CL and EL Knockout Stages: Germany Represented on Seven Fronts

Friedemann Vogel

As we've been discussing all year, Germany's top clubs are doing the DFB proud in continental competition. With the winter break approaching, seven different clubs are in the running for knockout stage glory: three in the Champions League and four in Europa. We decided to take a brief look at each. Additionally, we're going to analyze the gambling odds on each team to win their competition.

At the end of each entry, I've given my opinion on whether the odds assigned are appropriate, too long, or too short. Just to clarify - "too short" means they are being given too much respect, I don't think their likelihood of winning is as good as the odds indicate, and/or I would not want to bet on them at the given odds. "Long" means they may be underrated, they have a better chance to win then they are being given, and/or I think it might be worth a bet at the listed odds. And, at the end, there's a poll to tell me whether I'm right or wrong.

All odds are from SkyBet. I'm not linking, and I have no connection to SkyBet, and I should caution you not to gamble if it's illegal where you live. I'm just using this an an example to discuss how they're viewed by the public at large.

German Clubs in the Europa League

- HANNOVER 96

Current odds to win their competition: 33-to-1

What's their deal? Die andere roten are not typically thought of as a power-house club. Well, let's be honest, they aren't. But this is their 3d straight season playing in the Europa League, and a couple years ago they nearly grabbed a Champions League spot. They have a decently balanced attack, with Mohammed Abdellaoue and Mame Biram Diouf both providing some firepower and Szabolcs Huszti proving a threatening option from the midfield (5 goals and 7 assists in the Bundesliga so far this year).

Leon Andreasen was also playing well in his return from a long-term injury struggle, before hurting his knee again; the club won't rule out a late-season return for the Danish midfielder, but it's unlikely he'd be back to full speed before their Europa League plays out.

Their odds are: In my opinion, a tiny bit too long (meaning they are underrated at 33-to-1 odds). You wouldn't think of H96 as one of the most threatening clubs in the competition, but they did win their group without sustaining a single loss. And in nearly 30 matches across all competitions, they've only been clean-sheeted twice (one of those a 0-0 Europe League draw after they'd already qualified).

Depth and fatigue could be a problem, as they started early with the EL qualifying stages and have had some injuries. But if they get one or two favorable match-ups, I could see them making a run to the semi-final. If they get that far, anything's possible. At 33-to-1 odds, I think this would be a decent play.

- VfB STUTTGART

Current odds to win their competition: 40-to-1

What's their deal? After some serious early season struggles, VfB have restored some semblance of order to their season with a decent hot streak that saw them advance in the EL and claw their way back into the top half in the Bundesliga. Vedad Ibisevic is quietly turning in a great year after coming over from Hoffenheim (he might even be in the running for German transfer of the year). I still think their defense needs work, though, and for some reason I don't envision them lasting long in Europe.

Their odds are: In my opinion, just about right (maybe even a tiny bit flattering). Nothing against VfB, but I can't shake the memory of that 6-1 pasting we handed them early in the season. And I can also see them right around the dividing line between 6-7-8 in the Bundesliga table late in the season. If they're going all out to get points on the domestic front, Europa League might not take precedence. Even at 40-to-1, I'd stay away here.

- BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

Current odds to win their competition: 30-to-1

What's their deal? Last season, Lucien Favre's boys were one of the great stories across football. Their patient counter-attacking style brought them a 12-spot increase in the Bundesliga table and a pair of wins over FC Bayern. This season, though, the departures of Dante and Marco Reus have hurt them badly and the absorb-wait-counter tactics have backfired: the Foals have allowed multiple goals 10 times across all competitions this year, after being defensively stout last season.

Their odds are: Too short, in my opinion. I will definitely be pulling for 'em, but I can't see these guys pulling off a Europa League miracle. It wasn't clear last year how great both Dante and Reus were; with the knowledge (in hindsight) that those are 2 of the best players in Germany, it's easy to see why this isn't the same team. And the counter-punch strategy is one that some of these high-mid-level teams can plan for if they know it's coming. I'm going to stay away from this one as well.

- BAYER LEVERKUSEN

Current odds to win their competition: 20-to-1

What's their deal? Despite their loss the other day in the Bundesliga, I still think these guys can be a force. Kießling has a dangerous scoring touch, Schuerrle and Philipp Wollscheid are at least very solid pieces, and Sidney Sam is coming back from a brief layoff just in time. They have a number of very credible wins on their resume: a 2-0 beating of Schalke, a 4-1 stomping of a decent Werder Bremen squad, and of course a 2-1 win over us at the Allianz. I doubt any of their potential Europa League opponents are looking terribly frightening to Bayer right now.

Their odds are: Very, very tempting. I'm not saying they're the best team in the EL. But Kießling has looked almost unstoppable when he's on his game, and the whole team is pretty disciplined and won't beat themselves with stupid mistakes. If Atletico suffered a shock loss and Chelsea was entirely focused on their finish in the Prem, couldn't you see these guys being one of the handful of clubs who could make a run to the EL final? At 20-to-1, I think these odds are too long, and if I were a gambling man, this might be the train I jump on.

German Clubs in the Champions League

- SCHALKE 04

Current odds to win their competition: 40-to-1

What's their deal? One of 3 German sides to make the knockout stage, S04 have been a little less heralded than Bayern and Dortmund. But they were winners of their group as well, and their victims this season have included Arsenal and BVB. And they've scored at least 3 on 5 occasions (considering all competitions).

Huntelaar has become absolutely deadly will the ball at his feet. Julian Draxler has the look of a star in the making. And only a 18 months after losing Neuer, Schalke is getting good GK play from Lars Unnerstall.

Their odds are: Probably too short. Despite all the good things I've said about them, it's hard to picture these guys beating CL knockout stage-caliber opponents in 4 straight ties. I wouldn't be shocked to see them MAYBE make a run to the semis, like they did a few years ago. But once you get down late into the competition, there's no such thing as "getting a favorable draw" - you need to beat elite opponents every time out. I don't think 40-1 would tempt me into making a bet on them, especially with their recent struggles. Now, at 60-to-1, I might consider taking a flier on them.

- BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Current odds to win their competition: 8-to-1

What's their deal? We discussed BVB extensively a week ago. As annoying as they may be, they're undeniably talented. Their CB duo is incredible, Lewandowski is a powerful finisher, and Reus gives them an amazing new element. They can give anyone match-up problems, even the elite teams. And yet, they've had some recent struggles of their own. They aren't finishing off opponents the way they were in the spring, and if you turn every match into a shootout, no lead will even be safe (as Bayern supporters found out during the van Gaal era). Still, nobody is hopeful of meeting them in the next round.

Their odds are: Probably about right. Barca, Real, and Bayern are the "big three" in the eyes of the book-makers. In my mind, Dortmund are rightfully considered the best of the rest (slightly ahead of Man U and Juventus). 8-to-1 doesn't sound like you're getting a great deal, but keep in mind they just took first place in the Group of Death.

- FC BAYERN MUNICH

Current odds to win their competition: 7-to-1

What's their deal? Still trying to figure it out. We've got talent, we've got depth, we can score from any angle and from any style of play. But we still have the inexplicable poor match every so often - rarely, but you only need one to find yourself bounced from the competition. Although Real Madrid is favored over us; didn't we beat them in this same competition last year, and didn't we improve our team since then?

Their odds are: Even if I were a gambler, I'd never bet on Bayern to win the CL. If it happens, I'll be overcome with joy anyway, and if and when we get knocked out, I'll be crushed anyway. No need to add money to the equation.

If you have thoughts, leave them below. I am NOT telling anyone to bet anything, but if I had a free voucher at a book, I think Bayer Leverkusen has the most tempting odds of this group. But no matter what happens, this looks like a promising season in continental play for Germany. Thanks for reading.

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