Champions League 2017-18: Groups E-H Verdict

Group E


Liverpool are so often at their best before Christmas and they can go through top. Jurgen Klopp’s record against the top 6 domestically bodes very well for their challenge here and whilst their defence can be an Achilles heel in the competition, they look to have plenty of firepower to get through the group stages. The front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firminho all scored against Hoffenheim.


Sevilla have started La Liga well and made it thanks to a dramatic tie that saw them go through 4-3 on aggregate but there is the raw quality to make it to the last 16 at least. Nolito, Jesus Navas and Ever Banega are a quality trio of players for new manager Eduardo Berizzo to work with and the good form of Ganso is also a very helpful tool to have. The Spaniards should be confident of getting through to the last 16 once again.


The inclusion of Spartak Moscow as a top seed has worked out very handily for the two favourites, with the surprise Russian Champions of last season. They have already lost to  Zenit (5-1) and CSKA Moscow (2-1) which suggests a difficult few weeks are ahead despite having a respectable team on paper.


Advice: 2 pts Liverpool (8/11 Sportingbet)


Group F


The two must watch fixtures of this section are on October 17 and November 1 as Napoli and Manchester City clash for what should be top spot. City’s European games do not disappoint with Pep Guardiola’s men having even more attacking talent on board whilst Napoli scored 97 goals last season and have won their first three Serie A games this season (along with a pair of wins over Nice to make it here).


The gap between the two actually appears to be a tad too big given the highly likely possibility of their two games turning into a straight shootout (take City v Monaco last season, or perhaps Napoli v Real Madrid, for a reference point) but it would be a surprise if they did not make it and perhaps doubling up the dual forecast with other group options might be a profitable way to support the pair.


That Shakhtar Donetsk are even here considering that troubles that surround them is an impressive achievement and the Ukrainian Champions were a full 13 points clear of Dynamo Kiev and they do have plenty going forward if the trio of Marlos, Bernard and Taison can get going. However, playing so far away from home has been a significant hindrance and it’s doubtful that they can match the quality of the top two.


It’s far easier to say that for Feynoord, who won the Dutch title after 17 long years last season but who also lost Terence Kongolo and Rick Karsdorp from their defence. They were knocked out of their Group in the Europa League last season and this is a very strong section they’ve found.


Advice: 2 pts Man City/Napoli dual forecast, Real Madrid to win Group H (2.27 Hills)



Group G

This ought to be very tight but Monaco are still a useful side despite having lost the starts of the previous campaign over the summer. They’re a different side and a weaker one with the departures of Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and Tiemoue Bakayoko and Kylian Mbappe, undoubtedly.


But Leonardo Jardim can still count upon Joao Moutinhio, Fabinhio, Thomas Lemar, Radamel Falcao and Kamil Gilik in what is still a very useful side and if one forgives their 4-0 defeat at Nice (a bogey side for the club) they deserve to be favourites even in the most well-balanced group and should fancy their chances of making the last 16 again at least.


Red Bull Leipzig are the one side from Pot 4 that everybody wanted to avoid and whilst this is a Champions League debut for them, they have the talent to handle it. Manager Ralf Rangnick is one of their biggest assets and he has Naby Keita for one more season before he goes to Liverpool whilst Timo Werner, their 21-goal hero last season, is one of a precious crop of youngers who can take their football onto the biggest stage with confidence.


Porto’s new manager Sergio Conceicao took the club from relegation material to seventh in Ligue 1 and he has won all five games so far with Porto, which include a very taking 1-0 win at Braga when the score should have been more in Porto’s favour 9they played away that day).


Besitkas have signed very well too and they have signed very well in a bid to avoid a repeat of last season’s disappointing end to the group company when they lost 6-0 to Dynamo Kiev despite taking four points off Napoli. And -body can deny their summer recruitment has been extremely impressive with Alvaro Negredo, Gary Medel and Pepe bringing in top class experience across the park. They will be tougher to beat than the markets expect.


Advice: No bet.


Group H


The group of death but one which Real Madrid can win. European Champions in three of the last four years, they beat all comers on their way to taking eh title last season and there is no team in Europe that they fear; Expect two straight draws at the Bernabeu to become mere aberrations in future.


The fight for second ought to be between Dortmund and Tottenham, and it is very tight to call. Spurs’ dispiriting performances at Wembley and especially in Europe last year are not encouraging sings ahead of this much tougher campaign, although they have played much better than their results would suggest so far in the Premier League there so far and it’s unlikely their quality won’t begin to shine through at some point.


Dortmund were very poor in their weekend draw at Freiburg when they played for over an hour with a man’s advantage but before that they had won their games in the Bundesliga impressively under a solid start for new man Peter Bosz. It’s worth remembering that last season they were asked to play their first leg just 24 hours after the bombing of their team bus prior to their quarter-final against Monaco and in the circumstances, they performed well missing Marc Batra.


The Wembley game tonight will tell us a lot about the positions of that pairing and for APOEL this is the tour of a lifetime that they should enjoy, although it will be hard for them to make any real sort of impact.


Advice: 2 pts Man City/Napoli dual forecast, Real Madrid to win Group H (2.27 Hills)