I’d never call myself a Wolf of Wall Street type, but the idea of a football stock market makes so much sense to me. Day in and day out, you see so many teams where you wish you could bet on their future. So that’s what I’m doing here. I’ve set out to make a bunch of predictions on how teams will fare for the second half of the group stage, so use this as your guide for what to expect going forward.
I’m using the idea of an alignment chart (Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic) you may have seen floating around social media before to classify how I truly feel about each of these picks. In fact, I made one exactly for this post. Consider “lawful” as your typical safe bets that are likely to happen, “neutral” as neither fully risky nor fully safe, and chaotic as the true betting man’s category and high risk/high reward.
Lawful Buy: Bayern Munich
They’re many things: the team with the best goal difference in the competition, the team with the most goals scored, and one of two teams who haven’t conceded a goal yet. Bayern are going to win their group with relative ease, so it’s probably best to expect them to take off from here — even with Julian Nagelsmann having been sidelined with COVID-19 and Bayern having been knocked out of the DFB-Pokal.
Lawful Hold: Chelsea FC
They might not be leading their group. But considering Juventus haven’t conceded yet, I wouldn’t put it past Chelsea to stick it to them in their second leg and fight for that top position again. Even if they can’t win their group, they have a much better chance of succeeding over Zenit St. Petersburg and Malmo.
Lawful Sell: Barcelona
Hell, I’d tell you to short Barcelona if I could. The team just sacked Ronald Koeman and have an interim manager at the helm for seemingly the rest of the season. Considering their final matchday is at the Allianz Arena — and that they play two of their last three games away — It just doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to put things back together any time soon.
Neutral Buy: Ajax
Joining Bayern and Juventus in the 100% points record category is Ajax. Sure they have a tough group partner (coming up next) but they should still stay atop the group — especially considering the 4-0 thrashing they just handed out. It doesn’t seem that Besiktas or Sporting Lisbon will be able to put up much of a fight against the top two in this group. However, if this were a true market, I don’t know if I would buy or even hold them going into the knockout stages.
Neutral Hold: Borussia Dortmund
In speaking of Sporting and Besiktas being let downs, that’s exactly why I would hold on to Borussia Dortmund. Nevermind that they just lost 4-0 to Ajax. Nevermind that they had lost Erling Haaland for a while. Nevermind that they have the worst goal difference of any second place team. Dortmund are a well rounded team that perform better than their statistics suggest — and I would still peg them as a better team than Ajax at the end of the day.
Neutral Sell: VfL Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg should not be in this position. Going into the group stage, they were leading the Bundesliga and had the best goal difference in the league thanks to a stout defense. Now, the team have all but collapsed. Thanks to a combination of that defending going awry, injuries and sickness in their attacking corps, and the inept and — in some cases — avoidably disastrous decision making of Mark van Bommel, Wolfsburg are sitting last in their group. Since the start, Wolfsburg have slipped to 7th in the league table — as low as 9th at one point — and have fired vsan Bommel as manager. There is hope for Wolfsburg in that 2nd place Sevilla only have one more point than them. However, with their current turmoil, I find it hard to envision a way forward for the Wolves.
Chaotic Buy: Club Brugge
I’m probably really dumb for picking Brugge here considering their fellow group mates Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. But look at it this way: they beat PSG at home in their first game of the season, they sit only three points off the lead, and they’ve played pretty well against their high spending counterparts. Do I think they have the momentum to pull of this upset? In some ways, yes. They’re collectively a young, smart, and fast team capable of pulling anything off. If City and PSG draw each other and Brugge are able to pull points out of two of their last three games, they could have a shot at advancing. Plus, it would be a truly monumental result if this actually happened and the relative “little guy” could knock off three of the more artificially inflated clubs in European football.
Chaotic Hold: Sheriff Tiraspol
I put Sheriff at hold because while they have the lead in their group, I don’t know if they can repeat their results from the first half of the group stage. This team — from a country not internationally recognized — is leading a Champions League group with Real Madrid and Inter Milan in it. They did not do this by accident. They won their first game against Shakhtar Donetsk convincingly and followed that up with a well played back and forth win over Real Madrid. That leaves them tied on points with Madrid at the top of the table and ahead thanks to their victory. Whether Sheriff can keep this up remains to be seen — but given the current situation and the tiebreakers, you have to believe they have as good a chance as any.
Chaotic Sell: Manchester United
Hear me out: Man U play in a group with all teams having already won — meaning they all have three points. To say there is chaos surrounding the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be to put it lightly. A quick summary of their last five fixtures goes as follows: a 1-1 draw to Everton, a 4-2 loss to Leicester, a 3-2 win over Atalanta, a 5-0 loss to Liverpool, and a 3-0 win over Tottenham. Two of their final three matches are away to tough stadia in Bergamo and Villarreal. Simply given how close everything is in this group, I feel that Manchester United have the least momentum on their side of any team here other than BSC Young Boys. It would be drastic to see them go from first to out of the knockouts, but crazier things have happened. Plus, for the Man United fans in the comments, I can’t imagine that Ole would stick around if this happens so that might be a plus.
Please note all the times are different this one week, as Europe has already had their Daylight Savings Time adjustments. Here are the games for the next two days (all times Eastern US):
Tuesday, November 2nd
- Malmö FF v. Chelsea FC (Malmö New Stadium - Malmö, Scania, SWE)
- VfL Wolfsburg v. FC Salzburg (VfL Wolfsburg Arena - Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, DEU)
- Atalanta BC v. Manchester United FC (Stadio di Bergamo - Bergamo, Lombardy, ITA)
- FC Bayern München v. SL Benfica (Fußball Arena München - Munich, Bavaria, DEU)
- Dynamo Kiev v. FC Barcelona (Olympic National Sports Complex - Kiev, UKR)
- Juventus FC v. Zenit Saint Petersburg (Juventus Stadium - Turin, Piedmont, ITA)
- Sevilla FC v. LOSC Lille (Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán - Sevilla, Andalucía, ESP)
- Villarreal CF v. BSC Young Boys (Estadio de la Cerámica - Villarreal, Comunidad Valenciana, ESP)
Wednesday, November 3rd
- AC Milan v. FC Porto (Stadio Giuseppe Meazza [San Siro] - Milan, Lombardia, ITA)
- Real Madrid v. FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu - Madrid, ESP)
- Borussia Dortmund v. AFC Ajax (Westfalenstadion - Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia, DEU)
- Liverpool FC v. Atletico Madrid (Anfield - Liverpool, Merseyside, GBR)
- Manchester City FC v. Club Brugge KV (City of Manchester Stadium - Manchester, GBR)
- RB Leipzig v. Paris Saint-Germain (RB Arena - Leipzig, Saxony, DEU)
- Sheriff Tiraspol v. Internazionale Milan (Bolshaya Sportivnaya Arena - Tiraspol, Transnistria, MDA)
- Sporting CP v. Beşiktaş JK (Estádio José Alvalade - Lisbon, PRT)