Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis

Jenna Harris October 22, 2020 5 No Comments

Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to reach final, Sevilla to semis

The Champions League started on Tuesday and when we are being honest, we all know who is likely going to win. Through one-sixth of the group point, FiveThirtyEight gives defending winner Bayern Munich a 26 percent likelihood of replicating, followed by Manchester City (15 percentage ), Barcelona (9 percent), Liverpool (8% ) and PSG (8% ). PSG’s odds dropped by three percentage points following an upset loss to Manchester United, however, also Real Madrid dropped from 6 per cent to 4 per cent following a jarring 3-2 home loss to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Bayern over seemed the role of a favorite in Wednesday’s 4-0 devastation of Atletico Madrid, but with 2 of what were believed the “top six favourites” shedding, there is a great deal of room to get lower-tier contenders to advance fairly far in the lure. Besides, all but the chalkiest of championships create surprises. Tottenham Hotspur made it on the closing at 2019, whilst RB Leipzig, Lyon, Ajax, Roma and Monaco have made somewhat sudden runs into the semifinals before four decades.

There are twists and turns along the way, so with this in mind, let us talk about a few teams which may cause some significant twists to come.

The expression “sleeper” may indicate a good deal of different items — how exactly to win the entire thing? Sleeper to advance from the group point? — so let us talk about groups that match each potential definition. It may not be probable that these teams will win the name, but they are more than capable of knocking out your favorite group or getting your preferred team at the months ahead.

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Sleeper to win the entire item

RB Leipzig

Group: H
Title likelihood, per FiveThirtyEight: 4 per cent
First game: overcome Istanbul Basaksehir, 2-0
Next game: in Manchester United (Oct. 28)

Despite attaining the Champions League semis at August, Julian Nagelsmann’s squad were adhered at Pot 3, however due to United’s mad of PSG, FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Red Bull-possessed squad a better prospect of advancing (63 percentage ) compared to PSG (62 percentage ). A win in Manchester second Wednesday will set them in excellent position to win their own group.

The lack of former celebrity Timo Werner, currently with Chelsea, is probably hurting RBL’s chances, but they have shown no indication of slippage with him, starting the Bundesliga season with 10 points from four games. They controlled Basaksehir in the opening and must ease the throttle off fairly quickly.

RBL is attacking from anywhere. In five league and cup games, seven distinct players have scored and 16 have logged a vital pass or a help. Midfielder Angelino (four goals) and forwards Yussuf Poulsen (three) are flourishing, and the group has just gotten 45 minutes from wounded winger and captain Marcel Sabitzer so far. We’ll see whether he is ready for the trip to Manchester, however RBL are proving themselves worthy of big-boy status.

- Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis
Even with Timo Werner gone, do not write off Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig in this season’s Champions League.  Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Sleeper to achieve the final

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Inter Milan

Group: B
Odds of reaching the final, per FiveThirtyEight: 6 percent
First match: drew with Borussia Monchengladbach, 2-2
Next match: at Shakhtar Donetsk (Oct. 27)

Antonio Conte and Inter could not take full advantage of Real Madrid’s defeat, drawing with Gladbach despite creating a 3.5-1.5 xG advantage. It was unlucky, but it was also reaffirmation that this team is fun as hell.

Inter nearly won Serie A last year and have almost inarguably performed better than either Juventus or Barcelona — two teams with far stronger betting odds — since the coronavirus restart this summer. Their only losses in the last three months were to Sevilla in the Europa League final and to a torrid AC Milan this past Saturday.

They kept most of last year’s squad intact and added both full-back Achraf Hakimi and veteran midfielder/enforcer Arturo Vidal. They were really good last year, and they have more pieces this time around.

The Nerazzurri were, along with Atalanta and RB Leipzig, easily the most proven teams in Pot 3 of the draw, and they find themselves in a chaotic group — FiveThirtyEight gives Inter, Shakhtar and Real Madrid each between a 51-59 percent chance of advancing. A win at Shakhtar next week, however, could give them not only great odds of advancing but also a solid shot at winning their group and generating a favourable draw in the round of 16.

Sleeper to reach semifinals

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Sevilla

Group: E
Odds of reaching the semis, per FiveThirtyEight: 15 percent
First match: drew with Chelsea, 0-0
Next match: vs. Rennes (Oct. 28)

I know, I know: wrong tournament. Sevilla are kings of the Europa League, having won it six times since 2006, so it’s easy to simply assume they’ll finish third in their group, land in the Europa knockout round and make a run.

They have a real chance to make some noise in the UCL this time around, though. They’ve done so before, after all — they made the quarterfinals in 2018, barely falling to Bayern Munich, and they’ve now scored a road draw against their top Group E challenger in Chelsea. The Blues and Rennes both remain exciting teams, but the path to winning Group E is quite manageable.

Also… they’re pretty dang good. They brought in far more than they sent out in the transfer window, they gave Bayern fits in an eventual extra-time loss in the UEFA Super Cup, and while their goalscoring form has left them a bit in La Liga play — after scoring three goals in their league opener, they’ve scored just two since — their xG figures are solid, and their passing game is sublime. And in an offense-friendly group, they have the sturdiest defense led by centre-bacls Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde.

Sleeper to reach quarterfinals

Champions League039s ultimate sleepers RB Leipzig to win Inter Milan.png&w=126&site=espnfc - Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis

Olympiakos

Group: C
Odds of reaching the quarters, per FiveThirtyEight: 18 percent
First match: beat Marseille, 1-0
Next match: at Porto (Oct. 27)

The top of the Greek Super League features quite a few teams capable of doing minor damage in Europe, but Pedro Martins’ Olympiacos have lost just a combined three league matches over the past two seasons.They took points from Tottenham Hotspur in last year’s Champions League, then beat Arsenal in the Europa League knockouts before falling narrowly to Wolves. In this year’s Champions League play-off round, they beat Cyprus’ Omonia to qualify, and while the scoring margin (2-0) wasn’t dramatically impressive, all the other stats were: they outshot Omonia 45-12, generated 4.2 xG to 0.7, etc. And now they’ve got three points from one match in group play.

Olympiacos are a fun mix of leathery old veterans — former Marseille attacking midfielder Mathieu Valbuena (36), former Bayern full-back Rafinha (35), former Watford full-back Jose Holebas (36) and former Granada striker Youssef El-Arabi (33) all started against Marseille — and peak-age talent like attacking midfielder Kostas Fortounis (28) and Wednesday’s goal scorer, Ahmed Hassan (27).

This is a tough, physical and unintimidated team. Even if they can’t steal points from Manchester City in Group C, they’ve got more than talent and identity to work their way into the knockout rounds.

Sleeper to reach the round of 16

Champions League039s ultimate sleepers RB Leipzig to win Inter Milan.png&w=126&site=espnfc - Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis

Rennes

Group: E
Odds of advancing to the knockout round, per FiveThirtyEight: 21 percent
First match: drew with Krasnodar, 1-1
Next match: at Sevilla (Oct. 28)

Rennes missed a prime opportunity by only drawing with the weakest team in Group E, Krasnodar. They took the lead in the second half and then immediately gave it back. But hey, that kept their odds of advancing low enough to call them sleepers!

- Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis
Can French phenom Eduardo Camavinga guide Rennes to the knockout rounds at the tender age of 17? Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

After finishing third in last year’s abbreviated Ligue 1 campaign and therefore qualifying for the Champions League for the first time ever, Rennes began this season with 13 points in their first five matches before losing stars Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) and Raphinha (Leeds United) to the Premier League. The next batch of stars is already in place, however, and as they gel, they could improve as the group stages move along.

Julien Stephan’s squad brought in Juventus defender Daniele Rugani and Inter Milan full-back Dalbert on loan, and new acquisition Serhou Guirassy has already scored three goals in Ligue 1 play. And they still have 17-year old phenom Eduardo Camavinga, whose presence — and uncanny ability to do this — leaves them a must-watch team.

Whether or they advance, both team matches Chelsea — Nov. 4 London, Nov. 24 at Rennes — will probably be a complete boon if you like things such as “goals” and “fun, attacking soccer.”

Sleeper to get to the round of 16

Champions League039s ultimate sleepers RB Leipzig to win Inter Milan.png&w=126&site=espnfc - Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis

FC Salzburg

Group: A
Odds of advancing to the knockout round, each FiveThirtyEight: 32 percentage
First game: drew with Lokomotiv Moscow, 2-2
Next game: in Atletico Madrid (Oct. 27)

The No. Two staff on the Red Bull totem pole held a 1.1-0.7 xG advantage over Lokomotiv on Wednesday but endured a disappointing draw… and their probability of advancing nevertheless went up thanks to Atletico’s huge loss to Bayern.

The spreadsheets love Salzburg: they are 19th in FiveThirtyEight’s club positions and 22nd in EloFootball.com. They dropped Hwang Hee-chan into Leipzig — also, needless to say, Takumi Minamino into Liverpool and Erling Haaland into Borussia Dortmund last January — but another generation of celebrities is ready for its UEFA spotlight. Patson Daka, 22, has scored 11 targets in only nine matches this season and generated over half Salzburg’s xG on Wednesday. Hungarian starlet Dominik Szoboszlai (19) scored the aims of the day against Lokomotiv, and Sekou Koita (20) is superb. And today American midfielder Brenden Aaronson (19) is coming aboard too.

It’s safe to state your favorite club’s scouting team is and has been observing Salzburg for a little while, and while becoming paired with Bayern and Atletico makes advancing hard, they possess the ball-control match to make things dicey for your favourites. A win weekly could set them in a powerful position to advance.

The ultimate sleeper

Champions League039s ultimate sleepers RB Leipzig to win Inter Milan.png&w=126&site=espnfc - Champions League's ultimate sleepers: RB Leipzig to win, Inter Milan to achieve closing, Sevilla into semis

Midtjylland

Group: D
Odds of advancing to the knockout round, per FiveThirtyEight: 3 per cent
First game: dropped to Atalanta, 4-0
Next game: in Liverpool (Oct. 27)

Okay, no, Midtjylland likely are not likely to advance. FiveThirtyEight rankings them 136th overall, and their probability of advancing are better compared to just Basaksehir’s. They’re stuck in possibly the most aesthetically satisfying potential group with Liverpool, Atalanta and Ajax. Their goal differential is already -4. But it is a story they’re here. Call them a sleeper in our hearts.

Owned by former professional gambler and analytics enthusiast Matthew Benham (who also possesses Brentford FC), Midtjylland won its initial Danish Superliga name in 2015 and dropped Manchester United from the 2016 Europa League knockout rounds. ) After years of rapping on the door, they eventually qualified for its Champions League team stage by bothering a strong Slavia Prague using a thrilling late surge of 3 goals in seven minutes.

Like Salzburg and Rennes, Midtjylland is growing a reputation as a elite scouting-and-development club which is to say, larger clubs are ready to pounce if a younger participant looks great, as well as the foursome of all Anders Dreyer, Sory Kaba, Awer Mabil and Frank Onyeka (four shots, 0.6 xG against Atalanta) is very interesting to watch.

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