After months of qualifying rounds, the drawing of the groups, and weeks of anxiously waiting for the games to begin, the first round of Champions League fixtures begins this week.
The return of European football’s biggest competition brings with it four English sides in holders Manchester City as well as Arsenal, Manchester United and a return to the top flight of European football for Newcastle.
We preview all four English sides’ fixtures below.
AC Milan v Newcastle, 19th September 17:45
England’s return to European action kicks of in style as Newcastle are back in the top tier of continental football for the first time since the 2002/03 season.
Newcastle certainly haven’t been eased back into life in Champions League as they find themselves in this year’s ‘group of death’, alongside Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.
There will be no easy games and that doesn’t change here. After a poorer start to the Premier League season than they would have hoped for, Eddie Howe’s side head to the San Siro as 17/10 underdogs, but with the power of the Toon Army behind them they will want to put on a show.
With neither side showing much defensive strength so far this season, and lots of attacking talent on show there is sure to be goals, our value pick comes in the goals market with odds of 13/8 on Over 3.5 Match Goals.
Manchester City v Crvena Zvezda, 19th September 20:00
Manchester City reached the pinnacle of the Champions League last year as they lifted the trophy for the first time in their club’s history after beating Inter Milan 1-0 in the final. Pep Guardiola will undoubtedly be wanting his side to repeat their success and what better way to kick off a title defence than with a group stage win.
City are the overwhelming favourites for this game at 1/33, and given the size of their squad and the lack of quality in the opposition we can’t find any reason to oppose those odds. The value in this match looks to lie with a City handicap with odds of 13/10 for Manchester City to win with a -3 goal handicap.
Crvena Zvezda play their league football in Serbia and many will know them more commonly as Red Star Belgrade. Red Star know a thing or two about winning the Champions League having achieved the feat back in 1991, but at 500/1 it doesn’t look like they will be repeating those successes this season. City, however, will fancy their chances at picking up two in a row as they head into the tournament as 2/1 favourites.
Bayern Munich v Manchester United, 20th September 20:00
This clash pits two of the world’s biggest clubs against each other as Manchester United face off with their 1999 Champions League final opponents, Bayern Munich.
On that day in 1999 Manchester United boasted a side flooded with world class talents who were at the top of their game and willing to give anything to win, but this side looks a far cry from that. After an uninspiring start to the season the Red Devils are clear underdogs at 24/5, whilst Bayern will be expecting to pick up all three points at home as the 1/2 favourites.
Bayern and United join Copenhagen and Galatasaray in Group A with the two in action here looking the most likely on paper to qualify from the group. United can’t afford any slip ups against the other two and at 1/4 to qualify for the knockout stages, not finishing in the top two would leave Erik ten Hag having to answer some tough questions.
Arsenal v PSV, 20th September 20:00
The last time Arsenal played a Champions League match Bukayo Saka was in year 11, Gabriel Martinelli was playing for a Brazilian second-tier academy, and Leicester City were defending their Premier League title. Nonetheless, Mikel Arteta has brought the Gunners back to the big time and they begin their campaign at home to Eredivisie runners-up PSV Eindhoven.
With their fans watching Champions League football for the first time in over five years it is unlikely that Arteta will field a second-string side as they will want to get off to a winning start and that is reflected in their status as 4/11 favourites.
Having netted for City on multiple occasions before moving to north London, Gabriel Jesus is one of the few players in the Arsenal squad to have scored a Champions league goal and he is favourite to add to his tally at 8/5. PSV’s biggest threat comes in the form of experienced striker Luuk de Jong and he heads the market to find the back of the net for his side at 16/5.
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