Atletico Madrid will have emerged from Friday’s Champions League draw with a huge smile on their faces. Diego Simeone’s side are the only Spanish club whose place in the last eight is guaranteed – Barcelona and Real Madrid’s hopes are in the balance ahead of the second leg of their ties against Napoli and Manchester City respectively.
Yet the draw itself was hugely kind to Los Rojiblancos; they will face RB Leipzig, a club who have never previously been in the knockout stages of the Champions League and who will be without star forward Timo Werner, who has agreed a move to Chelsea.
Furthermore, they know that if they progress into the semi-final stage they will take on either Paris Saint-Germain or Atalanta – two clubs who have never before played in a Champions League final, with the Italian side another who are in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in their history.
PSG are potentially the best team in Europe, and stand the highest odds at the online bookies, especially with their devastating attack including Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, but in a one-off match Atleti will believe they can produce a Simeone masterclass to frustrate their opponents. Atalanta too will be dangerous, having dismantled Valencia in the Round of 16, but at this stage of the competition they will be viewed as a kind draw. After all, this side of the draw sees four clubs who have never before won the competition and Atleti are the only one of the quartet to have even reached the final.
The other side of the draw is packed full of continental experience and many of the pre-tournament favourites. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester City. There is little doubt that Atleti will have been keen to avoid all of them until the final.
All that has left Simeone’s side as the fifth favourites to win the competition this season, as cited by Oddschecker. The Spanish capital club’s odds have shortened to just 12/1 and even those should be viewed as extremely attractive to those eyeing a bet for who will lift the trophy in Lisbon next month.
By comparison, their city rivals Real Madrid have drifted to 40/1 while even Juventus – traditionally one of the favourites – are now out to 14/1 following Friday’s draw. Free bets from free bets.com are naturally going to be in high demand at this business end of the season.
Yet as highlighted by Marca, Atletico Madrid now have ‘many reasons to believe’ that this will be the year they finally taste glory in the competition. They now stand at odds of 4/5 of winning with most bookmakers, including Bet365 and Ladbrokes. Having been thwarted twice by their city rivals in the 2014 and 2016 deciders, this could finally be their time to be crowned kings of Europe.