Champions League Draw Reaction: 9/1 Chelsea look good again

Thomas Tuchel
Can Tuchel make it two Champions League trophies on the bounce?

Andy Brassell assesses the Champions League winner market after the draw group stages was made and says the holders look well set to defend with others such as Liverpool facing tough tasks...

"Chelsea deserve to be favourites, in this column’s opinion, and represent great value at 10.09/1."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the near four months since Chelsea motored to Champions League glory in Porto, the landscape of European football has fluctuated wildly - Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona, Bayern Munich changing coach and revamping their defence and the promise of even more huge transfers to come before deadline.

Yet there is something reassuring about The Blues as they take on the challenge of following Real Madrid and becoming the only holders to retain in the Champions League era. There were always a canny bet last season, even before Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard, simply thanks to the quality and depth of their squad.

Under Lampard they put away good opposition in the group stages with utter ruthlessness, even without always playing fluently (see the 4-0 win at Krasnodar last autumn), with the resources to make telling changes at any moment.

Perfect group for Tuchel

They deserve to be favourites, in this column's opinion, and represent great value at 10.09/1. Flush with the confidence of final victory, Chelsea's squad is even more well stocked with Romelu Lukaku notably on board - and their group could almost be made for them, with qualification almost a formality against Malmö and the perennially shaky Zenit, and a couple of blue-chip ties with Juventus to help them tune up for bigger tests down the line.

Their Premier League rivals have tougher assignments. Liverpool have an especially tricky task, not only paired again with an Atlético Madrid side that is distinct from Diego Simeone's title winners from 2014 with a personality all of their own, but also with Porto - a physically exacting team who have reached the quarter-final twice in the past three seasons - and Milan, comfortably the best side in Pot 4 with Stefano Pioli having concocted an alluring mix of youth and experience (including the inevitable Zlatan Ibrahimović) in his side.

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City to take Group A

Manchester City are rightful favourites to win a group even with Paris Saint-Germain in. The French giants may have Messi, but their potential shortcomings out of possession could drive Maurício Pochettino to distraction, and it's not hard to imagine a repeat of last year's semi-final second leg scenario in which City picked them off so expertly.

A much-changed Leipzig, with elite new talent in Dominik Szoboszlai and André Silva, and a gutsy and underrated Club Brugge, will not be scared to have a go at Pep Guardiola's team - which, again, might suit them to a degree.

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On the other side of the city, United face their Europa League final nemesis Villarreal, an always dangerous Atalanta - whose stability under Gian Piero Gasperini is perhaps their greatest strength - and Young Boys, who seem to have retained their front foot approach from Gerardo Seaone's spell in charge under the newly-arrived David Wagner.

With so many question marks over Real Madrid, Barcelona post-Messi and even Bayern as Julian Nagelsmann seeks to impose new ideas, there is the chance that an organised outsider could take advantage.

Borussia Dortmund - trading at 34.033/1 - will be happy to face Sporting, Ajax and Besiktas, and their armada of Erling Haaland, Marco Reus and Donyell Malen will threaten quality opposition.

Meanwhile Sevilla, who have a very palatable group featuring Lille, Salzburg and Wolfsburg, are very interesting at 80.079/1. Chelsea, though, must feel good about where they are on the starting line.

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Tuesday 14 September, 5.44pm

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