Backing Britain does not pay

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The Independent Online
There is no more succinct demonstration of Blackburn Rovers' wretched campaign in Europe this season than their progress in William Hill's betting market on their Champions' League group.

When the book opened, Rovers were 1-3, in bookies' term near-certainties, to finish top. Their price then drifted with each fresh disaster, through 8-13, 5-2 and 12-1 until, just six weeks later, they were 25-1 simply to qualify for the next stage.

This rapid decline should be borne in mind by anyone, even in Nottingham, who intends to back Forest at 25-1 to win the Uefa Cup before tomorrow's third round, second leg match in Lyon.

Bookies are often accused of offering miserly odds about British teams in Europe in the knowledge that punters will back them anyway. Their lists, however, simply reflect weight of money, and British patriotism (or is that self-delusion?) being what it is, teams from these shores will almost invariably offer poor betting value.

Consider, for instance, the surprising fact that Lyon, who, following their excellent first-leg performance, will be fancied by many to overcome a one-goal deficit at home tomorrow, are eight points longer to win the Cup, at 33-1 (Ladbrokes, Coral). This, remember, is the team which beat Lazio in the last round.

At the top of the market, Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSV have enormous talent and experience, but, in the last eight, can be expected to begin to knock each other out.

Lyon are too big at 33-1, and an each-way bet (at half the odds for a place in the final) should at least give punters the novel opportunity to enjoy the performance of a British club in Europe.

UEFA CUP (Ladbrokes): 5-4 Milan, 9-2 Barcelona, Bayern Munich, 7-1 PSV Eindhoven, 8-1 Roma, 16-1 Werder Bremen, 20-1 Bordeaux, 25-1 Nottingham Forest, 33-1 Lyon, 40-1 Real Betis, Lens, Slavia Prague, 50-1 Brondby, 66-1 bar.

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE (Hill's): 13-8 Juventus, 7-4 Ajax, 8-1 Borussia Dortmund, 9-1 Spartak Moscow, 10-1 Real Madrid, 11-1 Nantes, 25-1 Panathanaikos, 33-1 bar.