Champions League: A case for backing Atletico Madrid

Michael Lintorn is surprised to find Atletico Madrid rated distant fifth favourites in the Champions League winner betting…

The demise of Chelsea and expected elimination of Man City has allowed the Champions League winner market to morph into a three-team affair, with 3.45n/a favourites Bayern Munich being closely followed by Barcelona at 4.1n/a and Real Madrid at 4.57/2.

The next three in the betting are some distance back, with Chelsea’s conquerors Paris St-Germain available at 12.5n/a, Atletico Madrid priced at 14.5n/a and Juventus rated 25.024/1 prospects.

It is those Atletico Madrid odds that are the most eye-catching. A disappointing four-match winless run perhaps suckered punters into misjudging this as a poor season for Spain’s reigning champions, but they stepped up when required to see off Bayer Leverkusen for a quarter-final spot.

Fourth place in La Liga might suggest that the competitiveness of 2013/14 has been lost, yet they are a mere nine points shy of leaders Barcelona, closer than anyone in Germany or Italy can claim to be to Bayern Munich or Juventus.

They claimed the Supercopa de Espana and reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, both at the expense of Real Madrid, and have triumphed in five of their last seven Champions League games while conceding just once in the process.

Under Diego Simeone, their record in the competition is P21 W14 D5 L2 – remarkable figures for a side that hadn’t even participated this decade prior to that. The two 90-minute defeats were inconsequential too: a group-stage loss to Olympiacos and that first-leg reverse in Leverkusen.

They were finalists last term and won the Europa League twice in four years before that to showcase their European pedigree.

Having bested Juventus in Group A and done in one campaign what Paris St-Germain couldn’t do in two – get past the quarter-finals – there are only three clubs that you can conclusively argue are better than Simeone’s warriors.

Even then, Atletico have constantly proven to have the number of two of the frontrunning trio in Barcelona and Real Madrid. They overcame Catalonia’s finest in 2013/14’s quarter-finals, two of six unbeaten meetings with them that year as they also took the title at the Camp Nou on the final day.

Atletico have faced their neighbours six times this season without defeat, outwitting them in two cup double headers and beating them twice in La Liga, and didn’t concede in any of the three clashes at their Vicente Calderon.

Bayern Munich are the sole survivors that they don’t boast some kind of edge over, though they may not need to if one of their compatriots get to Pep Guardiola’s men first as Real Madrid did in 2014.

Recommended Bet: Back Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League @ 14.5n/a