While there are no domestic champions from last year drawn into this group, make no mistake it’s a very tough group with last year’s Champions League and Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Ligue 1 runners-up Olympique Marseille and Seria A runners-up Napoli and perennial top four Premier League darlings Arsenal. Indeed, this group is the so-called group of death, evinced nowhere more so than in the group betting market.
Top 6 favourites in the competition: Bayern Munich +350, Barcelona +400, Real Madrid +500, Chelsea +900, Man U +1200 and Man City +1400.
Top 3 Dark horses in the competition: PSG +1400, Juventus +1600 and Borussia Dortmund +1800
Group F Preview
Borussia Dortmund +1800 to win outright, +125 to win Group
Last year’s runners-up to Bayern Munich in both Champions League and Bundesliga action, Borussia Dortmund are listed as the firm favourites to win Group F, albeit on the long side of even money at +125. Jurgen Klopp led his men on a Cinderella run to the final, against all the odds and beating the likes of Real Madrid along the way.
Clearly, replicating that run of form is not on the market agenda, what with Borussia Dortmund not even registering on the top favourite’s radar. In fact, they are tipped at soccer odds of +1800, larger than Manchester City – a team that has failed on their last few attempts to advance into group action including last year when they finished a dismal bottom of Group D with a 0-3-3 record.
But didn’t Borussia Dortmund throw down the gauntlet with a 4-2 win over Bayern Munich in Germany’s Super Cup at the start of the season? And don’t they currently lead the league with a four-game winning streak? Granted, it’s early days yet and the season long but Borussia is not a team to take lightly. They did lose Mario Gotze to archrivals Bayern Munich – but they did so before the Champions League final last year so it’s a mute point. They did however hang on to Robert Lewandowski despite international interest in the Polish star and added Henrich Mkhitaryan and Sokratis to name a few.
Arsenal +2800 to win outright, +225 to win Group
After finishing fourth last year in Premier League action, Arsenal were forced to play the playoffs to qualify for Champions League this season. They drew Fenerbahce, a tough opponent on paper and a side that could have ended their run before it even got started. But the Turkish side was rather lackluster and Arsenal advanced easily if not unscathed – they lost Lukas Podolski (hamstring) for three months following the 2-0 win at the Emirates.
The injury list for Arsenal though doesn’t stop there as they are also without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Mikel Arteta (thigh) and the season is barely underway fully. When a bench is clearly gagging for players it makes a successful campaign on both domestic and international fronts rather a stretch. Therein lies the problem for Arsene Wenger's team and why they aren’t deemed the hot favourites to win this Group or to challenge for the Champions League title. That said Arsene has finally splurged some cash and signed a much-need striker – Madrid’s Mesut Ozil. It remains to be seen how the German playmaker and striker will fit in, so we are a bit hesitant to add them to our soccer picks.
Napoli +4000 to win outright, +275 to win Group
Napoli is not a team to take lightly and certainly the online sportsbooks have taken stock of their quality, tipping them close to Arsenal in the group betting market at +275 to win the group. Napoli have recently acquired the services of Rafa Benitez after the Spaniard led Chelsea to the Europa League title and they’ve splashed cash in the transfer window – their biggest signing being Higuain. They’ve also taken Pepe Reina on loan from Liverpool. Last year, Napoli finished runners-up to Juventus in Seria A and reached the R32 in Europa League (lost to Viktoria Plzen 5-0 on aggregate).
Marseille +20000 to win outright, +1200 to win Group
Olympique Marseille finished runners-up in Ligue 1 last year to PSG, marking their fourth runner-up finish in the last seven years. They won the league title in 2009-2010 and although they won the Champions League title way back in 1993, in recent history they reached the quarterfinals – in 2011-2012 when they lost to Bayern Munich 4-0 on aggregate. This is a team that can do damage in this group despite their hefty +1200 odds to win.
Champions League betting Verdict: Although the odds makers have a distinct favourite here, Borussia Dortmund at +125 the fact that all are tipped on the long side of even money and for the most part – save for Marseille – tipped rather close suggests this group is up for grabs. Now, after last season’s runner-up finish and this year’s win over Bayern in Germany’s Super Cup, Borussia Dortmund leaps off the page as the best bet to advance, if not win the group. But one can’t discount Arsenal, Napoli or Marseille either for none is a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination.Picks and Predictions: Borussia Dortmund at +125 to win the group