Our footy scribe previews the opening round of UEFA Champions League group stage ties for Tuesday 12th September.
Another season of the UEFA Champions League is upon us. Real Madrid will look to add to their 11th crown and face a tricky group featuring Borussia Dortmund and Sporting Lisbon. However, that is far from the group of death. Group C takes the cake, featuring Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, his former club Barcelona, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Scottish champions Celtic.
Another cagey contest will be in Group A, where PSG and Arsenal are likely to battle for top spot. Second favourites for the tournament, Bayern Munich, will be pitted up against last season’s runners-up, Atletico Madrid, who did a job over the Germans in last year’s semi-finals. English champions, Leicester City, face some fairly decent opposition in FC Copenhagen, Club Brugge and FC Porto. The opening set of fixtures promises to leave you at the edge of your seat. Let’s take a closer look and pick out some winners.
Tuesday 13 September
Paris Saint-Germain 15/20 | Draw 26/10 | Arsenal 7/2
First up, Arsenal travel to Paris to take on French heavyweights, PSG. The home side have looked far from their best so far this season under new boss, Unai Emery. The three-time Europa League winning manager faces his biggest test yet when the Gunners come to town. After receiving a large amount of criticism for not spending, Arsene Wenger splashed the cash in the closing stages of the transfer market to bring in Lucas Perez and Shkodran Mustafi from the Spanish La Liga. A striker and central defender – two positions that PSG weakened with the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz to Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. The duo made a massive difference to the team, and proved to be unstoppable at times when they were on the pitch for the Paris outfit. The Both Teams To Score (Yes) market seems well worth looking into at 8/10.
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FC Basel 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | Ludogorets 17/4
Basel, who are firm favourites to drop into the Europa League, come into the campaign high in confidence, winning all six of their matches played so far in the Swiss Super League. In those six games, Basel have netted 21 times, shipping in just four goals. Ludogorets have been far from their best so far this season, picking up seven points from a possible 12 in the Bulgarian league. These sides last met in the Champions League back in 2014, with Basel claiming an emphatic 4-0 victory on their turf. Another convincing victory for Basel is tipped at 13/20.
Dynamo Kyiv 43/20 | Draw 22/10 | Napoli 13/10
Dynamo Kyiv are a team that are always ruled out before kick-off, but end up causing an upset or two. Their first task, a battle against a Gonzalo Higuain-less Napoli. After losing their star striker who smashed all types of records for the Italian outfit last season, the Naples splashed the cash on Polish forward, Arkadiusz Milik. Selling their best player is something that Dynamo forced not to do, keeping hold of Andriy Yarmolenko. Dynamo did lose one big name, though, in the form of tough-tackling centre back, Aleksandar Dragovic. However, much of the Ukrainian side’s chances are rooted firmly into the left boot of Yarmolenko. With home advantage, back Dynamo on Win/Draw Double Chance at a decent price of 6/10.
Benfica 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Besiktas 39/10
Group B is probably one of the most open groups that the Champions League has produced in many years. No team is head and shoulders above the rest. Benfica have dominated Portugal in recent years, winning three consecutive titles. They come up against Turkish champions, Besiktas, who can be full of surprises on their day. They’ve had an excellent transfer window, bringing in players like Gokhan Inler, Talisca and Vincent Aboubakar from Benfica rivals, FC Porto. But none of those signings can compare to the Eagles’ star striker, Konstantinos Mitroglou. The lethal forward made his switch to the Portuguese outfit permanent, after enjoying a successful loan spell, netting 20 goals in 32 appearances. A straightforward home win is tipped at 7/10.
Manchester City 5/10 | Draw 7/2 | Monchengladbach 47/10
In arguably the group of death, Manchester City face an uphill challenge going up against some big names in Europe. First up, Pep Guardiola’s Citizens take on Andre Schubert’s Monchengladbach. City have been formidable so far, winning all three of their Premier League matches at the time of writing. The Sky Blues are likely to welcome back Sergio Aguero, who will miss their Manchester Derby at the weekend due to a ban he received for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid. Gladbach, like Manchester City, also have a few stars in their ranks, Thorgan Hazard – brother of Eden Hazard – may not have the skill as his older sibling, but coming face-to-face with his opponents on the wing, you can see the Hazard blood runs deep in his veins. These sides met in last year’s Champions League where Man City claimed victory both home and away, but conceded three goals in the process. With that being said, a City Win + Both Teams To Score is tipped at 16/10.
Barcelona 1/14 | Draw 19/2 | Celtic 25/1
Barcelona, who are 3/1 favourites for the tournament, will know that even the smallest of teams are not to be taken lightly. Their 2012 defeat in the Champions League at the hands of their opponents, Celtic, will be a good reminder not to underestimate their counterparts. This will certainly be Brendan Rodgers’ most scary match since taking charge of The Hoops. Just the thought of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar running at their defence will surely cause Brendan some sleepless nights. Despite this being the “Group of Death”, this is one of the more straightforward fixtures. Barcelona are a banker, but some exotics could find us some value. Over 1.5 Goals in the first half at 7/10 is well worth a punt!
Bayern Munich 1/14 | Draw 9/1 | FC Rostov 28/1
Even with Guardiola gone, Bayern Munich remain as one of Europe’s biggest giants and have an abundance of talent in their squad. With Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, Bayern will be more solid and will look to shut out teams. They’ve reinforced their backline with the signing of Mats Hummels from arch-rivals, Borussia Dortmund, making their defence second to none. FC Rostov were the biggest surprise packages in the qualifying stages, knocking out Ajax Amsterdam 5-2 on aggregate. Will they continue that run and be this year’s Leicester of the Champions League? Definitely not! Bayern should wipe the floor with them. Robert Lewandowski has got two hat-tricks in two games under Ancelotti and should find himself on the scoresheet here. The Bavarians to Win To Nil is tipped at 5/10.
PSV Eindhoven 32/10 | Draw 22/10 | Atletico Madrid 9/10
Diego Simeone’s aggressive Atletico Madrid will lock horns with Phillip Cocu’s resilient PSV Eindhoven in a repeat of last season’s Round of 16 fixture. Atletico managed to scrape through on penalties after two scoreless draws forced the game to go beyond injury time. Both teams are known for their resolute defence and shut out each other in both legs. PSV have not conceded in their last three Eredivisie matches – at the time of writing, while Atletico Madrid got off to a slow start in La Liga, drawing both their games played. However, Atleti are destined to bounce back at some point. Will they do it at the Philips Stadion? The world sure hopes so. If either side snatch a victory, it will be by the odd goal or two. Both Teams To Score (No) is the tip at 6/10.
TUESDAY TREBLE @ 6/1
Bayern Munich WIN TO NIL 5/10
Manchester City WIN + BTTS 16/10
PSG vs Arsenal BTTS 8/10
Written by Jesse Nagel @Hollywoodbets