It may have escaped your attention if you’ve been living on the moon (I hear the Sea of Tranquillity is lovely at this time of year), but the Champions League group stage is back with a bang this week, with the cream of last season’s English top flight all out in force.
However, none of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal make it into our first Champions League group stage accumulator of the season, which will pay out at just under 12/1 if the required business is done.
Atletico Madrid to beat Olympiakos @ evens
Few teams could lose Diego Costa, Filipe Luis and Thibaut Courtois from their first team and still confidently claim they had a decent summer’s worth of comings and goings.
The La Liga champions can though, with Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Griezmann and Alessio Cerci’s arrival softening their Chelsea-induced blow considerably, while new goalie Miguel Moya has conceded just three goals in six games so far, with two of those scored by Real Madrid.
Los Colchoneros snatched seven points from away Champions League group stage fixtures last year, with their one draw coming long after qualification was secured. Get on.
Anderlecht double-chance v Galatasaray @ 21/20
As evidenced by their dreadful, devoid-of-inspiration showing over two legs against Chelsea in 2013/14’s Champions League last-16 stage, Gala are no world beaters.
Their opponents are top of the Jupiler Pro-League after seven games and unbeaten so far this term, with former Manchester United target Steven Defour back in his homeland and running many a show after three tricky years with Porto. Back Anderlecht to leave Turkey with at least a point.
Benfica to beat Zenit @ 20/21
Andre Villas-Boas’ Russian Premier League runners-up won’t be pushed over without a fight, but they’re facing a team that made the last two Europa League finals, and really should have taken the trinket at least once.
Having knocked Porto off their perch for only the third time in twelve seasons last term when winning the Primeira Liga, Jorge Jesus’ side should be set for a breakthrough year.
Monaco double-chance v Bayer Leverkusen @ 8/13
Leverkusen have started this season like a rocket, with two wins – including away to Borussia Dortmund – and a draw in the Bundesliga putting them above champions FC Bayern Munchen on goal difference.
However, the same Champions League failings that occurred under Sami Hyypia last term, when the pharmaceutical company-founded club won just one of four matches on the road, were again present when Roger Schmidt’s side travelled to Copenhagen in the playoff round.
Schmidt’s charges won 3-2, but only after going 2-1 down to Stale Solbakken’s men early doors.
A Monaco outfit that’s not nearly as bad as many are making out, with Joao Moutinho, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Dimitar Berbatov and Jeremy Toulalan all in line to start, look far too big to grab at least a draw on their Champions League return.