The Champions League 2017 kicks off on September 12th and 13th as teams across Europe begin the tournament proper. Real Madrid have won the last two Champions League tournaments, but can the Spanish giants make it three in a row?
This year’s tournament has thrown up some interesting match ups in the group stages, and a big name could find themselves out of the competition early on.
Group A features the return to the competition of Manchester United, who qualified for the Champions League by virtue of winning the Europa League last season. The Red Devils will be up against Portugal’s Benfica, Basel from Switzerland and CSKA Moscow. On paper, the Red Devils should really go through, but under the surface, group A looks a little more challenging. Bookmakers have Manchester United and Benfica coming out of this group while Basel and CSKA are expected to struggle. If United can continue the good defensive form they have shown in the Premier League, they should have no difficulty in moving to the knockout stages.
Odds to win the group: Manchester United: 4/11, Benfica: 7/2, Basel: 12/1, CSKA Moscow: 12/1
Group B features two former Champions League winners in Bayern Munich and Celtic (when it was the European cup). The group is rounded out by Paris Saint-Germain and Anderlecht. Bayern are the big hitters in group B, but the arrival of Neymar at PSG has many believing this will be the Parisian club’s year to win the trophy. PSG are good, but winning the European cup takes more than one expensive player. Celtic and Anderlecht don’t have the expensive talent that the other two sides have, but that doesn’t mean either will be a pushover. Yes, there are long odds on them topping the group, and Bayern’s strength should prove too much. The real fireworks will come on September 27 when Bayern travel to Paris to play PSG. The two will play again on December 5 in their last match of the group stages in Munich. Top of group B could be up for grabs on the final day.
Odds to win the group: Bayern Munich: 4/5, PSG: 10/11, Anderlecht: 66/1, Celtic: 66/1
Group C is a possible group of death with Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Roma and Qarabag making it up. Atletico have been under a transfer ban and could find the competition difficult without any new, fresh players until January. The team have started the La Liga season in decent form, gaining four points from a possible six. Chelsea have been a bit up and down already, losing to Burnley at home before winning against Tottenham and Everton. Perhaps they have sorted themselves out, but could find playing in the Champions League difficult after being out of the tournament a season ago. Roma have overhauled their squad with plenty of new faces, but the Italians should challenge for qualification to the knockout stage. Qarabag are the unknown team after qualify in the playoff round. The team from Azerbaijan have been on a tremendous upward trajectory, but beating any of the three other teams in the group may be unlikely.
Odds to win the group: Chelsea: 11/10, Atletico: 11/8, Roma: 4/1, Qarabag: 100/1
The finalists from 2015, Barcelona and Juventus, will meet in group D. They will be joined by Sporting and Olympiakos. Barcelona were shaken up in the offseason with the sale of Neymar. However, the club have tried to reinvest their money into talented attackers. Ousmane Dembele and Paulinho have both arrived to fill the void. Barcelona will get tested right from the start as the Catalans battle Juventus on matchday 1. Juventus have also been shaken up heading into the season as the club lost veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci. A host of new players have arrived, but can the Bianconeri return to the heights they experienced in 2015? Sporting and Olympiakos will be expected to just make up the numbers. No one is expecting either to make it through, and a good third place finish could get one of them into the Europa League after the New Year.
Odds to win the group: Barcelona: 4/6, Juventus: 6/5, Sporting: 33/1, Olympiakos: 100/1
* All odds courtesy of bet365.
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