Chelsea is a heavy betting odds favorite to win its group, and, like many of those other European clubs, the Blues received a pretty favorable draw and schedule for the Group Stage which begins next week when Chelsea faces Bundesliga’s FC Schalke 04.
Along with the formally-named Fußballclub Gelsenkirchen-Schalke 04, the Blues and manager José Mourinho will also play second-place Portuguese Primeira Liga side Sporting Lisbon as well as defending Slovenian PrvaLiga champions NK Maribor in its Champions League group. With the oddsmakers tabbing Chelsea more than 3-to-1 favorites to win Group G (-333, William Hill), are there any wagers out there on the Blues—or anyone else in this group—worth consideration before this stage kicks off? Let’s examine.
Chelsea’s 25-Man Roster For Champions League As Good As It Gets
Chelsea heads into this tournament it won for the first time ever two years ago in 2012 against Bayern Munich in Munich in historic fashion with Didier Drogba cementing his soccer legacy with his late, game-tying header and then his tournament-deciding penalty kick past Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to give Chelsea its long-awaited European championship. The Blues and The Special One had to use five players (as potential participants) on their 25-man roster with just one first-team appearance between them—GK Mitchell Beeney, Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma—to comply with UEFA regulations which say a club must field at least eight homegrown players on its 25-man roster(s) for the tournament.
Besides these five, Chelsea's Champions League roster is a wonderful mix of old and young and is loaded with international stars and a number of fresh faces added over the recently-concluded summer transfer period including goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who returned to West London this summer after a long loan spell playing in Spain's La Liga with upstart Atlético Madrid—a club that finished second in this prestigious tourney last year, losing in heartbreaking fashion in the final to city and league rivals Real Madrid—and club legend Petr Cech, meaning that the Blues 1-2 goalkeeper punch will be impossible to top in the Champions League.
Chelsea also has defenders Branislav Ivanovic, newcomer Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Gary Cahill, John Terry and César Azpilicueta as well as midfielders Nemanja Matic, John Obi Mikel, Nathan Aké, new-signee Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona), Eden Hazard, Ramires, Oscar, Mohamed Salah, Willian and André Schürrle and the new troika of strikers in returning talisman Drogba (Galatasaray), key cog Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid) and last week’s last-minute signing, Loïc Rémy (Queens Park Rangers). Perhaps the only quibble would be that Marco van Ginkel (on loan at AC Milan now) wasn’t eligible as he isn’t a “locally trained player,” but, even so, Chelsea is absolutely stacked and now deep at all positions. Mourinho can’t be regretting any moves he has made heading into this nine-month tournament, which, not coincidentally, is very much like giving birth to a baby.
This Group is All Chelsea’s to Lose; Blues, Diego Costa Will Cruise
For the Blues, both the draw and the schedule in the Group Stage are very favorable, with probably the only real test coming in Germany against FC Schalke on Matchday 5 (Nov. 25). But by that point in the stage, Chelsea (Champions League Winner, +700, 7/1, BetVictor) could very well be 4-0-0 and already looking forward to the Knockout stage. With goalkeepers like Courtois and Cech, and one of the best back fours and central midfields (now) in the sport, Mourinho has this roster just the way he wants it to make a run at both the Champions League and the English Premier League this go-around. For Blues fans, the ride from now until next May should be pretty exciting.
As far as Chelsea’s soccer odds to win Group G, it is probably only a bet for the gambler/punter with a healthy bankroll, but the Blues -333 (To Win Group, William Hill) is a very fair price and if you have $333 you don’t need until Christmas, a straight bet on Chelsea to win Group G to win $100 seems pretty smart, despite its pure royal blue chalkiness. The only real scenario where the heavily-favored Blues could possibly fall is by losing or drawing at Sporting Lisbon (Sept. 30) and losing at least one of its legs to Schalke (Sept. 17, Nov. 25). But with Mourinho salivating and two restaurant-quality goalkeepers, Chelsea could possibly go through this somewhat soft group undefeated, allowing between just 3 to 5 goals. Costa (20/1 at SkyBet to be the Champions League Top Goalscorer) should have at least six (goals) of his own in this stage, and, at that 20/1 is worth a shot in this props market. But as always, Costa will have to beat out Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (+250, Sky Bet) and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (+350, Sky Bet). Some things never change.
Breakdown of Opponents in Group G, How Group Should Evolve
The other three clubs Chelsea drew in this group aren’t exactly chopped liver, but then again the Blues could have had a much tougher draw with the teams that were out there in Pots 2, 3 and 4. And soccer aficionados and Blues fans know this. The draws have actually become quite boring with their predictability and the thought of just one perceived group of death in a stage with eight groups means we’re probably in for some boring soccer for a few months with the rare exception of some choice matchups in the group stage of this year’s Champions League.
FC Schalke 04 (+400, 4/1, To Win Group, William Hill) is probably tougher than most novice fans will give them credit for being, and finishing behind last year’s Champions League winner Bayern Munich (+300, 3/1 to win Champions League, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, open) and Borussia Dortmund (25/1) is proof enough of its justified place on the soccer map. Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues) should beat out Sporting Lisbon for second here and advance, but Schalke (100/1 to win Champions League, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and manager Jens Keller will need solid performances from Netherlands international striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (+10,000, 100/1, Top Goalscorer UEFA CL, BetVictor), midfielders Julian Draxler and Kevin-Prince Boateng—back from an injury—and goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann. And they should all come through in the end.
Sporting Lisbon (-1000, 10/1, To Win Group, William Hill) will be the proverbial team to watch in this group, and manager Marco Silva and the Sportinguistas have a very good goalkeeper in Rui Patrício and a number of scoring threats in Fredy Montero (13 goals last season), Héldon (10 goals), Adrien Silva (8 goals), Islam Slimana (8 goals) and new pickup and Portuguese national midfielder Nani (Manchester United). El Leões cannot be overlooked and will be a real handful for the other three teams in Group G at Estádio José Alvalade in Lisbon, even Chelsea.
Known as a symbol of Slovenian soccer, especially in its home Styria region in the northeastern part of the nation—they’re nicknamed Štajerski ponos (the pride of Styria)—NK Maribor (+4000, 40/1, To Win Group, William Hill) has never been relegated from Slovenia’s top flight of football and finished first in the Slovenia Prva League last season. Vijolicasti (The Purples) are coached by Ante Šimundža and play in a stadium called Ljudski vrt in Maribor, the second-largest city in Slovenia. Chelsea plays NK Maribor on Matchday 3 and Matchday 4—Group G plays on the same six dates as do the clubs in Group H—so the draw gave the Blues a nice little potential six-point Slovenian sandwich right smack dab in the middle of the group. Striker Marcos Tavares (119 lifetime goals) and midfielder Aleš Mertelj (11 lifetime goals) are among the Purples top scoring threats but winning against Chelsea even at home in Maribor (Nov. 5) or at Stamford Bridge (Nov. 25) will prove to be extremely difficult.
Are There Any Ways to Try to Make a Little Money on This Group?
To find ways to try to scratch out some winnings on this group, one will have to extremely creative and, at time, lay some lumber with the favorites on the betting board in select games. The Group G straight forecast with Chelsea/FC Schalke 1-2 (-137, BetVictor) seems like a good price but bettors of this proposition will have to really be wary of Sporting Lisbon, which probably can make its case for a spot in the knockout stage if it can upset Schalke in Gelsenkirchen on matchday 3 (Oct. 21).
On matchday 1 (Sept. 17) in West London, Chelsea will have its hands full with Schalke but the Blues track record at home—especially under Mourinho—is impeccable and almost forces the gambler to back Chelsea (Winner/Three-Way Moneyline, -250, bet365; Schalke +375, Draw +600) in front of that expecting crowd. And in this situation, the Blues won’t want to instantly lose any confidence—or points—and will expect to win the game and get the three points to start off group play.
The Total Goals (2½ Over -137, bet365) is a marketplace that seems really ripe for some picking with Chelsea games Over (at 2½), despite the dynamic duo of beanpole goalkeepers likely holding opponents scoring to a minimum. Besides new superstar Costa (+2000, 20/1 Top Goalscorer UEFA CL, Sky Bet), the Blues added a number of potential goal-scorers to Eden Hazard (+7000, 70/1), André Schürrle (+12,500, 125/1), Oscar (+15,000, 150/1) and Willian (+15,000, 150/1) in midfielder Fàbregas (+7000, 70/1) and talented strikers Drogba (+10,000, 100/1) and Rémy. Chelsea’s defenders are also known for their ability to score and with underrated guys like Salah and Matic and Aké, this team should be able to score three goals in at least five of its six games in this group so taking Chelsea's Overs (at 2½) in all six of the Blues games—Costa is good for Overs—seems like sage advice. And using the Blues as parlay elements in all three home matches at Stamford Bridge and the game at Ludogorets is also some meat for the stew.
Group G Prediction: Chelsea finishes first in group, FC Schalke second
Soccer Picks: Matchday 1: Chelsea (-250, bet365), Chelsea-FC Schalke Over 2½, (-137, BetVictor)
Futures Prop Picks: For your soccer picks inlcude Chelsea to win Group G (-333, William Hill); Diego Costa, Chelsea, Leading scorer in UEFA Champions League (20/1, Sky Bet)
Group G Schedule
September 17: Chelsea FC vs. FC Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon vs. NK Maribor
September 30: Sporting Lisbon vs. Chelsea FC, FC Schalke 04 vs. NK Maribor
October 21: Chelsea FC vs. NK Maribor, FC Schalke 04 vs. Sporting Lisbon
November 5: NK Maribor vs. Chelsea FC, Sporting Lisbon vs. FC Schalke 04
November 25: FC Schalke 04 vs. Chelsea FC, Sporting Lisbon vs. NK Maribor
December 10: Chelsea FC vs. Sporting Lisbon, NK Maribor vs. FC Schalke 04