After several qualifying rounds, the real competition in the Champions League kicks off this week and there are some fascinating soccer clashes lined up for the first round of Group fixtures, including a re-run of one of the most famous Champions League finals of all time.
Sevilla’s astonishing record in the Europa League, which they have won six times since the 2005-06 season, has not transferred to the Champions League, their quarter-final appearance in 2018 being the furthest they have gone in the competition, and they face a tough challenge this time around.
They’ve been grouped with RB Salzburg, Lille, and Wolfsburg, all of whom will have ambitions of reaching the knockout stages, so it will be vital for Julen Lopetegui’s men to get off to a strong start, although they can’t afford to underestimate these opponents.
Salzburg have been in fine form domestically, with six wins out of six games, and an impressive 16-3 goal difference. But Sevilla are on another level to their domestic opponents and although the visitors will hope to grind out a point here, Sevilla look like a solid bet to kick off with a win.
The last time these two sides met, in the Group stage of the 2016-17 Champions League, Benfica won both fixtures, and the Portuguese side have won three of their four meetings with these opponents, their only defeat coming back in 1991. But if they are to get anything out of this game, they will have to defy some more worrying statistical precedents.
Benfica have failed to get beyond the Group stage in each of their last three Champions League campaigns, largely due to their appalling away record. They’ve won only one of their last 11 games on the road in Europe, and while on paper this is their easiest away game in an exceptionally tough group, it still represents a significant trip across two time zones.
That travel factor will have a leveling effect in this fixture, and it is also worth noting that, despite suffering a string of injuries, Kiev are in top form, with an impressive 20-3 goals record in their six domestic games to date. Benfica are the stronger side, but their current odds offer little value here so the draw is the more attractive option. The visitors are unlikely to take too many chances in this game, either, so Under 2.5 goals looks like a good wager.
Manchester City are getting closer to that first-ever Champions League title and they are once again ranked as favorites going into this year’s tournament. They’ve been handed a workable Group draw, but with Paris St Germain also in the section, they cannot afford to slip up here.
The addition of Jack Grealish has added a new dimension to City’s play and after an opening day slip up against Tottenham, Guardiola’s side has got back on track in the Premier League with 5-0 thrashings of Norwich and Arsenal, results that will cause trepidation in the Leipzig ranks.
The German side have so far looked a shadow of the team that performed so well last season, which is not surprising given that they have lost their manager Julian Nagelsmann along with key stars Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer. They have only one win on the board so far this season and face an incredibly difficult task if they are to qualify ahead of City or PSG.
Betting a favorite at short odds isn’t always a good idea, particularly in such a competitive tournament, but this is one of those occasions when it can be justified. Given the gulf in form and class between the two teams, if anything the odds on a City win look a touch generous at the moment. It may also be worth considering backing Over 2.5 goals for this game, given the firepower at City’s disposal and the free-scoring form they have shown in Premier League.
These two grand old clubs, who have won 13 European Cups/Champions League trophies between them also starred in one of the most remarkable Champions League finals of all time, in 2005, when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit to win on penalties.
We can’t guarantee similar levels of entertainment in this renewal of an old rivalry, although goals look likely, given the way that both sides go about their business. Liverpool’s dynamic attacking unit is always capable of producing a high score, while Milan have been boosted by the arrival of experienced goalscorer Olivier Giroud, and may also be able to call on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for this game. Both Sides To Score looks like a good bet here as does Over 2.5 Goals.
As for the Match Odds market, this looks hard to call. Liverpool’s excellent record at Anfield means they will be strong favorites, but the current odds look short on a Liverpool win here. Milan pose a significant threat up front and will be hard to break down, so if you are going to play in the Match Odds market, either the Draw or a Milan win would be worth a look.
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