Champions League Betting Preview
To figure out just how competitive the UEFA Champions League is each season, you need only look towards the stats. Amongst many high-profile meetings of the biggest clubs and players in Europe, one fact stands taller than the rest. No club has successfully defended the trophy since its rebrand from the European Cup in 1992.
Thirty-two teams are now gearing up for another year of pulsating action across the continent, and it promises to be another great campaign. Barcelona, Bayern Munich and current champions Real Madrid will again be amongst the favourites, but a few surprises could be in store. Italian champions Juventus have strengthened their squad, could they be set for a charge? Could it even be Arsenal’s year? How will Leicester City get on in their maiden crusade?
Here is our comprehensive betting preview before the games kick off next week.
- FC Basel
Having faced Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at this stage last year, both PSG and Arsenal may be pleased to have avoided the same fate this term. But there could still be some issues for two teams who will be pushing to win the group, particularly the Gunners. The French champions are notorious heavy spenders, but their main recruit this summer was three-time Europa League winning Sevilla coach Unai Emery, and at 4/7, they are obvious favourites to top the pile. Since their Qatari takeover in 2011, winning this competition has been their aim, and you can get odds of 16/1 for Emery to lead them all the way.
That will leave Arsene Wenger frustrated; given his side have been knocked out in the last 16 for the last six seasons. Finishing second would make Arsenal prime contenders to face an elite side immediately after the group stages, but after a successful summer, signing the likes of Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, they could be stronger than in previous years and are 28/1 to go all the way.
With FC Basel and Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets, familiar to Liverpool fans, making up the numbers, expect this group to follow the seeds. However, Basel have a history of spoiling the party, particularly for English teams, and at 9/2 to qualify, they should not be underestimated.
- Dynamo Kiev
Patterns emerge in the Champions League. There is usually one group of death, and another of sides relatively well matched. Group B certainly falls into the latter category.
After losing Gonzalo Higuain to archrivals Juventus this summer, there are considerable question marks over Napoli, who reinvested the £75m recouped from his sale into a new-look side. Benfica, meanwhile, are a club with an illustrious history, but one with a more recent reputation for failing to fulfil potential.
Both are odds on to qualify, at 2/5 and 4/7 respectively, but the quality possessed by Dynamo Kiev, most notably in wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Derlis Gonzalez, means they are a good bet at 6/5 to reach the knockout rounds.
Losing Renato Sanches could have a big impact on Benfica, who will be looking to at least repeat their quarterfinal showing from last season, while Besiktas will most likely be aiming to finish third, which they are 2/1 to do.
In terms of clinching the title, Napoli are best-placed at 50/1, but are unlikely to trouble the big boys.
- Man City
- Borussia M’Gladbach
Here it is, the ‘group of death’. One of the most interesting match-ups this year will be when Pep Guardiola attempts to take down the monster he helped develop at Barcelona now he’s in charge at Manchester City. At 11/4, the Blaugrana are outright favourites, but at 12/1 there is value in City too, so understandably the odds are short on them both going through – just 3/1.
Were they in any other group, Gladbach would have more chance of making an impact with an impressive spine to their squad. Yann Sommer, Tony Jantschke, Patrick Hermann and Eden Hazard’s brother Thorgan will all be on show, but the task in front of them will likely be too big. A price of 11/4 to go through seems pretty fair.
Adding Brendan Rodgers and Moussa Dembele to Celtic makes them stronger than ever, but not enough to progress.
- Bayern Munich
An intriguing clash of styles in last season’s semi final between Bayern and Atletico promises much for Group D, but in another twist, PSV almost knocked the La Liga outfit out in the last 16, but for penalties.
Diego Simeone’s side are the most organised side in Europe, but struggle when taking the game to others. Strangely, they may face more problems from the perceived minnows rather than Carlo Ancelotti’s new charges. A trip to Russia and Rostov, who are priced at 500/1 to win the trophy, may prove more problematic for everyone than they think.
Like Group C, two teams who could quite possibly go for glory in May. Bayern will be looking to break their semi-final duck, having fallen at that stage for three years, but in Ancelotti, they have the perfect man to make the final push. In his first year at Real Madrid, 2013/14, he ended twelve years of hurt by clinching La Decima, beating Atletico in the final. So, 4/1 outright seems a good price for the Germans.
- CSKA Moscow
Another tough group to call, but one every club inside it will be happy with. After finishing as runners-up in the Premier League, Spurs are favourites to progress as winners at 11/8. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the world’s brightest coaches, but there are doubts over whether they have strengthened their squad enough for their first Champions League campaign since 2010/11.
Victor Wanyama, Vincent Janssen and Moussa Sissoko represent their business, with only the former playing at this level in his career before, for Celtic. Seasoned group stage performers Leverkusen may take advantage of this, and although the North Londoners took one of their stars in Son Heung-Min last summer, boss Roger Schmidt, himself something of a mad scientist, has a lot of talent at his disposal. If Hakan Calhanoglu, Kevin Bellerabi and Charles Aranguiz can supply Javier Hernandez sufficiently, a group-winning price of 15/8 will not look too bad at all.
Both Monaco and CSKA have lost a lot of quality in recent years, but it will be interesting to watch Radamel Falcao’s latest shot at redemption develop in the Principality.
- Real Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund
- Sporting CP
- Legia Warsaw
As far as interesting plot lines go, Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Sporting with Real Madrid will be one to watch, but the return to the Champions League of Borussia Dortmund is a more pressing concern.
The Yellow Wall was missed last term, as BVB tackled the Europa League, but they are looking strong under Thomas Tuchel, constantly rebuilding despite losing yet another star to Bayern Munich this summer, defender Mats Hummels.
Re-signing Mario Gotze, a former prodigal son, from Bavaria could be a stroke of genius, and in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, they have striker capable of scoring against any team in the world. Finalists in 2013, they will be looking for a quarterfinal spot at least, and odds of 2/1 suggest they could even pip Los Blancos to top spot.
Zinedine Zidane was able to guide an unsteady ship to Champions League glory when he took over from Rafa Benitez in January, but failure to strengthen his squad this summer have raised doubts over their chances of finally breaking the record and defending their crown. Only Alvaro Morata arrived after they activated a release clause in his Juventus contract, and a lot of sides around them have added to their options very impressively.
Exits of Islam Slimani and Joao Mario will hinder Sporting, but William Carvalho and captain Adrien Silva give them hope of a good campaign. Finishing third, as they are expected to at evens, would prove a successful campaign.
- Club Brugge
- FC Copenhagen
Leicester can rightfully feel a mixture of pleasure and disappointment at the sight of their immediate Champions League opponents. On the one hand, their path to the knockout stages is clearer than it could have been, but with it at best unlikely they will return anytime soon, perhaps more glamorous ties would have suited better.
That said, they are level with Porto on 5/4 as favourites to win the group and will be taken seriously by anyone they come across after winning the Premier League title. Expect the Portuguese side’s experience at this level to edge that race, especially after keeping Yacine Brahimi amid serious interest from Everton.
The Foxes have recruited well this summer, signing Slimani and Ahmed Musa, who have proven themselves to be more than competent in Europe before. Pressure is on the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to convert last season’s domestic form into performances at this level. If they do that, progression should be no problem, although don’t necessarily rule out a drop down to the Europa League at 7/2.
For that to happen, Brugge and Copenhagen must step up, but the sale of the Belgian’s best player Victor Vazquez could have an impact on their progress, making a third-placed finish at 2/1 the safest bet.
- Dinamo Zagreb
For a little while at least, Juventus had made Gonzalo Higuain the third most expensive player of all time this summer, until they sold Paul Pogba to Manchester United.
Signing Miralem Pjanic from Roma strengthened their grip on Serie A further, and although it can be argued their squad is weaker than that which reached the final two years ago, they could definitely be dark horses at 12/1, just like Manchester City and PSG.
But they face a Sevilla side who themselves look to recover quickly from a transitional phase, with lauded former Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli now at the helm. His take on the high-pressing possession style of play could reap rewards, especially with fellow Argentine Luciano Vietto leading the line.
Lyon’s struggles are well documented, and Alexandre Lacazette’s refusal to sign a new contract has only added to the misery, but if they can get him firing, they have a chance. Dinamo Zagreb are unlikely to make much of an impact.
Bayern Munich outright winners at 5.00 Paddy Power
Cristiano Ronaldo Top Goalscorer at 5.5 with William Hill
Juventus to win their group at 1.62 with Betway
Tottenham Hotspur to be eliminated in last 16 at 2.75 with Skybet
This post was written by our guest writer Harry De Cosemo