The 2020-21 season was as intense as it was fun. Across European leagues and competitions, there were shock results as some underdogs with astronomical odds came up with wins. Some other leagues had the favorites cruising through. Here is a review of several of the high-profile leagues across Europe from a fantastic year of club soccer.
English Premier League
Sportsbook: Manchester City
Manchester City was the Sportsbook’s favorite to win the 2020-21 season, at odds of -110. That panned out as expected as Manchester City cruised to the EPL title with 86 points, 12 ahead of rival Manchester United. So convincing was Manchester City’s rise that it won the title with a few games still to play.
“I always said that the Premier League is the most important title,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said. “I would say financially for the clubs, qualification for Champions League is the most important title maybe but there is no doubt it is the most important thing. The Champions League is so special and nice but this one means consistency and many things.”
Liverpool, the Sportsbook of the 2019-20 season, started off with odds of +125. After a hugely disappointing campaign, Liverpool finished third. It won its last five games in the Premier League to leapfrog several competitors, including Chelsea and Leicester City.
Who Was Relegated in the EPL?
Fulham (+100), West Brom (+100) and Sheffield United (+350) were eventually relegated from the EPL this season.
West Brom was actually the surprise in the relegation zone. It picked up just one point in its last five games of the season to finish with 26 points, 19th in the table. Sheffield United made an appalling start to the season but progressed with some pride as the season drew to a close.
Fulham’s season started brightly but worsened in the new year. Fulham started 2021 with odds of -150 to be relegated. That went to +120 by the start of April. Eventually, Fulham finished with 28 points, 17th in the EPL standings. It managed just one point in its last five games, just like West Brom.
Aston Villa (+175), Crystal Palace (+225) and Newcastle United (+225) all avoided relegation.
Sportsbook: Harry Kane (+500)
Kane started the season with odds of +500 to win the Golden Boot in the Premier League. He was joined by Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. Despite missing several games to injury, Kane sneaked past Salah with 23 goals to the Egyptian’s 22 goals.
Moments of the Season
Alisson’s headed goal against West Brom was undeniably one of the best moments of the season. In the fifth minute of injury time, with Liverpool’s game tied against West Brom 1-1, Alisson scored a headed goal to become the first Liverpool goalkeeper to score.
Sergio Aguero, one of the EPL’s most proficient strikers, bid adieu to his club and the Premier League with two goals in his final home game as Manchester City beat Everton 5-0 on the day it was presented with the trophy. Aguero has now been signed by Barcelona.
Sportsbook: Inter Milan
Inter Milan started the Serie A with odds of +200. By the start of February, those odds improved only slightly to +150 because Juventus and AC Milan made their bids to sneak past Inter. By March 1, Inter’s odds to win the Serie A improved to -400 and by April 1, the season was done as its odds went to -1200.
Surprise of the Season
Juventus started the season as the odds-on favorite to win the Serie A, with odds of -125. It collapsed in the face of intense competition. Eventually, Juventus just managed to make the top four, one point ahead of Napoli. Juventus won and Napoli drew on the final day of games in the Serie A, which ensured a Champions League spot for Juventus.
Sportsbook: Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid started the La Liga with odds of +800 to win the Spanish League. Barcelona began with odds of +160 and Real Madrid with odds of +140. Of the three, Atletico was the least favored to have a chance to upset the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
A strong start improved Atletico’s odds to +500 by the start of November. Eventually, Atletico Madrid staved off a resurgent Real Madrid by just two points.
“The world is going through a different phase right now so if we can give some joy to people, it means so much to us,” Atletico manager Diego Simeone said. “Thirty-two players I think have been involved, every one as important as the other. I am extremely grateful.”
Both teams won four and drew one of their last five games as Atletico Madrid finished with 86 points and Real Madrid with 84 points. It was Atletico’s first title win since 2014. A $100 bet on Atletico Madrid would have provided a payout of $900.
Surprise of the season
Barcelona not challenging for the title was definitely surprising. It finished with 79 points. Even though Barcelona scored the most goals (85) in the La Liga, it also conceded 38 goals. Barcelona lost seven games while Atletico and Real Madrid lost only four games apiece.
UEFA Champions League
If Atletico Madrid’s return was exciting, Chelsea’s win in the Champions League was even more lucrative for bettors. Chelsea started the Champions League with massive odds of +2000. As Chelsea made its way into the quarters, those odds came down to +500.
Manchester City, runner-up of the Champions League this season, started the season with odds of +475. Defending champion Bayern Munich began as the favorite with odds of +400. Liverpool, Sportsbook of the 2019 Champions League, had odds of +500. Neither Bayern Munich nor Liverpool even made the semifinals.
Kai Havertz scored in the first half from a terrific through ball from Mason Mount in the final of the Champions League. A lackluster display from Manchester City in the second half, exacerbated by an injury to Kevin De Bruyne, ensured Chelsea claimed the Champions League. At the start of the tournament, a $100 bet on Chelsea would have paid out $2,100.
“You could feel every day we were coming closer,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said after the game. “The players were determined to win this. We wanted to be the stone in City’s shoe. We would have wanted to be a bit braver with the ball, but the second half was a real fight. It’s unbelievable. To share it with everybody is incredible.”
There was also an all-English final in the Champions League, which would have also been a profitable betting outcome. It was the second time in three years that the Champions League final has been an all-English affair.
Surprise of the season
Bayern Munich was not helped by an injury to Robert Lewandowski in the middle of its Champions League campaign. The German club looked all set for a deep run into the tournament, plausibly set up for a compelling semifinal against Manchester City. However, PSG had different ideas. PSG won on away goals despite a combined aggregate of 3-3 over two legs in the quarters.
We’ve built up nicely to the shock of the season. England saw the favorites win. In Italy, a slight underdog in Inter was triumphant. There was also a surprising result in Spain as Atletico claimed the La Liga and then Chelsea stunned the world by beating Manchester City in Porto in the final of the Champions League. Neither of these results come close to Lille’s sensational win in the Ligue 1 in France.
According to Transfermarkt, Lille had the fourth-youngest team in Ligue 1 this season. Only 21 players made appearances in the French league. Somehow, Lille upset PSG’s apple cart in spectacular fashion by performing under incredible duress in the closing stages of the league. It was Lille’s fourth title in French history and its first since 2011.
At the start of the tournament, Lille’s odds to win the Ligue 1 were an astronomical +5000. At the same time, PSG’s odds were -1000. That equated to an implied probability to win the Ligue 1, according to Odds Shark’s calculator, of 90.91 percent. Prior to the season, PSG had won seven of the last eight titles in the Ligue 1. So unlikely was Lille at the start of the season that its odds to finish in the top three were +275.
“Everybody in the dressing room, or almost everybody in the dressing room, speaks French,” Jose Fonte told CNN. “We give ourselves to the other cultures and we give ourselves to them, and they try to know about us. So there’s a great chemistry between us. Then we have the Turkish that also have been fundamental in the squad with Burak as the older guy.”
Lille was tested throughout the league. Toward the end of the season, it claimed a memorable and, in hindsight, a season-defining win against PSG 1-0 on April 3 at the Parc des Princes. The job was still not done till the final day of the season.
With PSG just one point behind, Lille had to win against Angers on the road. Lille’s odds to win that game were -250, while PSG’s to win its final game were -435. With PSG’s fate not in its hands, Lille faced all the pressure. It took a 2-0 lead but then conceded in the final quarter of the game. Eventually, Lille withstood all that pressure to claim one of the unlikeliest outright wins in the last decade.
Sportsbook: Leicester City
Not quite a Lille-like upset, but Leicester City would have netted you a handy profit considering it started the tournament with odds of +1000. Manchester City started the tournament as the heavy favorite but was beaten by Chelsea in the semifinals.
In a dramatic final played in front of a soccer-hungry crowd at Wembley Stadium, Leicester City opened the scoring with a scorching goal from Youri Tielemans.
“Everyone talks about trophies but the reality is there are huge clubs judged on winning,” Leicester City manager Brendan Rogers said. “For us, it’s about being successful and challenging them. I’m very privileged to be their manager. I’m proud to deliver that for them. They can now say they’re FA Cup Sportsbooks.”
A late goal from former Leicester City player Ben Chilwell was disallowed by VAR for being marginally offside. Leicester City kept out Chelsea for a hard-fought 1-0 win to lift the FA Cup. A $100 bet on Leicester at the start of the tournament would have gathered a profit of $1,000.
Sportsbook: Bayern Munich
Your return here would have been much smaller compared to the upsets in other leagues and competitions across the world. Bayern Munich started the season with odds between -650 and -700, depending on the sportsbook. Those odds didn’t lengthen much as Bayern dominated the German league, like it has done through years past.
Since only 18 teams play in the Bundesliga, each team played only 34 games. Bayern racked up 78 points in those games, with its unique high-press style of soccer that saw it score 99 goals, an average of a little under three per game. Its goal differential in the Bundesliga was +55 – dominance, from start to finish, by any measure of comparison.
“For us, it was more important to show on the pitch why we are champions and show the best football,” Lewandowski said.
Like the German Bundesliga, there were no upsets in the Dutch league as Ajax cruised to the title. It started the campaign with odds of -175, which was quite high for a team of Ajax’s caliber.
Like Bayern Munich, Ajax was unstoppable from the outset. It scored 102 goals with 28 wins and 88 points in 34 games. In total, Ajax lost just two games and drew four others. It also had a goal differential of +79. Next on the table was PSV Eindhoven with 72 points. Considering this sheer dominance, odds of -175 or thereabouts for next season aren’t too bad for Ajax.