The Champions League group stage has been drawn, with the big names from the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A being scattered out across eight pools. And along with the ‘Big Five’ leagues come clubs from Europe’s smaller divisions, all looking to cause an upset.
The draw in Monaco threw together to interesting and unique fixtures, while other old rivalries will be rekindled. Here, we take a look at each group and who could come out on top in the betting stakes.
Champions League group A
PARIS, ARSENAL, BASEL, LUDOGORETS
This is surely a golden group for both Paris and Arsenal — the big-hitters who will expect to reach the latter stages of the tournament this season. Paris may have lost their star striker (we all know who that is!) and David Luiz this summer but they are still dangerous. Arsenal, meanwhile, spent €60m on transfer deadline day to bolster their squad. Basel could cause a scare here but Bulgarian side Ludogorets shouldn’t be a problem for the big two.
Group A betting tip: Arsenal top at 2.10
Champions League group B
NAPOLI, BENFICA, BESIKTAS, KIEV
It will be interesting to see how Napoli — second in Serie A last season — will cope without star striker Gonzalo Higuain this year. Manager Maurizio Sarri insists his team can still compete but Besiktas and Benfica must be delighted with this draw. Indeed, defender Adriano’s arrival at Besiktas from Barcelona should bulk up the Turkish side’s already mean defence. This could be a group of few goals and Besiktas will look to profit from that.
Group B betting tip: Besiktas first or second at 2.50
Champions League group C
BARCELONA, MANCHESTER CITY, MONCHENGLADBACH, CELTIC
Poor Celtic. They return to the Champions League pool stage this season in the Group of Death. Barcelona are favourites to win the competition and are 1.35 to win Group C. They famously lost to Celtic in Glasgow during the 2012/13 season and the Hoops may get a home draw if they’re lucky. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will return to Barca to face his old club. This will be a fascinating encounter, especially considering the fact Guardiola was employed at City primarily to win the Champions League.
As for German side Monchengladbach, their opponents should not forget they are dangerous and qualification for the knockout stage may rest on results against the Bundesliga outfit. Celtic v Borussia on 19 October could be one of the biggest (and yet least talked about) games of the group stage.
Group C betting tip: Bank Barca to win group at 1.35
Champions League Group D
MUNICH, ATL MADRID, EINDHOVEN, ROSTOV
The top three teams in this group should all win their home ties against FC Rostov. But a visit to Russian city Rostov-on-Don on the border with Ukraine will not have pleased anyone. Rostov at home is where they can hurt teams and even Munich could struggle if they’re not careful. Munich will hope to win this group but would settle for second behind a resurgent Madrid side desperate to convert three good seasons in Europe into a trophy.
Dutch champions Eindhoven strengthened this summer and, importantly, didn’t lose any of their most influential players. They could cause an upset but must get six points against Rostov to challenge for a top-two finish.
Group D betting tip: Good odds at 5.00 for Eindhoven to finish top-two
Champions League Group E
TOTTENHAM, LEVERKUSEN, MONACO, CSKA
Premier League side Tottenham will be delighted with this draw. Not only is Group E winnable but it poses a taste of things to come if Spurs do progress. Leverkusen and Monaco are beatable Bundesliga and Ligue 1 opposition — not the big guns such as Munich, Lyon, Dortmund or Paris. And CSKA will test Mauricio Pochettino’s men, especially given that the tie in Moscow is Spurs’ first road trip of the campaign.
Pochettino has strengthened well this summer, adding AZ striker Vincent Janssen, Southampton midfielder Victor Wanyama and Marseille winger Georges-Kévin N’Koudou to his attack-minded squad. Harry Kane is yet to play in the Champions League but, with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen feeding balls through, the striker is a good bet to score on Spurs’ first game against Monaco on 14 September.
Spurs will play their European home games at Wembley Stadium this season and that could give them a huge advantage with almost 90,000 fans behind them.
Group E betting tip: Tottenham 2.40 to win competitive group
Champions League Group F
R. MADRID, DORTMUND, SPORTING, LEGIA WARSAW
This is possibly the most predictable group of the lot — and therefore a good group to bet on if you’re placing a combination bet. Madrid, with their incredible strike force, should have no problem against Sporting and Warsaw. Dortmund will pose a threat, however, and are a good price to top Group F.
Sporting would have posed a challenge had they not been ransacked over the summer. Joao Mario and Islam Slimani have both left, taking the engine out of their midfield. Loan arrival Joel Campbell (from Arsenal) must perform right away if the Portuguese side are to do anything in Europe this season.
Group F betting tip: €10 on Madrid win group and Dortmund to finish second returns €15.40
Champions League Group G
PORTO, LEICESTER, BRUGES, COPENHAGEN
Talk about a good group! All four clubs will have welcomed this draw, especially Leicester. The English champions — newcomers in Europe’s elite club tournament — have avoided the ‘glamour’ ties and have a genuine chance of reaching the knockout stage. Porto are natural favourites at 2.10 to win this group but the Foxes (2.85) will challenge them. Bruges enjoyed a good season last term and Copenhagen have reformed under the same manager Ståle Solbakken from the side that reached the 2010/11 last-16 stage.
For Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri the Champions League poses a strange challenge. The Foxes enjoy sitting back and hitting on the break, with their impactful style benefitting striker Jamie Vardy and forward Riyad Mahrez. And could work against Porto, who are less pragmatic than they were a decade ago under former manager Jose Mourinho and more assertive.
Copenhagen are also an assertive team in the Danish top flight, making Leicester v FCK an enticing prospect. Copenhagen dominated Danish football last season and spend most games in the Superliga camped in their opponent’s half. Can Leicester spring the trap, or will Copenhagen let the Foxes come onto them? Copenhagen signed Aston Villa defender Jores Okore before deadline day and it looks like he will be tasked with handling Vardy.
Group G betting tip: Copenhagen a tempting price at 4.00 to finish in top two
Champions League Group H
JUVENTUS, SEVILLA, LYON, ZAGREB
Italian champions Juve are desperate to get their name back on European honours and came close two seasons ago when reaching the Champions League final. Manager Max Allegri has used the €120m generated from Paul Pogba’s sale to Manchester United to strengthen his squad further. Higuian, Dani Alves, Miralem Pjanic and Marko Pjaca have all joined the club.
Lyon, meanwhile, succeeded in keeping striker Alexandre Lacazette away from Arsenal this summer in possibly their best result of the summer transfer window. The Ligue 1 club will likely rival Sevilla for a place in the last-16.
Sevilla lost manager Unai Emery to Paris this summer, with Argentine Jorge Sampaoli coming in as head coach. Sampaoli was linked with Chelsea and Napoli over the summer and there are plenty of expectations on his head. Sevilla have backed their new boss; eleven players have come in and 15 have left. One of the biggest singings could be Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri on loan. If the Frenchman rekindles his form then fellow arrival Luciano Vietto could cause serious damage in front of goal in Group H.
Group H betting tip: Juventus to win at 1.55, Sevilla second at 1.40