Germany and Spain may have provided all four semi-finalists in last year’s Champions League, but the weight of history and experience in the competition mean it’s England that rates the value when it comes to the nation who’ll be providing this year’s European champion.
Spain narrowly shade 8/5 favouritism from 37/20 Germany, with merry England 13/4, Italy 9/1 and la belle France 16/1.
Meanwhile, it’s a whopping 30/1 that the winners come from any other country on the continent, a feat that only Ajax and Porto have managed in the 21 years of the Champions League era.
Last seasons’ semi-finals presented a charmingly obvious narrative for this market, with the acknowledged recent superiority of Spanish football typified by Barcelona (and to a lesser extent Real Madrid) taken on and surpassed by the Germans.
A ‘rise of the Bundesliga’ might be anticipated as a result, but the recent history of the tournament suggests that merely being the most fashionable league doesn’t guarantee year-on-year success.
England topped the UEFA club coefficient judged on cumulative European exploits each year between 2007/08 and 2010/11, yet their entrants carried off just one Champions League trophy during that period.
Furthermore the trophy hasn’t stayed in the same country for two years running since the modern history of the Champions League began in 1992/93.
All three of the market-leading nations boast four sides in the group stage, but given both the decaying of the Barcelona paradigm that last season’s tournament suggested and the dearth of consecutive wins for a nation in recent decades, an English winner is arguably the best value wager.
In Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United three of their representatives are steeped in years of uninterrupted Champions League involvement, whilst Manchester City have the players and now the manager to succeed in the competition.
By contrast, beyond their own big two Spain are represented by a Real Sociedad side making their Champions League return after a decade out of the picture and Atletico Madrid, who had Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan up front last time they played at this level.
In Germany the fragile equilibrium that rocket-powered Bayern Munich last term has been shaken by the arrival of Josep Guardiola, while avenging the painful Champions League semi-final and final defeats of recent years in 2012/13 may have robbed them of some of their drive.
Among their other qualifiers, Bayer Leverkusen are stepping up from a Europa League round of 32 exit last term having lost key men Andre Schurrle and Daniel Carvajal over the summer.
By contrast all of the English sides are replete with more recent Champions League experience among their entrants, none of whom have lost any key men over the summer.