The FBI Column: Champions League Preview

 

By Andrew Younger of Oddslife.

 

In what seems the blinking of an eye, we are ready to welcome Europe’s elite back on to our television screens four months on from Chelsea’s victory in Munich.

The draw for the Group Stage’s have been made and the first round of fixtures are just around the corner, but the question on everyone’s lips is who will walk up the Wembley steps on May 25th and lift the Champions League trophy aloft.

John Terry and Frank Lampard had that honour last May and the England stalwarts would give anything to lift the trophy again on home soil. To do so, Chelsea would become the first team to ever retain the Champions League in its current format, putting into perspective the task they have on their hands.

The current European Champions have hit the ground running in the Premier League with 3 wins on the spin, but came crashing back down to earth after suffering a 4-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup.

Overall, Chelsea have looked a more dynamic and sharper team this season compared to last. It is no surprise, though, to see them out as far as 16/1 with BetVictor given the quality of the sides competing with them for European glory.

Manchester City are the shortest priced English team but the Premier League champions have a battle on their hands getting out of their group before they can start setting their eyes on Wembley. ‘The Group of Champions’ sees City pitted against the Spanish, German and Dutch number one clubs so odds of 10/1 from Bet365 may not be as appealing as first thought.

It is no surprise to see Spain’s top two clubs placed as favourites for the Champions League crown, as they continue to look the strongest teams on paper. After knocking Barcelona off their perch last season, all eyes in Madrid will turn to the Champions League and although odds of 9/2 may not represent the best value, it would take a brave man to bet against Mourinho masterminding another Champions League success.

Fellow Spanish giants Barcelona are accustomed to starting the tournament as favourites after winning the competition in 2009 and 2011. Jordi Alba and Alex Song have bolstered their squad and after being handed a relatively straight forward group, a route to the knockout stages is already paved. You can find best odds of 5/2 with various bookmakers including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power for Barcelona to win a fifth Champions League title.

An all Spanish final may also be worth a flutter with Skybet offering odds of 4/1. Spain’s other representative in the competition, Valencia, are more than able to make it out of their group and as Chelsea proved last year, the knockout stages can provide major twists and turns.

Which other clubs will take inspiration from Chelsea’s success and cause an upset this season?

Italian champions Juventus have set down a marker in Serie A by winning their opening two games, including a 4-1 away hammering of Udinese, to show that they may be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s competition. Betfair’s odds of 19/1 represent good value with The Old Lady containing enough talent in their squad to trump any side on their day.

Making their first appearances since 2004-05, PSG will also be looking to make an impact in the tournament after spending big over the summer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi are among the best players in Europe but despite their high profile stars, they have made a slow start to their domestic campaign.

This disjointed start to the season is reflected in the odds on offer for PSG to win at Wembley in May. Betfair have them way out at 23/1, but if Carlo Ancelotti can get his team to gel and start firing, there isn’t a side in Europe that will fancy facing them.

Click here to read more of his articles on the Oddslife Blog.

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