, since it is impossible for Lazio and Club Brugge to both climb above them in the Group F standings.
It is never an exact science, but clubs usually prefer to finish first rather than second in the group stage, since it usually leads to a kinder draw for the round of 16. DraftKings Sportsbook offer -400 on Dortmund maintaining their position at the summit, with Lazio available at +250. If the Biancocelesti beat Club Brugge, Dortmund would need a win in Russia to progress as group winners.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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