Tuesday 14 September, 5.55pm
The Champions League kicks off in earnest on Tuesday so we asked the football luminaries of Betting.Betfair for their favourite bets for the tournament...
"Haaland was the top goalscorer in the Champions League last season and looks a good bet at 5/1 on the Sportsbook to retain his crown."
Kev Hatchard: Inter a big price to topple Madrid
With Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol unlikely to cause too many upsets, Group D seems to be a straight shootout between Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Although the Spanish giants are worthy favourites here (they topped a group that included Inter and Shakhtar last season), the gap between the prices in the Group D winner market seems too big. Inter are actually favourites to win against Real at San Siro on Matchday One, and although they lost coach Antonio Conte and superstars Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku, the Nerazzurri are still a dangerous team with plenty of quality.
Dan Fitch: Haaland can top goalscoring charts
Haaland was the top goalscorer in the Champions League last season and looks a good bet at 5/1 on the Sportsbook to retain his crown. If you're worried that Borussia Dortmund might not go far enough in the competition, it's worth considering that Haaland's 10 goals last season, came from just eight games. Drawn in Group C alongside Sporting Lisbon, Ajax and Besiktas, it looks pretty certain that Dortmund will at least make the last-16 again and that Haaland will score enough goals in the group stage for his price to drop significantly.
Andy Brassell: Goals at a premium in Malmo
It's been a difficult start to the season for Juventus, with just a point from three Serie A games so far and a number of injuries and absentees on top of Cristiano Ronaldo's exit. Malmö are a tough proposition at their atmospheric home and have not been subject to the same recent personnel squeeze as their visitors. So, despite the class gap, don't expect a walkover here.
Andy Schooler: Potent Shakhtar can upset illustrious opponents
There aren't many long-odds shots which really catch the eye ahead of the Champions League group stage but this one could well give punters a run for their money. Group D also contains Real Madrid and Inter Milan, two sides very much in transition after losing star players in the summer, and rank outsiders Sheriff Tiraspol. Shakhtar, Real and Inter were all in a group in last season's competition and the Ukrainians beat Real home and away. Their mix of Ukraine internationals who reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and second-rate Brazilians is a potent one and they always try to play a strong passing game. They went into matchday six last season with a chance of winning a similar pool to this and are worth chancing again.
Paul Higham: Try some bankers with Sevilla in a Bet Builder
I always like a group acca at the start of the Champions League and Manchester United and Chelsea are great places to start, with both Atalanta and Juventus not as strong as they were and both having stuttering starts to the season. Frankly with the squads United and Chelsea have they should walk their groups pretty comfortably. Borussia Dortmund should be another walkover against Ajax, Sporting and Besiktas - all good European names but Erling Haaland is the only name you need to know here, he'll blow them away and probably be top scorer in the tournament. Sevilla could be dark horses in the tournament this season and although Wolfsburg, Lille and RB Salzburg are decent sides, they'll all take points off each other while the Spanish side forge ahead.
Back Man Utd, Chelsea, Dortmund & Sevilla to all win their groups with a Bet Builder four-fold at 9.58
Jamie Pacheco: Take one much-weakened Barcelona
Barcelona don't know what it's like to start a Champions League campaign without Lionel Messi since 2002-3. That's a long time. In attack they also let go of Antoine Griezmann, who's nothing if not experienced in this competition and Trincao, who could provide some pace and youthful unpredictability. Those aren't of course the only changes in Barca's squad and therein lies a big part of the problem, another one being that I'm not so convinced that Ronald Koeman is that great a manager. Bayern could easily win five matches and draw one and so it may be pretty tight between the other three. Benfica in particular could improve for having Jorge Jesus around for a second season, while cliched though it sounds, a trip to Kiev isn't much fun for any visiting side.
Dave Tindall: On-form Lewa can land top scorer gong
Double figures has been required to win this market every season since 2010/11 so that's the ballpark figure a prospective punt has to reach. The PSG trio of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe look likely to split the goal count so, despite the claims of Cristiano Ronaldo, this looks like a battle between Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland. With Bayern far more likely to progress further, my money is on Lewandowski, who topped the charts with 15 goals in the Bavarian side's successful 2019/20 campaign. Lewandowski already has 11 in eight games for club and country this season and can help himself to plenty in a group featuring Barcelona, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv. Barca have already conceded four in three La Liga games this term and the Pole has scored in his last two games against them.
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Tuesday 14 September, 5.55pm