It’s Europe time as we get ready to give you our Champions League tips and predictions. Having already been treated to the World Cup in Russia this summer, as well as the start of the 2018/19 football season across all major European leagues. Football fans have another delight to look forward to this midweek: round one of the Champions League group stages.
Qualification is weighed in and the eight pools settled, Group A through to H. No sooner were the balls drawn from the hat, bookmakers put together their outright betting. Punters have several options available to them between now and the big kick-off.
Bet on: group winners; to qualify from each four-team set; outright winner; top goal scorer and, of course, the results of each of the 16 matches played out over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday.
BT Sport remains the place to watch live coverage. However, organisers have freshened things up a little, scrapping the 7.45pm kick-off time across the board and staggering matches. This makes for an action-packed evening of betting with games scheduled for 5.55pm or 8.00pm.
More chances to bet – more chances to win.
Eager to hit the ground running, we have run the rule over the matches that matter. We have our idea of where the best bets lie and how you can celebrate the return of club football’s best-loved competition with a profit.
BARCELONA – PSV
No shock to see Barcelona are red-hot favourites with bookmakers to get off to a winning start. They’ll be playing in front of their own fans; therefore, punters looking to back the La Liga champions will have to work hard for their profits, looking beyond the win-lose-draw market.
Ernesto Valverde’s side was thoroughly impressive domestically last season. However, everyone connected to the Camp Nou will be well drilled on the importance of returning European glory to the club and its fans. They have been drawn in Group B alongside Inter Milan, PSV and Tottenham; odds-makers have them as 4/9 favourites (Bet365) to finish in pole after six games, no more than 1/10 available at Ladbrokes in the market to qualify. Barca warmed up for this clash with a convincing 2-1 away win over Real Sociedad on Saturday. This great result maintained their 100% start and place at the top of La Liga.
PSV are expected to wind up as the whipping boys of this group, As such, there’s an eye-catching 50/1 odds available for the Dutch outfit ending up on the top step. That’s a big price but it’s unlikely to attract too much attention outside of dyed-in-wool Boeren followers. A top-two berth and place in the knockout phase is more likely, but only just at Coral’s 8/1. The ante-post market tells us there won’t be a lot for PSV fans to shout about between now and Christmas.
Mark Van Bommel’s men strengthened their stunning start to the season by collecting a fifth win out of five this weekend; they smashed ADO Den Haag 7-0 on their travels. This was the perfect tonic for Tuesday’s trip into the lion’s den and confidence will be high in their dressing room. Lozano and Pereiro bagged a double each and there were also goal bonuses for de Jong, Gutierrez and Bergwijn. That emphatic result saw them maintain their two-point gap at the top of Eredivisie. However, Ajax is nipping away at their heels.
Same Old Story at the Camp Nou
Both teams head into this one with confidence to burn, However, it’s difficult to see anything other than a convincing home win on Tuesday. Bookies agree and have set punters a challenge, asking them to predict how the locals will win.
Goals are expected as the curtain goes up and the 3/1 on the line at William Hill is a top price for over 2.5 goals scored. That makes much more appeal than the 3/1 (Bet365) on a quiet evening. Having said that, it should be one-way traffic; with ‘no’ on the both teams to score coming out at 13/18 (Unibet) against the 13/12 (888sport) for ‘yes’.
INTER MILAN – TOTTENHAM
Inter suffered a hurtful 1-0 defeat at home to Parma on Saturday and that would’ve done little for team morale as they prepare for the visit of a very capable opponent: English Premier League side, Tottenham. The Cherished One went down to a Dimarco goal deep into the second-half as their poor start to the season continued.
The Italians – fourth in Serie A last season – slipped to 13th on the back of that reverse. They now show a record of one win, one draw and a pair of defeats. Manager, Luciano Spalletti, has a job on his hands lifting the troops. However, the magic of a Champions League night, high-class opponents and full-house will surely inspire the squad to leave their league woes at the door and go out to target all three points.
If their hosts are in a bit of bother, it’s nothing compared to the mini-crisis going on at Wembley in the early exchanges of the season. Spurs started in good shape, picking up nine points from the first nine available to them but they suffered their first defeat when beaten 2-1 by Watford, the league’s surprise package so far. That was followed by another hurtful result, losing out by the odd goal in three, undone by Liverpool at home on Saturday.
The Reds controlled long periods of the match and should’ve been ahead early in the contest. However, they eventually got rewarded for their pressure when Wijnaldum broke the deadlock with 39 minutes on the clock. Firmino doubled up shortly after the re-start and it was game over as far as Pochettino’s men were concerned. The late reply from Lamela – 93 minutes – did nothing to alter the destination of the points.
Spurs Favourite for an Away Win
The prices for this match may catch some off-guard as traders have gone with the visitors, chalking up a Spurs win as favourite despite their rocky league form. There’s certainly no doubt the jolly is more than good enough to win the points and heap pressure on a host who is hurting. If Tottenham starts well it won’t take long for the home fans to become restless and voice their displeasure. Expect this one to follow the thinking of oddsmakers. There’s 6/4 at William Hill – – against 15/8 of Milan and 11/5 the draw.
Nothing will come easy for Tottenham at Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday in this 5.55pm kick-off but they have the quality of player, especially going forward, to punish a nervy defence. Harry Kane has a point to prove and he’s 4/1 with 888Sport to score the first goal of the game. That deserves attention, as does both score and Tottenham win at 9/2 (Bet365).
LIVERPOOL – PSG
This is, by far, game of the day on Tuesday. Armchair fans will be delighted to learn it goes in the 8.00pm primetime slot; this makes it easier for UK and Irish supporters to watch live and bet on, both pre-match and in-play. Liverpool has their tails up, having stormed to the top of the league on the back of five wins on the bounce. They share the summit with Chelsea and it’s shaping up to be a fascinating battle to see which side will blink first. Liverpool has played five, won five, scored 11 and conceded just two.
Jurgen Klopp celebrated a fantastic 2-1 away win over Spurs at the weekend. That would’ve given the boss and his players a real shot in the arm. The Reds have started so well, in fact, some experts have gone on record saying they should field a weakened side in the Champions League and concentrate fully on bringing the Premier League trophy back to Anfield. Thankfully for the club, no one in power agrees. Beating Spurs at Wembley is one thing, beating French giants PSG is quite another.
Can’t Buy Me Wins
PSG found out last season you can’t simply throw money at a problem and expect it to improve. You also can’t buy the Champions League – most of the time. Despite smashing the world record transfer fee to get Neymar to Paris, the club underperformed in the Champions League. That led to Thomas Tuchel replacing Unai Emery. The latter isn’t having too much luck at Arsenal since taking up the reins from Arsene Wenger.
The Parisians won Ligue 1 at a canter last season; they’ll probably go and do the same again this time. As usual, the money available to them will blow away the competition at that level. What they won’t find easy is picking up points on the continent. That’ll show as early as week one in Liverpool where they have it all to do. They do jet to the UK after an easy 4-0 league win over Saint-Etienne, goals from Draxler, Cavani, Di Maria and Diaby sealing the spoils.
Raining Goals at Anfield
It’s possible that both managers could set-up defensively and aim to avoid defeat to a rival for qualification. However, we really don’t expect this match to be dull. How could it be with an embarrassment of riches on show? There are lots of goals and attacking flair in each team; if one takes the lead early, it’ll force the other to attack.
We hope this match goes as planned and the teams showcase their talents; this is the Champions League after all. Liverpool is 6/5 favourite with most firms – a little tighter than expected, given the opposition; PSG is doing the rounds at 21/10 (Unibet). It’ll prove shrewd to avoid predicting the match-winner and, instead, play both teams to score in the first half at 5/2. Coral is the standout firm for that bet.
REAL MADRID – ROMA
With four Premier League teams in action on Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s unlikely this match will feature highly on domestic fans’ list of priorities. However, it does promise to be one for the purists. There’s nothing more than three points at stake on Wednesday at the Bernabeu, but it would come as no surprise if these sides met again further down the line with both capable of driving towards the latter stages.
Real Madrid has taken complete ownership of this competition in recent years. However, it has come at the expense of their La Liga development. Fans now want to see Julen Lopetegui manage a side capable of fighting on all fronts. Blancos famously beat Liverpool in the final last season and look nailed on to progress from Group G without fuss. Roma is their main rival for top-spot, adding a little extra spice to this one.
The home side was poor when playing out a sketchy 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. This was a day before Roma were huffing and puffing towards a 2-2 share at home to Chievo. El Shaarawy and Cristante had The Magic One 2-0 up inside 30 minutes but, seemingly coasting towards the points, Di Francesco’s side unravelled. Birsa hit a reply in the second period before Stepinski lashed home a late leveller, giving Roma plenty to think about as they plan their visit to Spain.
Followers of the footballing stats will be interested to know Wednesday’s match will be 11th competitive meeting between the sides and Roma are severely lacking in the head-to-head. The current tally stands at Real Madrid 6-3 Roma with one draw. If the number of draws was to double, we’re sure Roma would go home happy.
Keep It Simple
Let’s keep it simple and say Real Madrid will get off to a winning start, but how? They won home and away when the rivals last met in this competition back in 2016 and the score on each occasion was 2-0. Blancos have also scored two goals in three of their last four vs Roma and that pushes us towards a small bet at a big price.
If you plan on watching the match live why not try a punt at interest stakes on the 2-0 home cheer? That comes out as a delightful 8/1 second-favourite with Coral. Prefer a bit of a safety net? Madrid to win to nil is 17/10 at BetBright, the straight home win 2/5 with the same firm.
Barcelona v PSV – Both teams score NO @ 13/8 (Unibet)
Both score & Tottenham win @ 9/2 (bet365)
Liverpool v PSG – Both teams score in the first-half @ 5/2 (Coral)
Real Madrid 2-0 @ 8/1 (Coral)