Last year, Barcelona and AC Milan crossed paths in the last 16, delivering one of the most competitive and exciting knockout matches of the tournament. AC Milan took the early 2-0 lead in the first leg and looked to be all but through to the next round when the Catalan Giants answered. Proving their measure as the best club in Europe, they stormed back with four unanswered goals to win 4-2 on aggregate and advance.
That these two illustrious clubs have fallen into the same group sets up one of the most intriguing back stories to the competition. Sportsbooks across the board list Barcelona as the hefty favourites to win the group but if there were a club to give them a run for their money, surely AC Milan is such a club.
- 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 H Preview
Barcelona +400 to win competition, -500 to win group
Four-time European champions and last year’s Primera Division champions, Blaugrana go into the competition as one of several short-odds on favourites to win outright. Hardly surprising when they’ve reached the semis in seven of the last eight installments of the competition, including last year where they were surprisingly routed by Bayern Munich.
New coach Gerardo Martino is tasked with continuing this standard of excellence in Europe. Although it remains to be seen how well the South American will fare in his maiden voyage through Europe’s Premier competition, with an enviable squad that includes the renowned Messi and Inesta, amongst several others. And with the recent addition of wonder kid Neymar, the prognosis is positive for his future tenure and his club’s campaign.
AC Milan +4000 to win competition, +450 to win group
Despite the hefty soccer odds of +450 to win the group, AC Milan arguably is the only team in this group that could potentially challenge Barcelona for top spot. They have a history of success in Europe’s Premier competition with seven titles and they’ve featured in the competition in 12 of the last 14 installments. Recently however they’ve failed to recapture those glory days of the last decade.
AC Milan reaches the Champions League this season following a victory over PSV Eindhoven in the playoffs. Last year, AC Milan stunned the football betting world when they beat Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg of their last 16 date but, alas, at the time of asking at Camp Nou, they failed to complete the coup de grace. With a second shot in as many seasons at Barcelona looming on the group front, Milan will be looking to avert that result surely. Mario Balotelli is a huge player for Milan and they’ll be relying on him heavily. As well, AC Milan have brought in Kaka (free transfer) from Real Madrid and splurged on Alessandro Matri (Juventus) and Cristian Zapata (Villarreal), amongst several others.
Ajax +30000 to win competition, +1600 to win group
For a third straight year, Ajax earns direct entry into Europe’s top-flight competition on the back of a league winning season. Yet the Eredevisie champions once again seem to have drawn the short end of the stick, falling into yet another ominous group.
In the last three Champions League seasons, Ajax has drawn the likes of Real Madrid (twice) AC Milan and Lyon to name a few and were at all times they were hard pressed to advance into the knockout stages – although credit to them, they did finish third each time and advanced into Europe’s second-flight competition. Last year, they drew Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Manchester City and mustered up a 1-1-4 record. Clearly, Ajax can’t compete at the same level as some of Europe’s biggest clubs. So with no favours again in the draw, it’s hard to see how they would advance at the expense of Barcelona and AC Milan.
Celtic +50000 to win competition, +5000 to win group
Celtic advances into Europe’s top-flight competition the hard way, through the qualifying round and playoff round. Strictly speaking, Celtic very nearly didn’t make it into the competition. Shakhtar Kargandy handed them a surprising 2-0 defeat in Kazakhstan before the Scots rallied at home to score three unanswered goals and take the tie 3-2. On the whole, few expect much from Celtic in this competition as evinced by their hefty odds across the board.
Champions League Betting Verdict
That some experts dub this the group of death is rather surprising. More or less, this is a two-horse race between Barcelona and AC Milan for first and second place. Barcelona are the favourites to win the group but AC Milan has the ability to throw a spanner in the works. Ajax should qualify for another Europa League campaign.
Soccer Picks: AC Milan +450 to win the group
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