Chelsea are already odds on for the Premier League after just 4 games but Jose Mournhio’s side look excellent value to go furthest of all the English clubs in Europe this season.
The Portuguese has a fine second season record, having won European titles with Porto and Inter, and his Chelsea side looks to be one of the strongest he’s had in his many years at the club. A side with that much power did not need that much tinkering but the addition of Diego Costa – who scored 8 for Atletico in this competition last season – gives a real edge for the latter stage should he stay fit while Cesc Fabregas is thriving in a creative role with runners outside of him.
The presence of Nemanja Matic was sorely missed but he is allowed to play which means a much tighter defence for opposition in the knockout stages to get at, with Tuibaut Courtois (a keeper of the highest quality) and Filipe Luis (one of the best fullbacks in the world last season)
Chelsea got furthest last year in any case and are well stocked to go far again with a very easy group – the best of the home sides by a distance – and hopefully from then on a reasonable last 16 tie before the quarter finals.
Manchester City are next best and improvingly slowly but getting through their group alone would be an achievement – their record against Bayern does not bode well for a start – while they faced a fairly below par Barcelona according to most observers and were well beaten in the last 16 there. They have the personnel, but as a side, could still be a season or more away.
Arsenal’s FA Cup success was an important milestone but a failure to build on a good transfer window has left them very short defensively and while their European record on the road is surprisingly strong, their record against big teams leaves a lot to be desired and so do their attacking options with one injury to Danny Welbeck leaving them exposed again.
Liverpool are of interest, considering that they have signed well and should get through their group with reasonable ease, but they are likely to be second behind Real Madrid – who have plenty of time to get their act together before travelling to Anfield (October the 22nd) – leaving them with a tough last 16 they have the attacking tools to beat anyone but shipped 50 last term and with many players and Brendan Rodgers lacking lacking European experience, that could be their Achilles heel.
Retaining this year’s Champions League may be beyond them but Real Madrid can still be expected to rack up the goals and they make great appeal to be this season’s top scorers. Most of the groups are expected to be uncompetitive affairs in terms of qualification but there are some major crunch clashes for many that could end up being tight affairs.
It is obvious that Madrid would be favourites after scoring an incredible 41 goals – but things are well set up for them to go close to repeating the feat again. With so many of Europe’s elite so tightly matched, the most goals are scored in the group stages and nearly all of the sides that can be expected to make a bold bid have found themselves with at least one testing opponent in the groups this year which makes it difficult to be confident about most of the leading players.
Bayern Munich are third favourites here but have Roma and Manchester City in their group before the knockouts, so none of them make significant appeal while second favourites Barcelona also have to deal with PSG – their last knockout encounter was entertaining but they won 3-2 on aggregate which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.
Chelsea are another interesting candidate. When the knockouts come they may put the barriers up but they could rack up plenty of goals in a very weak group beforehand. They have scored 3 or more goals in all but one of their Premier League games including 6 on the road at Everton and could also land a soft last 16 tie too. Chelsea scored just the 19 goals last year but this season are playing far more expansive football early and should be able to put more than 12 goals past their opponents before Febuary.
Madrid have 4 games against Basel and minnows Ludogretz before the knockouts and even then they should feel confident of making and taking plenty of chances against a Liverpool side that gave up plenty of chances last season on their way to conceding 50 goals including 2 goals against Chelsea, City, Arsenal, and Everton on their travels last year.
In the knockouts they can rely upon Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to score plenty of goals for them – they scored 3 at home against Dortmund, 5 against Bayern over two legs and 9 in a last 16 trashing of Schalke –and for all that they’ve looked rickety in eh opening weeks of the season, they did not fail to cut Socidead open before things went wrong and they should be able to post a big goalscoring tally.
Of the outsiders, in a weak group Dortmund make potential appeal with Arsenal vulnerable in defence and Anderlecht and Galatasaray both teams they should be aiming to beat and beat handsomely. Klopp’s men boast the
5 pts Chelsea to progress furthest of the English teams (7/5 Paddy Power)
4 pts Real Madrid highest scoring team (2/1 Bet Victor)
1 pt Chelsea highest scoring team (12/1 general)
1 pt Borussia Dortmund highest scoring team (25/1 general)