Contested each year between the top football teams from all over Europe, the UEFA Champions League is one of the biggest gambling events in world sport. Find out which online bookmakers offer the best odds and betting specials for the most prestigious trophy in club football.
What is the UEFA Champions League?
The European Cup was first contested during the 1955-56 domestic season. It was a straight knockout competition between 16 teams, most of which were reigning champions of their respective top-flight leagues. Real Madrid claimed top honours that year in the first of five consecutive titles.
It was not long before the European Cup evolved into a highly competitive tournament of champions. Madrid’s early success set a high mark that top teams from the rest of Europe were determine to match. By the end of the 1980s, the winners’ list featured multiple entries from the likes of Benfica, Milan, Internazionale, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.
The tournament has grown considerably in the past few decades. The ‘Champions League’ branding was adopted after a group stage was introduced in 1992; a few years later, the qualification rules were loosened to allow multiple entrants from each nation. The result is a star-studded competition that ranks second only to the FIFA World Cup in prestige.
Best bookmakers for Champions League odds
Thousands of sports betting operators take bets on Champions League football, but some are better than others. Furthermore, licensing restrictions mean some bookies may not be accessible in certain parts of the world. The sites below are licensed, secure and open to gamblers in United States.
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How to bet on Champions League football
There are literally hundreds of ways to have a bet on the Champions League. Open the tabs below to learn more.
- Every Champions League match comes with three standard bets: you can back either team to win outright, or you can bet that the game will end in a draw. That’s all there is to it.
- Betting handicaps even up the odds when one team is heavily favoured to beat the other. For example, let’s say Liverpool are pegged at +100 odds on a -2.0 handicap; for the bet to pay, the Reds must win by at least three goals.
- These markets offer excellent returns, but they are very tricky to pick. For instance, if Barcelona are paying +500 to win 3-0, the bet only returns if the Blaugrana triumph by exactly three goals to nil and not any other scoreline.
- UCL bookies do a massive trade in goalscorer predictions. You can back any player to score the first goal, the last goal, two or more goals, with their head, from outside the box – the options are all but endless.
- Soccer bookmakers often tie multiple bets together and advertise them at special odds. For example, a double on the first goalscorer and the match result will pay more than if you had wagered on those two markets separately.
- You can bet on just about every aspect of a Champions League match. There are markets for corners and throw-ins, yellow and red cards, penalties, own goals, clean sheets, margins – the list goes on.
- Champions League outright markets are available well in advance of the tournament’s commencement. You can bet on the title winner, the top teams in each group, and player props such as top goalscorer and most clean sheets.
Champions League format and qualification
The final field for the European Cup has doubled in size since the 1990s, while the qualifying route has also undergone some significant changes. Tap the tabs below to find out more.
- The annual tournament features 32 teams that qualify based on their domestic achievements the previous season. The stronger leagues are awarded multiple entries, while the champions of lesser competitions must navigate additional qualification rounds.
For example, let’s compare the highest divisions of England and Scotland. The top three teams in the English Premier League automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage, while the fourth-placed team enters a playoff. By contrast, the Scottish champions must win through two rounds of qualifying and a playoff tie to reach the final 32.
- Once the teams are confirmed, they are then sorted into eight groups of four. The draw is not completely random, as clubs are seeded in different ‘pots’ according to their UEFA ranking. Groups consist of one team from each pot, with the aim of separating clubs from the same country and ensuring an even balance of quality from group to group.
The tournament proper commences in September, with matchdays conducted midweek to avoid clashes with domestic league fixtures. The group stage is played as a double round-robin, meaning every team plays each other twice (once home, once away). The top two teams in each group progress to the knockout phase, the third-placed teams move to the Europa League and the last-placed sides are eliminated altogether.
- There are three stages of the knockout phase: the round of 16, the quarter-finals and the semi-finals. In each, the remaining teams are paired up in a random draw and pitted in a two-legged playoff. Whichever team wins on aggregate progresses to the next phase, while the other is eliminated.
If the tie is deadlocked after two legs, the win is awarded to whichever team scores more goals away from home. If that does not settle it, then added extra time and a penalty shootout may be required.
- The last two teams standing compete in a one-off final at a predetermined venue. This is one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, especially when staged at iconic stadiums such as Camp Nou, the Santiago Bernabeu, San Siro, or Wembley.
The winners are crowned champions of Europe, but that’s not all. They also earn automatic qualification for the following Champions League campaign and a spot in the annual FIFA Club World Cup tournament, which European teams have dominated since its revival in 2005.
Champions League records and stats
The cream always rises to the top in the UEFA Champions League. Open the tabs below to find out which powerhouse clubs and star players have shone brightest on the big stage.
- Real Madrid dominated the early years of the European Cup, winning every final between 1956 and 1960. AC Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool are the only other teams to win it five times or more.
1956 – Real Madrid 4-3 Stade de Reims
1957 – Real Madrid 2-0 Fiorentina
1958 – Real Madrid 3-2* Milan
1959 – Real Madrid 2-0 Stade de Reims
1960 – Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
1961 – Benfica 3-2 Barcelona
1962 – Benfica 5-3 Real Madrid
1963 – Milan 2-1 Benfica
1964 – Internazionale 3-1 Real Madrid
1965 – Internazionale 1-0 Benfica
1966 – Real Madrid 2-1 Partizan
1967 – Celtic 2-1 Internazionale
1968 – Manchester United 4-1* Benfica
1969 – Milan 4-1 Ajax
1970 – Feyenoord 2-1* Celtic
1971 – Ajax 2-0 Panathinaikos
1972 – Ajax 2-0 Internazionale
1973 – Ajax 1-0 Juventus
1974 – Bayern Munich 4-0^ Atletico Madrid
1975 – Bayern Munich 2-0 Leeds United
1976 – Bayern Munich 1-0 Saint Etienne
1977 – Liverpool 3-1 Borussia Monchengladbach
1978 – Liverpool 1-0 Club Brugge
1979 – Nottingham Forest 1-0 Malmo FF
1980 – Nottingham Forest 1-0 Hamburg
1981 – Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid
1982 – Aston Villa 1-0 Bayern Munich
1983 – Hamburg 1-0 Juventus
1984 – Liverpool 1-1** Roma
1985 – Juventus 1-0 Liverpool
1986 – Steaua Bucharest 0-0** Barcelona
1987 – Porto 2-1 Bayern Munich
1988 – PSV Eindhoven 0-0** Benfica
1989 – Milan 4-0 Steaua Bucharest
1990 – Milan 1-0 Benfica
1991 – Red Star Belgrade 0-0** Marseille
1992 – Barcelona 1-0* Sampdoria
1993 – Marseille 1-0 Milan
1994 – Milan 4-0 Barcelona
1995 – Ajax 1-0 Milan
1996 – Juventus 1-1** Ajax
1997 – Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Milan
1998 – Real Madrid 1-0 Juventus
1999 – Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich
2000 – Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia
2001 – Bayern Munich 1-1** Valencia
2002 – Real Madrid 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
2003 – Milan 0-0** Juventus
2004 – Porto 3-0 Monaco
2005 – Liverpool 3-3** Milan
2006 – Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
2007 – Milan 2-1 Liverpool
2008 – Manchester United 1-1** Chelsea
2009 – Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
2010 – Internazionale 2-1 Bayern Munich
2011 – Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
2012 – Chelsea 1-1** Bayern Munich
2013 – Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
2014 – Real Madrid 4-1* Atletico Madrid
2015 – Barcelona 3-1 Juventus
2016 – Real Madrid 1-1** Atletico Madrid
2017 – Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus
* Added extra time
- When it comes to Champions League goals, two players stand head and shoulders above all others. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way with more than 120 goals for Manchester United and Real Madrid, while Lionel Messi has also reached triple figures at Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 120 goals, 150 games (2003-)
Lionel Messi – 100 goals, 125 games (2005-)
Raul – 71 goals, 142 games (1995-2011)
Ruud van Nistelrooy – 56 goals, 73 games (1998-2009)
Karim Benzema – 53 goals, 101 games (2006-)
Thierry Henry – 50 goals, 112 games (1997-2012)
Alfredo di Stefano – 49 goals, 58 games (1955-1964)
Andriy Schevchenko – 48 goals, 100 games (1994-2012)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 48 goals, 120 games (2001-2018)
Eusebio – 47 goals, 63 games (1961-1974)
- The all-time appearance list is dominated by players from Barcelona and Real Madrid. Of the top 10, only Ryan Giggs never played for a Spanish club.
Iker Casillas – 167 games (1999-)
Xavi – 151 games (1998-2015)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 150 games (2003-)
Raul – 142 games (1995-2011)
Ryan Giggs – 141 games (1993-2014)
Andres Iniesta – 130 games (2002-)
Lionel Messi – 125 games (2005-)
Clarence Seedorf – 125 games (1994-2012)
Paul Scholes – 124 games (1994-2013)
Roberto Carlos – 120 games (1997-2007)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 120 games (2001-2018)
Want some more facts and figures? Here are some of our favourites:
- Francisco Gento won the European Cup six times with Real Madrid between 1955 and 1966.
- Gento and Milan legend Paolo Maldini are the only two players to have featured in eight finals.
- Clarence Seedorf won the UCL title with three different teams: Ajax in 1995, Real Madrid in 1998, and Milan in 2003 and 2007.
- Samuel Eto’o won the treble with Barcelona in 2009 and did it again the following season at Inter.
- Edgar Davids and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were each sent off four times in Champions League matches.
- Zlatan is also the only man to play in the UCL with seven different clubs: Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, Milan, Paris-Saint Germain and Man United.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has top scored in six UCL campaigns and has the three highest goal tallies for a season, led by his 17 strikes in 2013-14.
- Ronaldo also holds the all-time record for goal assists with 37, while Liverpool’s James Milner set a new high mark with nine in the 2017-18 campaign.
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