Champions League football is back and with six British teams lining up in this year’s competition there will be plenty of drama ahead.
Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham are the four Premier League clubs involved this season and they are joined by Scottish Premiership winners Celtic and their Glasgow rivals Rangers, who take up their place in the competition for the first time in over a decade.
We pick out and preview the key ties from matchday one.
Sevilla v Manchester City
Last season’s semi-finalists must still be asking how they let a 5-3 aggregate lead over Real Madrid slip with just seconds on the clock, ultimately crashing out when Karim Benzema scored in extra time. However, such is the mentality that Pep Guardiola has instilled in his Manchester City players, it’s likely they will again be fighting it out in the competitions later rounds.
Drawn with Borussia Dortmund, FC Copenhagen and Sevilla, City are predictably 1/4 favourites to win Group G, while they are 5/2 favourites win their first Champions League.
Pep Guardiola’s side begin their campaign away in Seville and will be confident of securing all three points as the 4/11 favourites. The two sides have met twice before in the Champions League, with City winning both legs of their 2015/16 group stage games.
City have made a good start to the season and as we have come to expect have a star-studded team, but it’s the form of new signing Erling Haaland that will really strike fear into their Spanish opposition. The Norwegian has netted an amazing 10 goals in the league already and is 4/7 to find the net here, while he is just 11/4 to score two or more goals.
In contrast Sevilla have started the season poorly, with three defeats and a draw. Most recently they conceded three against Barcelona, and they will need to erase memories of that defeat before they face the most potent attacking side in world football. The Spanish side are 15/2 to cause an upset.
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Celtic v Real Madrid
Celtic are back in the big time for the first time in five seasons. The Hoops are capable of big performances in Europe, especially at home, and Celtic Park is renowned for its deafening atmosphere on European nights.
Ange Postecoglou’s side look to have been handed a tough group, including holders Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shaktar Donetsk. While they are 12/1 third favourites to top Group F, realistically they will be hoping to fill the runners up spot behind Real Madrid.
Celtic have started the Scottish season in flying form with a perfect six wins from six. That included an impressive 4-0 thrashing of Old Firm rivals Rangers last time out, which should give them confidence ahead of this tie. They would need to better that performance to win this one but that looks unlikely at 9/2, and fans would surely settle for a draw (3/1).
Last season Real Madrid won Europe’s premier knockout competition for the 14th time. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side showed more than once that they can never be written off. They are 9/1 to successfully defend their crown from last year and 1/4 to top their group.
While the Spanish Champions seem to be reliant on plenty of ageing stars, players like Karim Benzema and Luka Modric just keep performing. Benzema was Real’s hero in last season’s competition and already has three goals in four games in La Liga. He is 8/13 to open his Champions League account in Glasgow. Vinicius Junior certainly doesn’t fall into the category of an ageing star and the talented young Brazilian is 21/20 to get on the scoresheet.
Real are 6/10 to start the defence of their trophy with a win, and it could be a night of backs to the wall for Celtic, with the odds (7/1) suggesting a 2-0 win for the Spanish side is the most likely outcome.
Napoli v Liverpool
After making the Champions League final for the third time in five years, Liverpool came up a bit short in the final against Real Madrid. Jurgen Klopp’s side will be out to make amends and are 5/1 second favourites to go one better this time around.
The Reds face Napoli, Ajax and Rangers in their group and are 2/5 to come out on top after six games.
They haven’t started their domestic season as many expected, failing to win their first three games and falling to defeat to their bitter rivals Manchester United. Things have been better since though and given Liverpool can often save their best for European nights, there’s enough to suggest they will be too good for Napoli. They come into the tie as the 19/20 favourites, but the Italians will be no pushover at 13/5.
Napoli currently top Serie A after three wins and two draws from their five games to date. They also boast a good recent record against Liverpool, earning a win and a draw from their last two meetings.
Both teams have been scoring plenty of goals, with Liverpool hitting 15 in their six games to date, while Napoli have 12 in five. Given that, both teams to score is highly likely at 4/7 and the game is 6/4 to feature over 3.5 goals.
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