Teams who can go a long
way at a big price in the Champions League are often the unfashionable clubs
from fashionable countries. When this season's competition gets under way
properly next week Sevilla and Valencia will fit that description.
best teams in the Champions League are those from the richest national leagues
of Spain, England and Italy. In the past eight seasons since the group stage
expanded to 32, clubs from Spain, England and Italy have accounted for 34% of
those in the last 32, 55% of the last 16, 72% of quarter-finalists and 81% of
semi-finalists. The remaining semi-final places were filled by clubs from
Germany, France, Holland and Portugal. Only one club - Dynamo Kiev in 1999 -
from outside those seven countries has reached the Champions League semi-finals
Gamblers, of course, are interested not so
much in competitors who might do well as in those who might do better than the
bookmakers anticipate. In practice, this means unfashionable competitors.
England is nearly always represented by Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool
and Arsenal while Italy tends to be represented be the equally glamorous trio
of Milan, Internazionale and Juventus, the latter absent last season because of
their involvement in domestic match-fixing.
The country with a track
record of providing unfancied runners who go far is Spain. In the last eight
seasons, Valencia have reached two finals while Deportivo La Coruña and
Villarreal have each reached a semi-final. By top-level standards, these are
Today, Sevilla and Valencia are slightly inferior
to Barcelona and Real Madrid. The bookmakers, however, think they are
dramatically inferior. You can get no more than 11-2 about Barcelona lifting
the trophy, or 12-1 Real Madrid, but as much as 22...#8209;1 about Sevilla and
28-1 Valencia. In outright or match-by-match betting, they are the clubs who
could yield a profit.