Let's get this out of the way first: Bayern are my tip to win the Champions League, despite their price. They have an great record over the last five years, with three final appearances, winning it twice, a semi final and a poor Round of 16 exit. Real Madrid are their chief opponents to lift the trophy, but Bayern look more balanced and Germany is on the crest of a footballing wave, in the much the same way Spain were when Barcelona dominated. They have bought some experience into the squad, with Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso, while Mehdi Benatia is a superb acquisition from group opponents Roma.
They're obviously favourites to win a Group E and at 17/20 will attract plenty of money, but I'm going to swerve that at odds-on. I watched Pep Guardiola's men labour a little against Wolfsburg and then draw with Schalke (who they usually beat easily) in their opening Bundesliga games. At times they looked unstoppable, but more often than not looked like the opposition was a bit 'beneath them'. I don't see that mentality creeping in when they're facing the best in Europe and with the balance, skill, goals of Lewandowski and superb coaching, 17/20 is probably value.
They are in a group with three other domestic champions and Roma finished second in Serie A last season. The English representatives deserved a kinder draw this time having struggled to get out of he group in their first two efforts in this competition. They made it through it the round of 16 last season, but hit a tough draw again.
In a previous piece on my best soccer picks for the UEFA Champions League, I talked about Manchester City being my favourite to last longest of the English clubs and I even tipped up them getting to the final. I still stand by the reasons behind it, but they needed to win a group to get an easier game in the next round. Once they are in the quarter-finals anything could happen with the quality in their side.
The summer saw a whole host of defensive minded players brought to the Etihad and that can only be designed to go further in this elite tournament. Strong defences do very well and with the attacking ability in the side, they may only need a few chances to beat sides. They showed against Liverpool in the Premier League, they can soak up pressure and are confident of getting a win, even if it turns out to be a scruffy win. City are 2/5 to qualify and 9/4 to win the group.
Next in the group betting comes Roma. They are 5/2 to get out of Group E and 9/1 to win the group. They've strengthened well in the summer, but Italian clubs have struggled lately as the financial power of Spain, England, France and the rejuvenation of German football has dominated the landscape. Roma's best recent performance was in 2007/08 when they reached the quarter finals.
They've replaced Benatia with Konstantinos Manolas from Olympiciaos and also spent big on Argentine winger Juan Iturbe, so have got some ammunition, but I doubt they will have enough away from home. Their domestic record in Rome is superb, with just two defeats in the last 24. One this May and one last May. That is the key to any level of success for Roma, but I still think City and Bayern will be too much for them.
They make up the quartet and are 12/1 to get into the next phase. They, like Man City, can't catch a break in the draw for the groups, but haven't got the strength of the English title holders. They should be tough at home especially around the winter months, but both City and Bayern beat them in Moscow in last year's remarkably similar group and with very little strengthening since, there's no reason why they won't both go and do the same again.
I'd like to make a case for Manchester City winning this group by boring their way to away draws and being strong enough to win all three home games, but Munich are so accomplished I'm going to be sensible and go for the Bayern Munich / Manchester City straight forecast at 6/5 in the soccer odds market.