Atletico Madrid tipped for glory in the Champions League

Pavel Lokhovinin

Zenit are considered as favourites over Benfica. Is it because they were in Pot 1 at the draw while Benfica were in Pot 2? Or are there other reasons?

Zenit are the only team to win five games in the group stage. More to say, Zenit played against Benfica last year and won twice. Their superstar Hulk was once a MVP of one of the Champions League rounds. Zenit’s respected manager has a higher status than Benfica’s Rui Vitoria. The sum of all this factors says than Zenit are considered to be more heavyweight. But I think that the Russian side has just a little of advantage. We’ll see the conditions of Benfica when Zenit come to Estadio da Luz after their winter break with no official games. Let’s see if Benfica will be fully fit. They can be favourites in the home game. Or maybe the odds will be equal.

What can you say about the line-ups? Former Benfica leaders now play in Zenit – Axel Witsel, Javi Garcia, Ezequiel Garay. Benfica were the favourites against Zenit three years ago, but what about now?

The situation has changed. Zenit have strenghened a lot with Hulk, Garay and Witsel, all from Portugal. They’ve got a new pitch at their stadium. If you remember they struggled to play on their old field. So Zenit become stronger while Benfica become weaker. The line-up of Portuguese side changed a lot and I can’t say that they’ve strengthend at all. And Zenit got Artyom Dzyuba who is now one of their best players. Zenit have become more balanced and composed. Now they know how to get a result. They can bounce you out and hit by a counter-attack. It’s very important for them to have Hulk fit and desired to play. Without him Zenit can be radically different.

Zenit – Benfica are considered as equal rivals. Would you bet on Zenit to reach the quarterfinals with the odds 1.73?

Not now. I will watch Zenit in February. I will see Oleg Shatov’s rehab from injury. I will see if Igor Smolnikov can be fit. The odds 1.73 are not so tempting. We have two months ahead.

What about Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev? Are the odds 1.20 on the English club overrated?

I don’t think so. Every year they dream about winning the Champions League and this time the draw was favourable for them. Dynamo Kiev have qualified from a tough group and this is a good achievement for Sergey Rebrov’s team. But they can hardly perform against the English top team as they have felt the power of Chelsea in group stage. Manchester City are not Chelsea. No doubt, they are the favourites. But the odds 1.20 are disrespectful for Dynamo Kyiv. I see the fair odds as 1.35 or 1.40 on Man City. Anyway they should go through.

Would you bet 150 Euros on Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League?

Yes! Even before the draw I would’ve done that. Atletico Madrid can beat any team in two legs – even Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern. Diego Simeone’s team can be considered as favourites against PSG or Juventus too. They are the best in Europe in producing the result with maybe at the same time not too high quality football. Some people don’t like their style, but playing with rage and hardiness they can beat any team. I can surely bet 150 Euros on them winning the Champions League with the odds of 13.25. There’s certainly value in that!

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