While FC Porto’s glory days with former manager Jose Mourinho are well and truly behind them, the Portuguese champions are not a side to take lightly in the competition. Indeed, Atletico Madrid will be wary as they pose the biggest obstacle for top spot in the group.
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 G Preview:
Atletico Madrid +4000 to win outright, +120 to win group
Atletico Madrid secured direct entry into the competition this season on the back of a third-place finish (behind Barcelona and Real Madrid) in Spain’s Primera Division. Two-time Europa League champions, Atleti have high hopes for the competition which will be helped along greatly now that they’ve fallen into a rather winnable group.
Atleti are after a strong start to the season and a commendable Super Cup performance against Barcelona that ended on a 1-1 draw on aggregate but that they lost by virtue of away goals. Nonetheless, the way they played Barcelona – stared them down and stifled the Catalan giants they did – suggests they could do some significant damage in this competition. Important to note: they failed to hold on to Radamel Falcao but they did manage to keep Diego Costa and add David Villa (Spain’s all-time top scorer) to the team.
FC Porto +6600 to win outright; +180 to win group
Portuguese champions three years in a row, FC Porto enter Champions League with high hopes. Certainly, online sportsbooks have priced them within a reasonable shot to win the group, only marginally larger than Atletico Madrid and that is an encouraging sign for their fans.
FC Porto have proven to be a tough team to beat in recent years especially on home turf; last season, they won the domestic title without losing a single game both at home and on the road, going 24-6-0. Last year, they deposited a strong showing in Europe’s premier competition, reaching the last 16 where they lost to Malaga. During the summer transfer window, Monaco pilfered Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez from FC Porto. The club did however bring in a whole slew of prospects to nurture and still have Jackson Martinez a prolific finisher to rely on.
Zenit St. Petersburg + 10000 to win outright, +300 to win group
Zenit St. Petersburg, who finished second in Russia’s Premier League, arrives in Europe’s top-flight competition the hard way, going through the qualifying round and then playoff round. Zenit is no stranger in Europe and always seems to be a side tough to beat in group action –a sign of the club’s growing improvement and potential. It’s really only a matter of time before they make a statement.
They boast the renowned forward Hulk in their ranks as well now Andrei Arshavin, who returned to the club this summer. Overall, despite their large soccer odds of +300 to win the group, Zenit is a side that can challenge for a spot in the knockout stages especially in a group that is as wide open as Group G is.
Austria Wien +100000, +3300 to win group
Austrian league champions Austria Wien qualified for the Champions League with a 4-3 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the playoff round. Austria Wien are a dominant force in their domestic league, transcending European football though is another matter entirely. They are the quintessential long shots in this group.
Champions League Betting Verdict: While the bookmakers dub this group a two-horse race between Atletico Madrid and FC Porto, a case for Zenit St. Petersburg crashing the party can be made. Certainly, this is a great opportunity for Atleti to make a statement in Europe but expect FC Porto and Zenit St. Petersburg to advance their case for second-place at the very least.Predictions and Picks: Atleti Madrid to win group +120, Zenit St. Petersburg to come in second.