World Cup – 32 Best Bets

The World Cup is fast approaching, and it is often the one time that punters really splash out, with such brilliant value occurring during the quadrennial event.

So, in this piece I am going to offer 32 fantastic odds-against bets, one for each team taking part in this year’s World Cup, ranging from a wide variety of different markets.

Group A:

Brazil;

The hosts are in scintillating form, and for the first time in a long time, have a fantastic balance, with both exceedingly strong defence and attack. They should coast out of the group comfortably, and they will prove extremely hard to peg back in the latter stages. Neymar and Hulk are often used as the wide-men as part of a front three, and this gives freedom to Fred to take up the typical ‘number nine’ role. He is 7/2 to finish top scorer for Brazil, and this looks like a brilliant bet.

Fred to be top Brazilian scorer @ 7/2 (Coral)

Croatia;

Croatia enter the tournament in good spirits, after a solid qualifying campaign, finishing runners-up to group winners Belgium. They comfortably beat Iceland in the play-off to enter the tournament, and they should have enough about them to get the points needed against Mexico and Cameroon to get out of the group. However, they will then come up against the winner of Group B, containing Spain, Chile, Netherlands and Australia, so you would fancy any of the big trio in the that group to see off the Croatians. So for this reason, take the 11/5 with Ladbrokes about Croatia exiting in the second round.

Croatia to exit in the second round @ 11/5 (Ladbrokes)

Mexico;

Javier Hernandez will be attempting to impress new boss Louis van Gaal, or potentially put himself in the window for clubs who may be tempted to bid for the 26 year old. He is currently trading at 9/2 to be his nation’s top scorer in Brazil, as Oribe Peralta is clear worthy favourite. It is worth taking a chance on Chicharito showing his magnificent tactical awareness and predator like finishing from inside the box, at 9/2, as with Mexico likely to find it difficult to get out of the group, two goals may end up being the top scorer for El Tricolor.

Javier Hernandez to be top Mexican scorer @ 9/2 (Various)

Cameroon;

The Indomitable Lions managed to snatch a 2-2 draw with Germany in the build-up to Brazil, and this will give them tremendous confidence they can mix it at the top level as they head into the tournament mammoth underdogs to get out of their group. They are 5/1 to get 0 points during the group stages, and this could well appeal. They look certain to lose to Brazil, and Mexico in the opener looks their best chance of getting a result, as Croatia are also looking very sharp in the build-up. So it is essentially getting 5/1 for Mexico to beat Cameroon, which would look a sensational bet on a coupon.

Cameroon to get 0 points @ 5/1 (Paddy Power)

 

Group B

Spain;

The Spanish have been utterly dominant in the last three major international tournaments, winning the last two renewals of the European Championships, and entering the tournament as current World Cup holders. They still have plenty of class flowing through their side, and the addition of Diego Costa is a massive bonus as they are set to battle it out in a tough group with Netherlands, Chile and Australia. They should manage to come out on top, and then they have a fairly decent run to the semi-finals, are they are likely to play Croatia and then possibly Colombia or (here’s hoping) England in the quarter’s. They should manage to breeze through to the semi’s where they will face a big South American side. This is where they are set to come unstuck, and the 11/2 for them to exit in the semi-final’s looks a bet worth chancing.

Spain to exit in the Semi-Final’s @ 11/2 (Bet365)

Netherlands;

There have been plenty of injury troubles for Oranje in the build-up to Brazil, as they bid to go one better than their runner-up finish back in 2010. They disappointed massively in the Euro Championships two years ago and will be aiming to prove they still have something to offer at the top level in van Gaal’s swansong. Robin van Persie is still the talisman, and everything will be based around his finishing in and around the 18-yard box. He is 13/8 to be top Dutch scorer and this looks the safest bet surround the side this year.

Robin van Persie to be top Dutch scorer @ 13/8 (Sporting Bet)

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Chile;

The Chileans are set to be the entertainers of the tournament, with their free-flowing attacking football, and magnificent pressing game. They are likely to surprise many, and I think they should be too strong for the Dutch, and potentially score more against Australia which could be the difference between qualification. It’s 9/2 for Spain/Chile/Netherlands/Australia quadcast, which looks an attractive proposition.

Spain/CHILE/Netherlands/Australia @ 9/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Australia;

Australia have been very unfortunate to be placed with three very high quality teams, and they will be hoping to amass at least one point during the group stages. This is not very likely however, and the 7/5 for Australia to fail to gain a single point, looks one of the safest bets of the tournament.

Australia to get 0 points @ 7/5 (Paddy Power)

 

Group C

Colombia;

News filtering through that their talisman Radamel Falcao will be missing the World Cup through injury is obviously detrimental for Colombia’s chances, however they should still have too much about them to qualify comfortably. Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece make it an intriguing group and with the absence of Falcao, Jackson Martinez can step up and take the crown of top Colombian goalscorer, at a tempting 7/2. He has been in fine form, scoring 20 in 30 for Porto, and he will given the role of goal poacher, where he should be served by the creative influences of James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca.

Jackson Martinez to be top Colombian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

Ivory Coast;

This looks to be the final chance for Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho to leave their mark on the World stage, and they will be giving their all to get out of the group at the very least. They will be aiming to get something out of their first two games to give themselves something to fight for going into their final group game against Greece, who could well be out of the competition by then. The 7/5 for the Ivory Coast to beat Greece looks a solid bet, as if this is the case, they will be a lot shorter come the day.

Ivory Coast to beat Greece @ 7/5 (Ladbrokes)

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Japan;

The Japanese have been impressing many football fanatics with their all-action style, attacking in numbers which makes for high-scoring games. They are currently 7/2 third-favourites to score the most goals in Group C, and this appeals thanks to the emergence of Osako has helped, with that clinical edge. Their high-pressing game often pays dividends, and as Colombia, Ivory Coast and to an extent Greece, all try and play attacking football, expect Japan to score plenty on the counter.

Japan to score the most goals in Group C @ 7/2 (Various)

Greece;

Greece had a successful qualifying campaign, only just missing out on automatic qualification on goal difference, finishing level on points with Bosnia-Herzegovina.  They may struggle against the speed of Japan and Ivory Coast, whilst Colombia’s class is sure to prevail. They will set up to contain, and although this may work defensively, they are going to find it hard to score many, and this means the 13/10 with Paddy Power for Greece to fail to win a game appeals massively.

Greece to fail to win a game @ 13/10 (Paddy Power)

 

Group D

England;

Roy Hodgson surprised many by picking a youthful and exuberant squad, in an attempt to make a deep run in the tournament, although for once there is very little expectation from the English media. Daniel Sturridge is expected to take the starting lone striker role, after impressing in the build-up to the tournament, and the 3/1 for him to be top England scorer looks a solid bet, with favourite Wayne Rooney set to play a deeper role.

Dan Sturridge to be top England scorer @ 3/1 (Various)

Italy;

Mario Balotelli is key to Italy’s chances, as the eccentric striker has magnificent ability combined with an impulsive side that often is to his and his sides detriment. He is 13/8 to be top scorer, which is fair, however the value is with the 5/1 for him to pick up the most card points for Italy. He has the tendency to throw in a rash tackle when things are not going his way, and also the opportunity to be carded when celebrating in a ‘Mario manner’ means he is the logical choice.

Mario Balotelli to gain the most card points for Italy @ 5/1 (Bet Victor)

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Uruguay;

Uruguay are boosted by the inclusion of star man Luis Suarez, who will help his side battle through to the latter stages, as they have the benefit of being used to the South American climate. They lack pace in defensive areas however and they were the most carded side during the CONMEBOL qualifying, by some distance. They are prone to fouling, to save their weary legs in their defensive third, and they look a tasty proposition at 12/1 to be the most carded side at this year’s World Cup. A lot is riding on them making a decent run in the tournament, which looks plausible, and should they get out the group, the 12/1 will crumble, considering it is already 6/1 in places.

Uruguay to be the most carded side in the World Cup @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)

Costa Rica;

Costa Rica come into the World Cup as massive underdogs, and should live up to their name, showing little in qualifying to suggest otherwise. They are 7/4 to fail to collect a single point, and this looks as fair a shout as any.

Costa Rica to get 0 points @ 7/4 (Sky Bet)

Group E

France;

The French are often hit-and-miss at major international tournaments, which spells danger to plenty of gamblers. However the team really seems to be gelling under Didier Deschamps and a bit tournament is expected, even without a fully fit Frank Ribery, who may yet miss the competition with an injury. Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras is a slightly tricky group, but with the balance France have, the 9/2 for them to collect 9 points looks a bet worth getting involved with.

France to get 9 points @ 9/2 (Various)

Switzerland;

Josip Drmic has been in fantastic form this year, netting 17 times for the relegated Nuremberg, with little service. He has been snapped up by Bayer Leverkusen, and has continued to emerge as a big talent, netting three times in six appearance for his country. He is set to get the nod up-top and the disparity between bookmakers in-terms of odds for top goalscorer is staggering, so get stuck into the 7/2 with William Hill for Drmic to be top scorer for the Swiss.

Josip Drmic to be top Swiss scorer @ 7/2 (Ladbrokes)

Ecuador;

The South American outfit have a real chance of getting out of the group due to their aptitude to the climate, and magnificent pacey athletic players such as Enner Valencia, who will be a key-part of their success. He has been in magnificent form playing in the ‘Number 10’ role for Pachucha in Mexico, netting 18 times in 22 appearances. He will be given his familiar role once more, and with his pace, power and brilliant finishing, he looks a massive danger to opposition defences. He is 10/1 to be top Ecuadorian scorer, and this looks a massive price for someone who is going to be hot property in the aftermath of the World Cup.

Enner Valencia to be top Ecuadorian scorer @ 10/1 (Sporting Bet)

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Honduras;

Los Catrachos are going to find it extremely difficult to mount a real challenge to get out of the group, as France are extremely classy, Switzerland have been in great form, and Ecuador are adept to the climate. This all points to Honduras struggling, and for this reason the 13/5 for Honduras to fail to get a point looks fair.

Honduras to get 0 points @ 13/5 (Ladbrokes)

Group F

Argentina;

La Albiceleste are current second-favourites to win the tournament, and look set for a massive run. This is the time for Lionel Messi to step up and put in a performance everyone knows he is capable of, to answer critics who constantly mention the fact he is yet to show his true colours in a major international tournament. They should sail out of the group comfortably, and then ease into the final where they are likely to come up against Brazil. They may fall just short, so the 18/1 for a Brazil/Argentina straight-forecast looks a definite play.

Brazil/ARGENTINA straight forecast @ 18/1 (Sky Bet)

Bosnia-Herzegovina;

The side have enough quality in the shape of Dzeko, Pjanic, Ibisevic etc, to ensure they get out of the group. Argentina will have too much class for them, but you would have to fancy them to get the best of both Nigeria and Iran, so the 4/1 for Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish the group with six points seems a solid bet.

Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Bet365)

Nigeria;

Nigeria have had a successful qualifying campaign, and the heat will be no bother to them as they line up in Group F. However, they have plenty of defensive frailties, which will be exploited by both Argentina and Bosnia. This means their only major winnable tie looks to be against Iran, so take the 7/2 for Nigeria to end up with three points.

Nigeria to finish on three points @ 7/2 (Bet365)

Iran;

A rather boring final selection for Group F, but it is one to maximise profits if the others do fall into place. Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina should get the better of Iran, which means that Nigeria v Iran is going to be a massive tie for who finishes third and fourth. There is 14/5 on offer for Iran to get 0 points, which would fit with Bosnia getting six points, and Nigeria getting three points, resulting in a decent pay-day.

Iran to finish on 0 points @ 14/5 (Sky Bet)

Group F

Germany;

Joachim Low has been incredibly brave, and selected only one out-and-out striker to take to Brazil, in the shape of World Cup specialist, Miroslav Klose. He will be the pinnacle of a magnificent German attack, which encorporates fantastic young creative talent, that will be relying on the calm shoulders of Klose to finish off the chances they will be making throughout the tournament. He will have plenty of opportunities to net, and the 9/2 for him to be top German scorer appeals massively.

Miroslav Klose to be top German scorer @ 9/2 (Sporting Bet)

Portugal;

Cristiano Ronaldo will have the hopes of Portugal on his shoulders, as he lines up in Brazil and at 1/2 he is no value to be top Portuguese scorer, so attentions turn to a tri-cast bet, with Portugal fancied to finish runner-up in the group, with Ghana taking the third spot ahead of the USA, which pays 19/5.

Germany/PORTUGAL/Ghana tri-cast @ 19/5 (Betfair Sportsbook)

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Ghana;

Asamoah Gyan was integral in the success story of Ghana back in the 2010 World Cup, and yet again he is the talisman as they head into the 2014 tournament. His goals have helped Ghana qualify, including a brace against Egypt in the play-off. All attacking play will be based around him receiving the ball in a shooting position, so for this reason, the 100/30 for him to be Ghana’s top scorer is fair.

Asamoah Gyan to be top Ghanaian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

USA;

Jurgen Klinsmann has his work cut out massively, is if he is to get out of this difficult group, and the first game against Ghana is massive. He knows realistically they need a result in order to progress, and even a draw may not be enough. If he attacks, Ghana’s pace and power will be too much, and for this reason, take the 7/1 for USA to get no points during the World Cup campaign. The games against Portugal and Germany are going to prove very difficult, and Ghana have never lost against the US at a World Cup and that trend looks set to continue.

USA to finish with 0 points @ 7/1 (Sky Bet)

Group H

Belgium;

The Red Devils can no longer be labelled as ‘Dark Horses’ as they enter the tournament fifth favourites, after their magnificently talented young squad have matured over the past four years. They are likely to top their group, and should be able to progress past the runner up of Group G, which looks set to be Portugal. It will be then they are really tested against the elite of the world, and they look as though they may fall just short against Argentina, should they progress as expected. It will be a big learning curve and the 4/1 for Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals looks worth a go.

Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals @ 4/1 (Coral)

Russia;

Fabio Capello will be hoping to improve on his efforts with England back in 2010, as he lines up again with Russia who look set to qualify from the group, securing the runner-up spot. They should be able to get three points against both South Korea and Algeria, but may fall short against the mighty Belgium. This means the 4/1 for Russia to end with six points is a decent bet to side with.

Russia to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Various)

South Korea;

The South Koreans will be content to show the world their attacking game, when lining up against quality opposition. They don’t look to have the quality to replicate their 2002 performance and get to the semi-finals, and they may well depart in the group stages, finishing in third place. The tri-cast of Belgium, Russia and South Korea is also at 4/1 and looks a solid bet.

Belgium/Russia/SOUTH KOREA @ 4/1 (Betfair)

Algeria;

To complete Group E, and the surprising 4/1 selection for each team, Algeria to end the group stages with 0 points massively appeals. They will certainly struggle against Belgium and Russia, which leaves a key battle between Algeria and South Korea which looks set to go the way of South Korea. Algeria managed to get one point back in 2010, at the expense of England, but that doesn’t look likely to happen again this year, so get stuck into the 4/1 for Algeria to end the tournament with 0 points.

Algeria to finish with 0 points @ 4/1 (Various)

Overall;

Group A:

Fred to be top Brazilian scorer @ 7/2 (Coral)

Croatia to exit in the second round @ 11/5 (Ladbrokes)

Javier Hernandez to be top Mexican scorer @ 9/2 (Various)

Cameroon to get 0 points @ 5/1 (Paddy Power)

Group B:

Spain to exit in the Semi-Final’s @ 11/2 (Bet365)

Robin van Persie to be top Dutch scorer @ 13/8 (Sporting Bet)

Spain/CHILE/Netherlands/Australia @ 9/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Australia to get 0 points @ 7/5 (Paddy Power)

Group C:

Jackson Martinez to be top Colombian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

Ivory Coast to beat Greece @ 7/5 (Ladbrokes)

Japan to score the most goals in group C @ 7/2 (Various)

Greece to fail to win a game @ 13/10 (Paddy Power)

Group D:

Dan Sturridge to be top England scorer @ 3/1 (Various)

Mario Balotelli to gain the most card points for Italy @ 5/1 (Bet Victor)

Uruguay to be the most carded side in the World Cup @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)

Costa Rica to get 0 points @ 7/4 (Sky Bet)

Group E:

France to get 9 points @ 9/2 (Various)

Josip Drmic to be top Swiss scorer @ 7/2 (Ladbrokes)

Enner Valencia to be top Ecuadorian scorer @ 10/1 (Sporting Bet)

Honduras to get 0 points @ 13/5 (Ladbrokes)

Group F:

Brazil/ARGENTINA straight forecast @ 18/1 (Sky Bet)

Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Bet365)

Nigeria to finish on three points @ 7/2 (Bet365)

Iran to finish on 0 points @ 14/5 (Sky Bet)

Group G:

Miroslav Klose to be top German scorer @ 9/2 (Sporting Bet)

Germany/PORTUGAL/Ghana tri-cast @ 19/5 (Betfair Sportsbook)

Asamoah Gyan to be top Ghanaian scorer @ 7/2 (Various)

USA to finish with 0 points @ 7/1 (Sky Bet)

Group H:

Belgium to exit in the quarter-finals @ 4/1 (Coral)

Russia to finish on six points @ 4/1 (Various)

Belgium/Russia/SOUTH KOREA @ 4/1 (Betfair)

Algeria to finish with 0 points @ 4/1 (Various)

 

Obviously I am not suggesting that you should bet on every selection, however I hope that the reasoning and pricing of the selections have helped you decide on your own bets for this World Cup. Best of luck with your punts, and if you have any bets you would like to share, tweet me @JoshBradley10

 

 

 

Champions League 2012/13 – Preview with Best Bets.

Last year’s Champions League was as eventful as ever and eventually went the way of Chelsea, for the first time in their history. They hit 33/1 after losing the first leg of their last-16 game against Napoli 3-1. This result played some part in the sacking of AVB, this led to Di Matteo taking the reigns at the South London club, before guiding them through the second leg in dramatic fashion before going on to lift the trophy three months later in Munich, after beating Bayern on penalties.

This year they will be looking to emulate their success and are currently a best-priced 16/1 to do so. It will be a big task to land back to back Champions League’s, as no team have done so since the brilliant AC Milan side back in 89/90. However after landing the job on a permanent basis, Di Matteo has already done some brilliant business during the transfer window so far, bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea often lacked the cutting edge in the final third last year, failing to break defences down and not scoring as many goals as they should have done. The departure of Didier Drogba will pave the way for Fernando Torres to step up to the mark and prove to the world he is still the same magnificent player he was at Liverpool. He has never managed to get a decent run in the Chelsea team, with the amount of striking options that was at AVB/Di Matteo’s disposal, but this year he is set to be first-choice in the absence of Drogba and coming in off the back of winning the Golden Boot at the Euro’s, his confidence will be sky-high. He has always been a confidence player, and the past 18 months, he has looked someone who lacked self-belief, but following the Euro’s, he looks to have found his shooting boots, and with that comes confidence. He will be a key man for Chelsea, and will be key in any success they are to have this year.

Runners-up Bayern Munich have also been busy in the transfer market in an attempt to go one better than last year. They have brought in a number of new faces, which has given their squad tremendous strength in depth. The aquisition of Mario Mandzukic is superb one and the Croatian front-man looks set to have a massive season. He scored on his first competitive start for Bayern in the German Supercup against Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, notching the first after six minutes in a 2-1 win for Munich. The 14/1 on offer for Bayern may tempt many, but they lack the flair against defensive opposition so I can see them coming up short again. But when the top goalscorer markets are released, it may pay to have a little flutter on Mandzukic being top.

Unsurprisingly, the two joint-favourites for the competition come from Spain. Barcelona have a great record in recent years, having won the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011, beating English opposition in each final. They will be hoping for a repeat performance this year under new manager Tito Villanova, who had previously been assistant under Pep Guardiola from 2008 until taking over as the manager in June of this year. He has inherited arguably the greatest squad on the planet, headed by the worlds greatest, Lionel Messi. Messi is immensely talented, and never fails to make a difference. While he is on the pitch, anything is possible, and with David Villa returning to the squad, the team is sure to get goals. Their defence has often been highlighted as a potential weak spot, but when looking at the arrivals:

Alex Song
Defensive Midfield
24
Arsenal FC
  Premier League
16.720.000 £
Jordi Alba 10.000.000 €”>Jordi Alba
Fullback, left
23
Valencia CF
  Primera División
12.320.000 £
Marc Muniesa 2.500.000 €”>Marc Muniesa
Centre Back
20
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Martín Montoya 4.000.000 €”>Martín Montoya
Fullback, right
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Marc Bartra 2.500.000 €”>Marc Bartra
Centre Back
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Jonathan dos Santos 2.500.000 €”>Jonathan dos Santos
Central Midfield
22
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Henrique 3.000.000 €”>Henrique *

You can see Tito is attempting so sure up the defensive side of the team, and Jordi Alba is a massive signing. He can attack with menace, as shown by his goal in the Euro Championship final but he can also defend extremely well and is regarded as one of the top three left-backs in the world. Alex Song has been brought in to hold in the midfield, but can also adopt to a centre-back role, meaning along with Mascherano, they have versaitaile holding midfielders who can play anywhere across the back. This could be the difference, and with the wealth of riches Barcelona have in midfield and attack, with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabgregas, it would take a brave man to back against them. However, they have began the new season slowly and other teams will be hopeful of explointing any weaknesses they find, especially with the new manager. They look to have the best squad in the world, but at a best price 7/2, there may be better value elsewhere.

Real Madrid on the other hand, look as steady as ever, with ‘the special one’ Jose Mourinho still at the helm. Los Blancos are the most successful club in the competitions history, with nine wins and Mourinho will be confident of adding a tenth. Madrid have strengethened their already exceptional midfield, by acquiring arguably the best deep-lying play-maker on the planet, Luca Modric. He will give the side that added creativity in midfield, and will help turn defence into attack in one smooth move. His range of passing is superb, and the attackers will be excited to be able to feed off his service. He is likely to line up next to the always solid and consistent Xabi Alonso, who now have a midfield strong enough to challenge Barcelona’s. With Europe’s greatest player, Cristiano Ronaldo, spearheading the attack, there is sure to be goals, and Madrid will be as confident as ever to build on last years unfortunate semi-final loss, and add the tenth Champions League in the clubs glistening history.

There will be an extremely strong challenge from Italy this year, in the shape of Juventus and AC Milan. Last years Serie A winners Juventus will be out to prove a point after not playing in Europe at all last season. They managed to fight off the challenge of AC Milan in the league, and secure their first Scudetto since the ’02/03 season, possibly helped by the lack of European distractions. This year, they have added to their squad, with numerous strong signings from across the world, most notably purchasing the other 50% of Sebastian Giavinco’s transfer rights from Parma. He will add that goalscoring touch alongside Mirko Vucinic. They look solid, and the Juventus Stadium is always a tough place to go, but I doubt their ability to go away from home and score goals, which could cause problems in the latter stages. So they would need to be considerably bigger than the current 16/1 to tempt me.

AC Milan have gotten rid of two of their key-men, in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The club raked in £55 million from PSG during these sales and are yet to re-invest it. Milan have started their Serie A campaign very slowly, going down 1-0 at home to Sampdoria. They will need to pick up the pace and make two or three world class signings to be in the position to mount a serious challenge.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal complete the strong English challenge, along with holders Chelsea. Both Manchester United and Manchester City will be out to make amends on rather disappointing showings in last years competition, when they bowed out in the group stages. Manchester United have strengthened their squad massively, acquiring the highly-rated Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund as-well as Robin Van Persie from rivals Arsenal. RVP is sure to bring goals to the side, which is something, at times,  they lacked last year, as-well as the creativity in the final third that Kagawa will bring. The return of Vidic is massive, as is the form that De Gea seems to have started the season in. Expect a bold showing from United this year, as Ferguson will be going all out to land the European Cup at least once more before he finally retires. With the group they have, RVP will have many chances to get on the score-sheet in the opening games and he could be a value bet for top-scorer.

Manchester City were well fancied by many last season, when they flopped in the group stages. Going away from home, they looked extremely vulnerable and their defence has started the season in the exact same fashion this year. They have immense attacking quality, with Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli, David Silva etc, but their defence has often let them down. Joe Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and will give his defence confidence that they have a pair of safe hands behind them, and he will be key to any success that City have. They have been dealt an extremely tough draw and at a best-priced 10/1, it would be difficult to hammer into them knowing they face a mammoth task, to even get out of their group.

Arsenal have started the season in mixed fashion, initially failing to score in their opening games before hitting form and showing what we all know they can do. They have a wonderful set-up, with a beautiful passing game. The departure of RVP is a massive loss for Wenger’s men, but in Podolski and Giroud, they have two apt replacements. They have a pair of forwards who have the potential to link-up and finish the chances provided by the solid midfield behind them. Santi Cazorla is one of the captures of the season, and his creativity is something Arsenal has definitely lacked in recent years, in the absence of Fabregas. They should be able to comfortably escape their group and the 25/1 may be some each-way value for small-stake punters.

Group Overview:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain (11/10), FC Porto (15/8), Dynamo Kiev (7), Din Zagreb (25)

PSG will be pleased with their group, after avoiding many of Europe’s big guns. The French side have been splashing the cash in the the summer transfer window, bringing in many high class players in an attempt to land the Champions League for the first time. Lucas Moura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all signed for the club for massive transfer fees and expectation will be huge. They should comfortably come through their group with the amount of class they possess and it would be no shock to see them progress very far in the competition.

It looks as though Porto, Kiev and Zagreb will all be battling it out for second place, and 2004 winners Porto, look set to take that role. Seeded first in the draw, they will be fairly pleased with the draw, although trips to the Ukraine and Croatia will not be easy. They should be able to beat both Kiev and Zagreb on their own turf, and providing PSG do the same, all Porto would have to do, is stop the sides from beating them, which they should be able to do.

Group B: Arsenal (4/5), Schalke 04 (3), Montpellier (7), Olympiakos (14)

Arsenal will be hopeful of getting out of this group, but they do have to face tricky away days across France, Germany and Greece. They should be able to get maximum points at the Emirates however and as long as they pick up points at Montpellier and Olympiakos they should be able to top the group.

Of the rest, it looks a straight battle between Schalke and Montpellier for minor honours. Schalke have tremendous strength in depth, and with the likes of Huntelaar and Affelay (who is on loan from Barcelona), the German side should progress as runners-up.

Group C: AC Milan (13/11), Zenit St Petersburg (2), Malaga (5), Anderlecht (22)

It looks a straight battle between Milan and Zenit as to who tops the group, with Malaga close behind before a massive gulf in class between the rest and Anderlecht. Milan have started the season slowly and I can imagine it will take a while they hit top gear, so it may be wise to take a little risk on Zenit, who have recently acquired the highly-rated Hulk and Axil Witsel. They are 2/1 to win the group and this looks decent value, with Milan expected to fill the runners-up spot.

Group D: Real Madrid (10/11), Man City (5/2), Bor Dortmund (7), Ajax (33)

The group of death includes four champions from four different countries. Any team that wants to progress will have to be on top of their game and it would be no surprise to see the eventual winner, to come from this group.

Madrid always put in a major showing in whatever they take part in and they should have too much class for the opponents, and the 10/11 for them to top the group looks tremendous value. They host Manchester City first game, and a victory here would set them on their way to topping the group. Manchester City have never impressed in European competitions but should be able to see off Dortmund and Ajax, which would be enough to secure the runners-up spot.

Group E: Chelsea (20/19), Juventus (13/8), Shakhtar Donetsk (9), FC Nordsjaelland (100)

Chelsea have impressed so far this year in the Premier League, and Eden Hazard looks set to show his class on the big stage. Stamford Bridge is always a difficult place to go and the fact they are odds-against is a shock for me. The group could well go down to goal difference, and Juventus have never really been known as a team that scores many, as it is the strength of their defence that often gets them out of trouble. The pair should draw clear of Shakhtar and FC Nordsjaelland and it looks a banker forecast, for it to finish Chelsea/Juventus.

Group F: Bayern Munich (1/2), Valencia (3), Lille (10), BATE Borisov (33)

Essentially Group F is Bayern Munich’s group to lose. They should comfortably have enough to see off the declining giants Valencia and Lille who have lost their star-man Eden Hazard. Bate Borisov will struggle to get anything out of the group, and look set to finish in a distant last place.

It looks between Valencia and Lille for the runner-up position, and Valencia should be able to progress, as they look to  have too much fire-power for their French opponents, in the shape of Soldado and Jonas.

Group G: Barcelona (2/13), Benfica (9), Spartak Moscow (20), Celtic (66)

Barcelona should comfortably win the group, with Benfica filling the runners-up spot. Spartak and Celtic both lack the strength-in-depth to compete with Europe’s big guns at this stage, and it should be a procession.

Group H: Man Utd (2/7), Braga (8), Galatasaray (10), CFR Cluj (50)

Manchester United have managed to avoid all of Europe’s big-guns and will be extremely pleased with their group. They face tricky away ties across some tough parts of Europe, but they should top the group comfortably, with the strength of their current squad.

It will be extremely close between Braga and Galatasaray as to who fills the runner up-spot, and I think it may pay to side with Galatasaray. The Türk Telekom Arena as it is now known, is always a tough place to travel, and the Galatasaray fans will play a key part in making it a fortress, and an extremely difficult atmosphere for the away teams to come to.

BETTING TIPS:

Manchester United to win the Champions League: 0.5 point e.w @ 10/1

RVP top scorer and Manchester United to win UCL: 1 point @ 66/1 

Madrid, Barca, Chelsea, Munich, United to win their groups: 2 points @ 13/2

PSG, Arsenal, Zenit to win groups: 1 point @ 10.34/1