The 2021 Champions League final is fascinating on so many levels: two English heavyweights, two of the most expensive squads on the planet, Manchester City’s quest for its first-ever Champions League, two elite managers going head to head, Chelsea’s two recent wins against Man City and, of course, the best-ever American player on the biggest club stage in the world.
The books are giving the clear edge to Manchester City (anywhere from -115 to win in regulation and -250 to win the cup). They are, after all, the reigning English Premier League champions and considered by many to be the best team in the world today. After their poor start to the season and their recent stumbles, Chelsea simply don’t have the same standing. But that’s not to say this won’t be a tightly contested final.
Chelsea vs. Manchester City odds for 2021 Champions League final
A familiar cliche emerges ahead of single-game finals in soccer: Expect to see cautious teams, airtight defenses and few scoring opportunities. But there is reason to believe this could actually be the case on Saturday.
Manchester City and Chelsea conceded the fewest goals of any teams in the English Premier League: 32 (xGA 31.3) and 36 goals (xGA 32.8), respectively. Credit the world-class defenders and goalkeepers on each side, and the tactical structure that both managers have devised to get the best out of them.
And at least for one of the finalists, scoring doesn’t always come easy. Chelsea have had their share of struggles manufacturing goals when they’ve needed them. Timo Werner (10 goals vs. 18.1 expected goals per FBref), last summer’s high profile forward signing, has had to shoulder plenty of the criticism, although quality service hasn’t always been there.
And it might pay to remember that the two other occasions we’ve had an all-English final, they were also low-scoring affairs: Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 in 2019, but that second goal came in minute 87. In 2008, Manchester United needed penalty kicks to beat Chelsea after a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Here are some odds to play the low-scoring trend:
Odds courtesy of DraftKings and based on 90-minute regulation result
- Man City-Chelsea total goals Under 1.5: +200
- Man City-Chelsea total goals Under 2.5: -157
- Man City 0, Chelsea 1: +900
- Man City 1, Chelsea 0: +510
- Man City Under 0.5 goals scored: +310
- Chelsea Under 0.5 goals scored: +128
Win to Nil (i.e. via shutout)
- Chelsea to win to nil: +575
- Man City to win to nil: N/A
Chelsea or Man City: Who scores first?
If you buy into the low-scoring thesis and couple that with the records of both teams when they score first, then an obvious betting angle emerges.
When Chelsea have scored first this season in all competitions, they have 17 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss. Manchester City have won 41 of the 45 games in which they score first. Safe to say, as is the case in most finals, the first goal is going to be huge. Here’s how teams have fared when they have taken the lead over the last 20 Champions League finals:
- Wins: 12
- Draws: 5 (all decided by penalty kick shootouts)
- Losses: 2 (Atletico Madrid in 2014 and Arsenal in 2006)
At time of publication you can still get plus money on both teams scoring first and winning. If you believe in the trend, it’s possible to play both sides and make out on top.
To score first and win:
- Chelsea: +380
- Manchester City: +106
Champions League final prop bets: Offsides & Timo Werner
Werner’s penchant for being caught offside or having a goal annulled for being offside has become a sort of running joke during Chelsea matches. But his manager and German compatriot, Thomas Tuchel, is not bothered by it: He loves that Werner (photo below) presses, harries and stretches opposing defenses. The speedy forward is constantly riding that defensive line in the hope of being sprung into the open field. That’s his game.
So it’s no surprise that Chelsea committed the second highest total of offside infractions in the most recent 38-game Premier League season (80 times caught offside). Werner was responsible for 26 of those instances, good for the 4th highest total of any player.
In a game where Chelsea is likely to cede control to Manchester City and look to transition quickly into the open field via Werner and Christian Pulisic, we might see the offside flag come up a few times. (Note: Werner was caught offside against Man City twice in their FA Cup semifinal and three times in the most recent league match.)
- Timo Werner over 1.5 offside infringements: +140
- Chelsea team offsides total over 2.5 (including extra time): +100
Chelsea vs. Manchester City prediction
Some of Chelsea’s best performances this season have come when they’re not the ones having to “make” the game or break down the opposition. They can let the game come to them against Manchester City and pick their moments to inflict damage in transition.
Manchester City are the best team in the world today and they’re playing the best soccer. A first Champions League trophy would be a just reward. But in a 90-minute final they’ll need the key bounces to go their way and that’s never guaranteed.
Spreading money on both sides of the “score first and win” remains my favorite play. I’d also roll the dice on a Chelsea double chance (Chelsea win and draw in regulation) at -106.