Betting Week in Review: The Europa and Champions Leagues Feature
It has been a bad week if you are a fan of either of the two Manchester teams. United lost in an epic penalty shoot out in the Europa League, and Pep Guardiola has been accused of overthinking his team selection in City’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final.
Wait For Trophy Continues for Ole
United had every reason to be confident going into the Europa League final against Villareal last Wednesday. With second place already secured in the Premier League, meaning Champions League qualification was already guaranteed for next year, it was a chance for United’s stars to shine.
The bookmakers had the Red Devils hot favourites @9/10; Villarreal was priced 3/1 with the draw 5/2. Fate seemed to point to a United win. The date of the final, May 26, was the anniversary of legendary manager Sir Matt Busby’s birthday and also the date they picked up a historic treble in 1999 by beating Bayern Munich 2-1 in the Champions League final. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær scoring the winner that day.
It was no surprise to see United go a goal behind in the game held in Gdansk in the game itself. United have been guilty of falling a goal behind in most of their games, and Former Liverpool man Gerard Moreno put Villarreal ahead on 29 minutes. United was level 10 minutes after the break, Edinson Cavani pouncing on a Marcus Rashford shot that had been deflected into his path.
In last year’s competition, United was knocked out at the semi-final stage by Sevilla. Ole received criticism for failing to bring a substitute until the 87th minute, and it was a repeated pattern in this game. Despite his team looking short on ideas, United started extra-time without making a single substitution from the six allowed. When Ole finally made changes, it was to bring on penalty takers in preparation for the inevitable shoot-out.
Although the game is unlikely to last long in the memory, the penalty shoot out will with 21 penalties taken before Villarreal snatched the victory when United goalkeeper David de Gea’ missed his effort after all other penalties had been scored.
Although United was a penalty save away from winning this competition, the manner of defeat against a team they were expected to beat will raise many questions before next season. An injury to Harry Maguire didn’t help preparations, but it seems evident that Ole doesn’t trust the names sat on the United bench.
Fred came on after 100 minutes, James and Tuanzbe on 116 minutes and Mata and Telles on 120 minutes, just before the referee blew for full-time. Matic and de Beek were not used, and you wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dutch midfielder move on. United paid £35.1m for the 23-year-old. Real Madrid was thought to be highly interested in the player at the time, but de Beek has hardly featured for the first team since joining the club.
For Villarreal, it was a deserved victory for a long campaign. While United only played nine games to reach the final, the Spanish club played in fifteen. They won twelve games, drawing in three and scored thirty-one goals, only conceding nine in those games. Villarreal boss Unai Emery is the first manager to win the competition four times, after guiding Sevilla to three wins back-to-back.
For the bookies, the 1-1 draw after ninety minutes was a great result. The low scoring nature was also a boost, with the over 2.5 goals market attracting the most interest. There was also no returns on the multi-goalscorer markets.
Manchester is Blue After Champions League Defeat
At 97/100, Manchester City was priced as much as a certainty as you are likely to see in a Champions League final. Although Chelsea had already beaten City twice this season, Saturday was supposed to be the day that the Citizens finally complete their collection of trophies.
City’s owners have backed Pep Guardiola well. Since he took the role in 2016, the net spend on players has been £557.96m, the highest of any club in the world. Yet despite winning everything domestically, they have suffered one round of 16 elimination and three quarter-final exits on the biggest stage.
Their opponents in the final, Chelsea, have also spent big. Their purchases of £804.87m offset by player sales of £547.03, producing a net spend of £257.84m in the same time period. Ironically, Chelsea’s record signing, £71m Kai Havertz, was the difference between them.
The 21-year-old scored the only goal of the match for Chelsea in the 42nd minute. The German has had a pretty indifferent campaign in the Premier League with just four goals and three assists but repaid a large chunk of his transfer fee with his goal.
The 1-0 win capped an excellent first six months for Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. A Losing finalist with PSG last year, the German manager has transformed Chelsea in his short time with the club. With a transfer window ahead and the likelihood of extending his short-term contract, Tuchel could lead a Chelsea charge for City’s title next season.
Chelsea’s win @ 167/50 was great for the bookmakers, the low scoring nature also a bonus. Over 2.5 @ 127/100 had been heavily backed by punters.