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Saturday, 17 November, 2018

United-Real double looks a safe bet

Man United's Anthony Martial (left) and Romelu Lukaku
1 of 1

Group A
There is little point looking beyond the obvious in the Champions League group-stage betting as the four pots of seeds make for some fairly uncompetitive sections.

Manchester United should be bankers to put in multiple bets alongside Group H favourites Real Madrid after being handed a routine task of finishing ahead of Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow.

United's only defeat this season came against Real in the European Super Cup and they have claimed a ten-point haul from four Premier League matches. Jose Mourinho's side have scored 12 goals in those league outings with Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba among those to have impressed in the early stages.

Mourinho has a deep squad which can be successfully rotated and he will be pleased to know that home fixtures follow five of their six Group A appearances.

Benfica are most likely to chase home the Red Devils, although one clean sheet in six matches in all competitions this season suggests the Eagles are struggling to cope with the summer of sales of goalkeeper Ederson, right-back Nelson Semedo and centre-back Victor Lindelof.

CSKA Moscow were out of their depth at this level last season when finishing bottom in a group that included Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham and nothing has been done to rectify that lack of quality, while Basel look weaker than last term.

Recommendation
Man Utd 4-9 & Real Madrid 4-9
1pt double Betway


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Group B
This is a strange group with a virtual match bet to finish first between heavyweights Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain and another as Anderlecht and Celtic do battle for the Europa League spot.

Bayern have been selected as the best bet to win the competition but Carlo Ancelotti's men have not had a particularly strong start to the campaign and may be aiming to peak in the latter stages. It should be close as Paris St-Germain's signings of Dani Alves, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar means they are a stronger outfit than last term.

The better bet comes in taking Celtic to finish third. 

Brendan Rodgers' side went unbeaten in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership as they won a domestic treble and the firepower of Scott Sinclair, Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele may be too much for Anderlecht to handle.

No key men departed Parkhead over the summer whereas Anderlecht lost Youri Tielemans and defeats Charleroi and Sint-Truiden suggest Rene Weiler's men are struggling.

Celtic host Anderlecht on matchday six and fortress Parkhead may be key.

Recommendation
Celtic to finish third
1pt Evs Sky Bet

Group C
Atletico Madrid have made the Champions League quarter-finals in each of the last four campaigns and on every occasion Diego Simeone's side managed to top their group.

This could be trickier against Chelsea and without their old home of the Vicente Calderon to fall back on. Their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium could take a little getting used to but Atletico are such a strong defensive unit it is difficult to see them finishing outside the top two.

The same is also true of Premier League champions Chelsea, who recovered from a nightmare start when losing to Burnley by beating Tottenham, Everton and Leicester.

That was achieved without the injured Eden Hazard starting but as he has returned to full fitness and Alvaro Morata is nicely settled, expect Antonio Conte's men to be stubborn opponents in this group.

Chelsea and Atletico are likely to progress as the betting suggests which means Roma are booked for third place with Champions League novices Qarabag in last spot.

Roma could do with making a flying start at home to Atletico but failure to take maximum points would leave them with a tricky task and Eusebio Di Francesco's men may not be ready for such a difficult assignment.

The new-look Wolves are still adjusting to a hectic summer which saw first-choice players Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Wojciech Szczesny depart the Stadio Olimpico.

Azerbaijan's Qarabag will be massive outsiders for all three away games and their only realistic chance of extending their stay in Europe will be if they can make the most of home advantage.

Recommendation
Roma to finish third
1pt Evs Sky Bet


Group D
Barcelona and Juventus will have been relieved the teams from pots three and four are weak otherwise this could have turned into a nightmare group for the 2015 finalists.

As it is, both should qualify ahead of Sporting and Olympiakos, with Barcelona fancied to justify their position as group favourites. The pivotal fixture between them comes on matchday one at Camp Nou.

Barca have faced a difficult summer and the loss of Neymar will have hurt them immensely, yet nobody does Champions League qualifying better than Ernesto Valverde's men, who are so reliable when it comes to seeing offer the smaller sides.

The Catalans have won their Champions League group on a record 18 occasions and not since 2006-07 have they finished anywhere other than in top spot.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar's replacement Ousmane Dembele can still hurt opponents without the Brazilian and that quality in the final third should see Barca taking maximum points off Olympiakos and Sporting.

Juve saw off Barcelona last season in the Champions League quarter-finals but they made hard work of their qualifying group, dropping points at home to Sevilla and Lyon and should the same happen this time around it will mean second spot for the Turin team.

Recommendation
Barcelona
2pts 4-6 general


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Manchester United should be bankers to put in multiple bets alongside Group H favourites Real Madrid
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