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Chelsea offer no value in difficult section

Atletico Madrid celebrate their 1-1 draw at Real Madrid in La Liga
1 of 1

Chelsea
Have you heard about the coach who claims league titles for fun but suffers from a knockout competition hoodoo? Step forward Antonio Conte.

The Italian won Serie A in each of his three seasons with Juventus and mastered the Premier League in his debut campaign with Chelsea, but in both London and Turin, not to mention with the Italian national side, silverware in cup competitions has eluded Conte.

It was reported that Juve's lack of European progress under Conte was one reason behind his surprise departure in 2014. He suffered a quarter-final defeat in his first attempt and a group-stage exit in his second try. Determined to win the Europa League on home soil, Conte's Old Lady also fell short in the secondary competition.

Some have suggested he needs to learn the art of squad rotation but for his part Conte complained: "You cannot go to eat at a €100 restaurant with just €10 in your pocket."

Conte's current Chelsea squad is hardly full of paupers but other teams appeal more at the prices.


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Group A

Group B

Group D


Atletico Madrid
They have become the tournament dark horses that punters latch on to and Atletico Madrid usually give their backers a decent run.

Real Madrid have eliminated Atletico in each of the last four years but they have reached one quarter-final, one semi-final and were unlucky to lose two finals in heartbreaking circumstances.

A transfer ban which runs until January has made life difficult for Atletico in terms of looking for improvement this summer, although Vitolo is already booked in for a winter arrival and fantastic forward Antoine Griezmann felt obliged to remain for at least another year.

Diego Simeone has also signed a new contract and this is still a strong side with Jan Oblak, Diego Godin, Koke, Saul Niguez and Griezmann right through the spine.

However, one handicap will be the switch to their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium. The Calderon was a cauldron, particularly on big nights with Atletico losing just 14 of their 143 home European games and just four of 52 in the Champions League.

Roma
It has not taken long for Monchi mania to die down in Rome.

The Spanish sporting director's arrival was seen as a major coup given the miracles he performed at Sevilla, but after just a few months into the job one section of Roma's supporters, the tifosi, issued a statement claiming Monchi had wasted their money.

Time will tell whether Roma, second in Serie A last season, are able to launch a sustained bid for the Scudetto but they lost important players in Wojciech Szczesny, Antonio Rudiger and Mohamed Salah as well as coach Luciano Spalletti this summer.

Replacement boss Eusebio Di Francesco will need time to bed in the raft of arrivals, many of whom are young, but this is an unforgiving group and it will be up to the experienced pros such as Federico Fazio, Radja Nainggolan and Edin Dzeko, the top scorer in Italy last season with 29 goals, to lead the Wolves into battle.

A Europa League challenge appears more suitable this term.


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Group E

Group F

Group G

Group H


Qarabag
Qarabag's supporters were quite literally dancing in the streets of Baku after the club secured their place in the Champions League proper following an away-goals success against Copenhagen.

The players were also given a heroes' reception on their return from Denmark after near-misses in the qualification process three years running against Salzburg, Celtic and Viktoria Plzen.

Dropping into the Europa League was decent in terms of gaining experience at continental level, although the Horsemen were unable to qualify from those three groups, which highlights the difficulty faced by Gurban Gurbanov's guys as they go up against some of Europe's finest.

Qarabag, originally from Agdam but who relocated to Baku due to war in 1993, have become the symbol of football in Azerbaijan and play their home matches at the national stadium. 

Azeri football is improving - the national side are third in World Cup qualifying ahead of Norway and Czech Republic - but Qarabag will do well not to finish pointless even with significant home advantage because of travelling distances.


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