The Group Stage of the Champions League kicks off this week and Pandora Hughes has been looking at four betting predictions of the most interesting clashes in Week One.
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The serious business in the Champions League gets underway this week as the big clubs enter the competition and the first round of fixtures have thrown up some exciting games, including a clash of the titans in Barcelona.
|Ch League Games|
|Zenit St Petersburg||12.00||17.00||13.00|
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Chelsea v Zenit St Petersburg, September 14
The defending champions Chelsea get their campaign underway with one of the easier ties they will face, at home to the reigning champions of Russia, Zenit St Petersburg.
Zenit make regular appearances in the Group stages of this competition, but so far have not been further than the last 16, and their chances of getting out of this section, which also includes Juventus and Malmo, do not look strong. Their best hope will come during the home games, as their away record in European competition is abysmal. In fact, they haven’t won on the road in Europe since the final Group game of their 2017-18 Europa League campaign.
This looks like a straightforward task for Chelsea, who look even stronger than last season, thanks to the addition of Romelu Lukaku, and their defence has so far been impeccable, conceding only one in three outings in the Premier League. With little value available in the odds for the home win, bettors should look to the Total Goals or Correct Score options such as 3-0, 4-0 or 5-0.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich, September 14
Barcelona’s recent decline has made this fixture less of an even contest than would usually be expected, but these are two of the big names in European football and there’s sure to be plenty of interest from fans and bettors alike.
The Spanish giants have a strong squad on paper, but financial problems and the departure of Lionel Messi have made for a chaotic pre-season and it is likely to take Ronald Koeman time to get them functioning effectively. Their defence seems to be a particular problem, given that they’ve conceded in all of their league games so far, and that will leave them vulnerable against free-scoring Bayern.
A poor run of pre-season results raised some concerns about how well Bayern were going to adapt to new manager Julian Nagelsmann, but the start of competitive football has seen them hit some fine goalscoring form, registering nine in three games in the Bundesliga. Still, this represents the toughest fixture in their Group campaign, and while a win would be an excellent return, avoiding defeat to their strongest rivals is also essential.
For that reason, the odds for Bayern winning this game look short, given that they are the away team, and while a Barcelona win is possible, a better option is to play safe and bet on the draw.
Internazionale v Real Madrid, September 15
The pick of Wednesday’s Champions League action takes place at the San Siro, where two of the biggest clubs in the world go head to head in their Group D opener.
This is one of the easier Groups in the competition, with Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova making up the numbers, but caution is still likely to be the approach for both teams, who will be keen to avoid putting themselves under pressure with an early defeat.
After a summer of upheaval, the reigning Italian champions, Internazionale, have made a solid start to their Serie A campaign, which should give them confidence going into this tougher test and scoring seven goals in their first two games suggests they are adjusting to life without Lukaku.
Real Madrid have also been in good goalscoring form for their new manager Carlo Ancelotti, picking up two wins and a draw in three away fixtures, and their wily coach is sure to have them set up well for this test. This game is tricky to handicap and may be best watched with a view to the Group Winner market, but as with the Barcelona tie, a draw looks like the sensible play here.
Atletico Madrid v Porto, September 15
The Spanish champions Atletico de Madrid have been handed an incredibly difficult Group that also includes Liverpool and Milan, so they will be aiming for maximum points from what is – at least on paper – their easiest of six fixtures in this section.
Diego Simeone is, of course, one of the most experienced managers in European football, second only to Pep Guardiola in the number of wins he has guided his team to, and can call upon the tournament’s greatest current goalkeeper, Jan Oblak, who has kept more clean sheets in this competition than any other number one.
Porto have made a good start to their domestic campaign and they aren’t to be underestimated given that they have reached the last eight of the Champions League in two of their last three seasons. They also have a good record away from home, having won four of their last five on the road in the tournament.
Still, Atletico are a vastly experienced side, with a very good record against opponents from Portugal, and this time around their squad looks even stronger. Their relative lack of goals and dependence on Luis Suarez is a potential issue long-term, but betting on a home win here is a solid option.
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