UEFA Champions League: Matchday One Preview

Three players challenging for the ball

Matchday one of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League campaign gets underway on Tuesday the 12th of September 2017. Check out all our best bets and tips below. 

The greatest tournament in club football makes its return on Tuesday as current holders, Real Madrid, look to break more records and achieve a third consecutive UEFA Champions League trophy. Zinedine Zidane’s men have been pitted into the so-called “Group of Death”, playing alongside Borussia Dortmund (for the second successive year) and Tottenham Hotspur in Group H, with APOEL Nicosia expected to be nothing more than whipping boys.

This time around, Europe’s elite tournament welcomes back some familiar faces, most notably in Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. All three giants have been drawn in a group they should secure qualification in, while big-spenders, PSG, get to take on Bayern Munich in Group B. There’s loads of exciting matches to look forward to in the opening round: let’s get to it!

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Tuesday 12 September

Group A

Man United 2/11 | Draw 11/2 | FC Basel 13/1 (20:45)
We kick things off with a tie between Manchester United and FC Basel. The Red Devils have looked absolutely brilliant so far in the Premier League. They’ve been free scoring and extremely tight at the back.

Jose Mourinho is starting to look special again and with the complete side that Man United have, it’s easy to see why. It would really take something special for Basel to get a point here. They’ve signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Vitesse, but United have dealt with better strikers so far. Back the Red Devils to Win to Nil here at 7/10.

Benfica 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | CSKA Moscow 9/2 (20:45)
The other Group A clash sees Portuguese champions, Benfica, do battle with CSKA Moscow. The Eagles were brilliant at home last season, going the entire campaign without tasting defeat. Their form seems to have continued into the new season with Rui Vitoria’s side winning their opening two home games.

Russian giants, CSKA Moscow, entered the competition via the play-off rounds, beating Swiss side, Young Boys, 3-0 on aggregate. Realistically speaking, it’s all about the fight for second spot in Group A and it’s these sort of games that turn out to be the most crucial. Back Under 2.5 Goals here at 6/10.

Group B

Bayern 1/11 | Draw 8/1 | Anderlecht 20/1 (20:45)
Bayern Munich have been knocked out the UEFA Champions League in the semi-finals for three consecutive seasons. Could this be their year? They’re almost certain to make the group stages of the tournament, but with PSG also in the mix, it’s anyone’s guess as to which order they will finish. The Bavarians have made some decent new acquisitions, most notably in James Rodriguez.

It will still take some time getting used to seeing Bayern without Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men still have loads of firepower and will be tough to beat in the new campaign. It will be an exciting battle for Anderlecht and Celtic for third spot in this group, and any sort of result here would give the Belgian champions some advantage. However, just like the rest of the world, I don’t see it happening. Get on Bayern to Win By Three Or More Goals at 7/10.

Celtic 10/1 | Draw 52/10 | Paris Saint-Germain 2/9 (20:45)
Celtic host PSG in their first encounter of what should be an exciting group to follow. If the Parisians think they’re just going to march onto the pitch and walk away with three points, then they’re in for a surprise! Brendan Rodgers’ men went the entire 2016/17 season undefeated in the Scottish Premiership, winning 17 of their 19 home matches. In their Champions League qualifier, they smashed Astana FC 5-0.

PSG signed Brazilian superstar, Neymar, in a record-breaking €222m deal from Barcelona, while also signing French teenage sensation, Kylian Mbappe, on loan. I would say that they’re still not complete, especially in midfield and defence, after selling Serge Aurier to Tottenham, and Blaise Matuidi to Juventus. Despite PSG boasting one of the best attackers in world football, I’m not entirely confident that they will win here. Instead, Back the Both Teams to Score market at even money.

Group C

Chelsea 1/10 | Draw 7/1 | Qarabag FK 23/1 (20:45)

South African hitman, Dino Ndlovu, will face his biggest challenge yet when his side travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. "The feeling of playing in the Champions League is an overwhelming feeling but yet scary because we are underdogs,” Ndlovu told KickOff. Not many teams leave London the happier side, and with the Blues already suffering one defeat at home so far (3-2 against Burnley), a second loss seems unlikely at this early stage of the season.

Ndlovu has three goals in four games in the tournament so far, finding his scoring boots in the qualifying rounds. However, against one of the most organized defensive units, it could be tough for the South African. Back Chelsea on the Halftime/Fulltime double at 4/10.

Roma 7/4 | Draw 21/10 | Atletico Madrid 16/10 (20:45)
AS Roma and Atletico Madrid square off in a thrilling Group C encounter. As much as everyone expects Chelsea to top this group with Atletico being the other team to qualify, Roma are no pushovers and are more than capable of an upset or two along the way. Yes, they may have a depleted team after losing Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Wojciech Szczesny, but they’ve managed to keep hold of star-striker Edin Dzeko, who won the Italian Serie A Golden Boot with 29 goals to his name. They’ve also added highly-rated striker, Patrik Schick, to their ranks.

Atletico Madrid are yet to play at home this season, and that could be the reason for their mediocre start to the campaign. They couldn’t strengthen a side that desperately needed more firepower, but with master tactician, Diego Simeone, at the helm, you can never write off the Madridistas. I’m expecting a close encounter with these sides tipped to share the spoils.

Group D

Olympiacos 16/10 | Draw 2/1 | Sporting 18/10 (20:45)
Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon lock horns in what is considered by many as “round 1” of the fight for third spot. Two very good teams, but nowhere near the class of Barcelona and Juventus, hence why this is a must-win matchup for both sides.

Greece is a tough place to go to for any traveling side, which will not only be an advantage for this tie, but for the rest of Olympiacos’ group stage ties. Sporting got off to a brilliant start so far, winning four of their Portuguese Primeira games, however, away from home, they were unconvincing – now imagine what a trip to Greece might do for them. At 16/10, I’m backing Olympiacos to claim a much-needed three points.

Barcelona 7/10 | Draw 28/10 | Juventus 36/10 (20:45)
Tuesday’s blockbuster clash sees Barcelona and Juventus battle it out in what is undoubtedly the tie of the round. Barca get an early shot at revenge after being humbled 3-0 on aggregate by Juventus in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season. The Catalans used the money they got from Neymar quite wisely, strengthening in three different areas. They signed Nelson Semedo, a Portuguese right-back, Paulinho, who plied his trade in China before making the switch to Barcelona, and lastly, they completed a late deal for Ousmane Dembele, one of the many up-and-coming French young talents.

Juve boss, Massimiliano Allegri, will be disappointed to lose Leonardo Bonucci, but other than that, and the departure of Dani Alves, they didn’t lose any big-name players. The Old Lady did go on a shopping spree, though, signing Federico Bernardeschi, Blaise Matuidi, Wojciech Szczesny, Benedikt Howedes and Douglas Costa to name a few. I don’t think Juve will be as rock-solid in defence as last season, but finding the back of the opposition’s net will be much easier. Back Barcelona on the Double Chance & Both Teams to Score at even money.



Wednesday 13 September

Group E

Liverpool 7/10 | Draw 29/10 | Sevilla 7/2 (20:45)

Liverpool are in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2014, but if they continue to play the way they are now, the Reds could become a mainstay in this tournament. Philippe Coutinho is yet to play a competitive match with the dynamic trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino – and with the Brazilian being named in Liverpool’s Champions League squad, we could be seeing it very shortly.

This will also be a shot at revenge for Liverpool after being beaten 3-1 by Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League final two season ago. Eduardo Berizzo will likely go with the same approach as Jorge Sampaoli, signing some top class attacking players, while the backline has been tampered with too much. These sides are very much similar in the way they set up and play, however, Liverpool are slightly better at doing it. I’m going for a win for Liverpool at 7/10!

Maribor 34/10 | Draw 24/10 | Spartak Moscow 8/10 (20:45)
Maribor and Spartak Moscow battle it out in what is considered by many to be the least enjoyable game to watch. The hosts are Slovenian champions and entered the tournament via the play-off rounds, qualifying over Hapoel Be’er-Sheva by the away goals rule.

Spartak were impressive last season, winning the Russian league by seven points. Spartak did, however, blow hot and cold away from their turf. I’m going to be boring, yet obvious here and back the Under 2.5 Goals market at 13/20.

Group F

Shakhtar Donetsk 23/10 | Draw 24/10 | Napoli 11/10 (20:45)

Shakhtar Donetsk face an uphill battle when they host high-flying Napoli in their Group F encounter. With the famous ‘MSN’ trio now broken at Barcelona, Napoli have a case for having the most terrifying trio in world football, featuring Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon.

Those three players, along with Marek Hamsik behind Arkadiusz Milik, make the Naples and absolute joy to watch. They’re not the most high-profile names, but as a unit, you barely get teams that know how to attack like Napoli. Shakhtar no longer boast that excellent home record like before, and after losing so many of their starts and becoming a selling club, nobody expected that record to continue. Whenever the Naples are involved, I expect goals in the game. Get on the Over 2.5 Goals market at 15/20!

Feyenoord 57/10 | Draw 36/10 | Man City 4/10 (20:45)
Feyenoord host Manchester City in a crucial Champions League opener. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men were absolutely brilliant last campaign, smashing their way past just about any team to claim their 15th Eredivisie title. Manchester City had a mediocre 2016/17 season, according to their standards, but have strengthened wisely, adding firepower to their frail defence.

Yes, they failed with their last-minute attempt at signing Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, but Bernardo Silva will hope to ensure that the City fans forget about the Chilean talisman, and show their faith in him. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy were also signed to boost Pep Guardiola’s chances of fighting for the Champions League trophy. This will be a difficult test for both sides. Back Manchester City on Double Chance & Both Teams to Score at even money.

Group G

Porto 5/10 | Draw 3/1 | Besiktas 11/2 (20:45)
Group G has some fascinating fixtures to look forward to, starting with the tie between FC Porto and Besiktas. Portuguese giants, Porto, have got their campaign off to a brilliant start, winning all four of their league encounters, at the time of writing, without shipping in a goal. A friendly reminder that it’s not just anybody in goals for Porto, but its Champions League legend, Iker Casillas.

Besiktas are going to be dangerous this season. The Turks have signed Alvaro Negredo, Gary Medel, Jeremain Lens and Pepe, including a few others. I’m still expecting them to find things difficult away to Porto. Back the hosts and include in all multiples!

Leipzig 23/20 | Draw 49/20 | Monaco 22/10 (20:45)
From the moment these two sides were drawn in the same group, everybody had the exact same expectation: goals galore! Leipzig were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the German Bundesliga last season, finishing runner-up to Bayern Munich.

Despite Monaco selling majority of their best players, their fast-paced attacking football has still been implemented to the new players. I wouldn’t go too much into the Additional Totals market here, but Over 2.5 Goals seems the most logical bet to take at 7/10.

Group H

Real Madrid 1/20 | Draw 10/1 | APOEL Nicosia 30/1 (20:45)

Consecutive champions, Real Madrid, kick-start the campaign in what should be a walk in the park against APOEL Nicosia. Group H is considered by many as the ‘Group of Death’, and against APOEL is where most teams should score points.

With Isco and Marco Asensio finding their best form, along with the Bales and Benzemas in Real Madrid, the Spanish champions look frightening. It should be one-way traffic from the get-go. Take Madrid to Score In Both Halves at 3/10.

Tottenham 13/10 | Draw 24/10 | Dortmund 39/20 (20:45)
Wednesday’s biggest matchup sees Tottenham host Dortmund at the famous Wembley Stadium. I’m sure Mauricio Pochettino would love to play this match anywhere else, knowing his sides dismal record at Wembley. Spurs are great on their day, but any sort of slip up and Dortmund will pounce!

They lost Emre Mor and Ousmane Dembele, both to the Spanish La Liga, however, they’ve strengthened by bringing in Andrey Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp. Spurs have already dropped some crucial points at Wembley, and just like last season, they could struggle at the famous stadium. I quite like the look of Dortmund on the Double Chance & Both Teams to Score yet again, this time at 13/10!

TUESDAY TREBLE @ 7/2
Man United Win to Nil 7/10
Celtic vs PSG BTTS 1/1
Chelsea HT-FT Win 4/10

WEDNESDAY TREBLE @ 5/1
Liverpool Win 7/10
FC Porto Win 5/10
BVB Win/Draw & BTTS 13/10

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