Top 5 Clubs Most Likely to Win UEFA Champions League, According to Latest Odds

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The 2014/2015 UEFA Champions League is halfway through the group stage and it is time to review the tournament to date. Are there any major surprises? What team is most likely to win the entire tournament? To find out the answers, simodds.com has simulated the tournament a few hundred thousand times.

The Champions League is an interesting, and complex, tournament. It starts with four qualification rounds of double matches, followed by a round robin group stage of six matches, and ends with a single elimination tournament composed of double matches. It is immediately clear that the Champions League will attenuate the poor teams more effectively than the World Cup, for example. Six group matches will cause fewer major surprises. Double matches instead of single matches during elimination is a further headwind for weaker teams.

The seeding for the tournament also favors the strongest teams, which is perhaps why UEFA has decided to change the seeding methodology for next season. The simulations use the ELO ratings found on http://clubelo.com. A description of the simulations can be found at http://simodds.com/Home/About. These simulations were run with ELO ratings for all clubs before the results of matches on 11/1/2014 were known.

So, enough introduction. What are the results?

The entire tournament, including the irritating qualification rounds, were simulated before the tournament began. At that time the top five teams most likely to win the tournament were:

Bayern Munich – 30.4%
Real Madrid – 28.6%
Barcelona – 17.8%
Atletico Madrid – 5.8%
Manchester City – 5.0%

Although rated, at the time, as slightly weaker than Real Madrid, Bayern won a greater percentage in part because the final is in Germany, thus providing a slight home field advantage to Bayern. Perhaps most interesting is the clear top three in this early simulation.

Taking into consideration the most recent results and ratings, the 5 teams with the best chance of winning the UEFA Champions League are:

1. Real Madrid 34%

2. Bayern Munich 31%

3. Barcelona 19%

4. Atletico Madrid 6%

5. Chelsea 5%

Now let’s look at the current results.

Group A

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Atlético 1963 6 5 96.12% 5.75%
Juventus 1889 3 0 79.75% 1.17%
Olympiakos 1701 6 0 22.41%  
Malmö 1543 3 -5 1.72%

Both Atlético and Juventus had fortuitous group draws. However, Olympiakos achieved six points from their first three matches and this boosted their chances of advancing from the group stages from 13% to 22%. This is all at the expense of Juventus. If there is an unlikely win by Olympiakos over Juventus in Turin on Wednesday, these percentages reverse.

Group B

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Real Madrid 2087 9 8 99.79% 34.17%
Liverpool 1832 3 -3 81.82% 0.29%
Basel 1633 3 -4 15.17%  
Ludogorets 1527 3 -1 3.22%

With the second easiest draw in the tournament, Liverpool would have expected an easy road to the round of 16. The draw by itself provided Liverpool with an increase in group success from 71% to 91%. In reality, Liverpool needed a 93rd minute penalty to avoid a draw at home against Ludogorets.

With three points in three matches, Liverpool still has an 82% chance of advancing. This should make Liverpool’s coming defeat at Real Madrid a little easier to take, since they would be expected to defeat both Basel and Ludogorets in the final two matches. Still, having to win the final two matches to advance is heavy pressure. The simulations don’t whither but sometimes real life teams do.  There will be an interesting few weeks ahead for Liverpool fans. Incidentally, there is not much to say about Real Madrid, except that they have improved their odds of winning the entire tournament from 28.6% to 34.2%.

Congratulations to Ludogorets. Starting in the second qualifying round, they had only an 11% chance of even reaching the group stages. They are one of four teams from the second qualifying round. Perhaps one of them will sneak through to the elimination rounds.

Group C

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Leverkusen 1803 6 3 61.65%  
Benfica 1820 1 -4 54.79%
Zenit 1775 4 0 52.71%  
Monaco 1691 5 1 30.86%

The most evenly matched group in the tournament also has some surprising predictions from the simulations. Despite only a single point from three matches, Benfica is still second favorite to advance from the group. Their poor performance to date has dropped their odds of advancing from 82% to 55%. Why does the simulation expect them to still advance? Three reasons. They are only four points behind second place with three matches left. They are still rated as the best team in the group. They still have two matches at home remaining. Leverkusen, as expected due to their six points, has seen the largest increase in their odds of advancing from this group. It is interesting that no team from this group, despite all having decent chances of progressing, have a significant chance of winning the tournament.

Group D

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Dortmund 1848 9 9 93.30% 0.52%
Arsenal 1835 6 2 91.86% 0.36%
Galatasaray 1597 1 -4 8.57%  
Anderlecht 1569 1 -7 6.27%

What a boring group! It was a lopsided and easy group draw for Dortmund and Arsenal and predictable results have followed. The surprise from this simulation is that the odds of advancement from the group are less than 99% for Dortmund and Arsenal. Both teams still have two home matches remaining. What is going on here? Dortmund started the season with an ELO of 1905 and now is at 1848. Arsenal started the season with an ELO of 1843 and now is at 1835. However, Galatasaray and Anderlecht have also both declined in skill this season. These results are a bit of a mystery. We should expect easy qualification for the top two teams.

Group E

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Bayern 2081 9 8 97.74% 30.76%
Manchester City 1927 2 -1 70.61% 2.18%
Roma 1782 4 -2 25.41%  
CSKA Moskva 1709 1 -5 6.24%

Group D is awful but Group E is the best group in the tournament. At least, it is the best group in terms of ratings on paper. In terms of performances it has been Bayern and then everybody else. Despite the pessimism many Manchester City fans must be feeling, the simulations still predict a strong likelihood they will advance to the elimination rounds. However, their performance has been quite poor, starting with the draw!

The draw trimmed Manchester City’s odds of advancing from the group stage from 93% to 89%. Not a large amount but still by far the largest change amongst the elite teams. Roma (-21%) and CSKA (-24%) were by far the biggest losers in the group draw in the entire tournament. Manchester City then accumulated a mere two points from three matches. However, they are only two points behind Roma for second place, with a better goal advantage. With their better ELO rating, two home games to Roma’s one, and the better goal advantage, Manchester City should still advance. Humorously, the simulation still sees a 2.2% chance that Bayern will not advance.

Group F

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Barcelona 2040 6 2 99.15% 18.72%
Paris SG 1871 7 2 88.77% 0.87%
Ajax 1661 2 -2 11.10%  
APOEL 1503 1 -2 0.99%

Another group with two clear favorites. This is also the group with the largest difference in quality between best and worst teams. After three matches Barcelona is in second place but their chances of advancing from the group are higher than Bayern Munich’s. For the group to become interesting, Ajax needs to win the match against Barcelona in Amsterdam on 11/5.

Group G

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Chelsea 1949 7 7 97.98% 4.62%
Schalke 1791 5 1 80.19%  
Sporting 1658 1 -6 18.85%  
Maribor 1524 2 -2 2.99%

I sometimes wish the Champions League took the top thirty two teams from the clubelo.com rankings instead of using the “Champions” of various leagues around Europe. Maribor, despite my admiration for their achievement in advancing from the second qualifying round (they only had a 5% chance of even reaching the group stage), is ranked around 150th in the world. They are lower than Norwich City and just above Burnley.

Instead of having a fascinating super league, we have yet another group where a surprise would be a true shock. About the only interesting stat from this group is Chelsea’s improvement. Their excellent start to the season and this fortunate draw boosted their odds of winning the Champions League from 2.6% to 4.6%. Not a massive increase but still significant. I suspect their poor end to last season is still dragging on their ELO rating and their odds are actually higher than this.

Group H

Team ELO Rating Points Diff Group Odds Win Odds
Porto 1788 7 7 79.16%  
Shakhtar 1732 5 7 68.74%  
Bilbao 1762 1 -2 50.34%  
BATE 1464 3 -12 1.76%

The last group is also the worst group in the Champions League, at least on paper. Three teams have a good chance to advance. The most interesting stat from this group is Bilbao and their collapse this season. On 5/3/2014 their ELO rating was 1828. Their ELO rating is currently 1762. With only one point from three matches in the Champions League and a downward trajectory, their 50% chance of advancement is likely too high. This is a good example of how ELO takes time to adjust to a team’s ability, since it is a lagging indicator.

BATE is the worst team left in the tournament, yet they have three points in the group. Originally given almost zero chance of advancing from the group, they now have a 1.7% chance and a reason to keep on fighting. Personally, I’d love to see them beat Shakhtar in their next match.

Overall

When comparing the current results with the results prior to the start of the league, only a few large changes in odds are present.

The biggest positive changes, as measured by the odds of winning a round of 16 match, are:

Team Improvement
Chelsea 13%
Leverkusen 10%
Porto 8%
Zenit 8%
PSG 7%

The biggest negative changes are:

Benfica -18%
Manchester City -15%
Bilbao -5%
CSKA Mosova -4%
Liverpool -4%
Dortmund -4%

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