Champions League – Group Stage Game One Picks
The UEFA Champions League truly begins this week with the first of six games in the Group Stage. The draw itself creates a buzz; we spend week bemoaning or celebrating the mercy or favor of the draw, but now it is time to put up or shut up and the action shifts from the hypothetical to the beautiful pitch.
Certain games will obviously create a little more interest than others. The marquee matchup is Wednesday’s matchup between Barcelona and Juventus, but in truth, as entertaining and enticing as it is to see how Barca respond in their first ECL game since last season’s disappointing exit against last year’s runner-up, the result likely matters little. It is unlikely both don’t advance and aside from the Round of 16 draw (possible) edge to winning the Group versus finishing second, there isn’t a ton of stress in the result. A game like Group C’s opener between Roma and Atletico Madrid has much more significant tournament-shaping importance.
Here’s a quick look at the slate of action on Tuesday – all times listed are Eastern Standard
Tuesday’s ECL Matchups & Lines
Group A: Tuesday 2:45 pm
- Benfica -160 vs. CKA Moscow +475 (Draw: +275, Total: 2 ½ )
- Manchester United -575 vs. Basel +1500 (Draw: +650, Total: 3)
Group B: Tuesday 2:45 pm
- Celtic +1100 vs. Paris Saint-Germain -425 (Draw: +550, Total: 3 ½)
- Bayern Munich -1400 vs. Anderlecht +2500 (Draw: +1000, Total: 4)
Group C: Tuesday 2:45 pm
- Roma +180 vs. Atletico Madrid +165 (Draw: +210, Total: 2)
- Chelsea -1100 vs. Karabakh +2800 (Draw: +850, Total: 3)
Group D: Tuesday 2:45 pm
- Barcelona -145 vs. Juventus +390 (Draw: +285, Total: 3)
- Olympiacos +160 vs. Sporting CP +185 (Draw: 205, Total: 2)
The marquee game of the day is Barca and Juve in a matchup of a pair of teams that have been deep in this tournament in the past two seasons, but by no means is that the only top action on Tuesday. The “other game” in Group D is a HUGE potential three points if either team has any dreams of upsetting the established hierarchy. Likewise, Tuesday is enormous for Roma, a chance to open at home against Atletico. Anything less than three will leave their relatively unlikely hopes of advancing in perilously slim shape.
A large handful of favorites open at home in games their should win relatively easily. Will Bayern, Chelsea, or Manchester United have any hiccups? Can their lesser opponents Anderlecht, Karabakh, or Basel shock the sporting world?
Here are my two favorite wagers on the board for Tuesday.
What to Watch For Tuesday
1. Manchester’s Firepower Produces Results:
Manchester United was stifled this weekend at Stoke, their first non-win of the EPL season. However, they still mustered a pair of goals on the road against a tough back line of Stoke, and it is hard to argue that their focus and attention was drifting to this midweek debut on the biggest stage of the Champions League. They’ve tallied 12 goals in their last four matches and Saturday were their first concessions of the season. Expect them to tighten up at home this week against visiting Basel.
The Swiss club has been pretty underwhelming in their own league – a league that obviously pales in comparison to the Premiership, drawing twice and losing once in their last three matches. They are fresh off a 2-1 home loss to Lausanne and drew 1-1 at Sion and at home against Lugano. They are in for a rough afternoon at Old Trafford. The -575 isn’t a great value, though it is VERY tough to see them not winning this game at home. The better value might be -1 ½ at -180. They should be able to tally at least two goals at home, where they haven’t conceded a goal yet this season. If you are feeling a little bolder, you can lay the full two goals at -105, but you are bringing a push readily into the equation.
2. Roma’s Golden Opportunity Goes Sideways
Roma has a real opportunity to compete in their Group if they can grab an early three against Atletico. But I don’t think the Italian squad will capitalize. Roma has won only one game in their last seven home games in ECL play, and Atletico is two years removed from a Finals appearance and has had a ton of ECL success in the past three campaigns. If not for pesky countrymates Real Madrid, perhaps Atletico would even have a championship to their names.
Alas, Roma NEEDS a result, but I think they come up short. Atletico is a juicy value at +165 to win, but a more conservative wager would be on the two-way line (which removed the very likely draw result) at -120. As long as they do not lose, and again Roma has home Champions League matches, you don’t either.
Wednesday delivers another eight matches, with a couple obvious highlights including Tottenham hosting Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool hosting Sevilla. Here’s a rundown of the entire slate of Wednesday action.
WEDNESDAY’S ECL MATCHUPS & LINES:
Group E: Wednesday 2:45 pm
- Liverpool -140 vs. Sevilla +370 (Draw: +290, Total: 3)
- Maribor +335 vs. Spartak Moscow -120 (Draw: +245, Total: 2.5)
Group F: Wednesday 2:45 pm
- Shakhtar Donetsk +235 vs. Napoli +115 (Draw: +245, Total: 2.5)
- Feyenoord +700 vs. Manchester City -235 (Draw: +380, Total: 3)
Group G: Wednesday 2:45 pm
- FC Porto -200 vs. Besiktas +600 (Draw: +310, Total: 2 ½)
- Leipzig +115 vs. Monaco +230 (Draw: +255, Total 2 ½)
Group H: Wednesday 2:45 pm
- Real Madrid -2500 vs. APOEL +4000 (Draw: +1900, Total: 2 ½)
- Tottenham Hotspur +130 vs. Borussia Dortmund +195 (Draw: +250, Total 2 ½)
Aside from Real Madrid’s virtual scrimmage against APOEL, we have a largely balanced and competitive slate of Wednesday action, including some hugely pivotal games between Liverpool and Sevilla and Spurs vs. Dortmund. But the Shakhtar vs. Napoli game is an important one, especially with Shakhtar getting a chance to make an early statement by grabbing three at home (a loss would all but cripple their hopes). Likewise, Porto would be wise to get all three at home against Beskitas while Leipzig and Monaco have an important duel in a wide-open Group G.
Here are my two favorite plays on an awesome Wednesday of action.
What to Watch For Wednesday
1. No Dele, No Goals
Tottenham delivered an impressive result this weekend, going into Everton and laying the wood to the Toffee’s 3-0. But they may find their offense a little stunted as they host a talented Bundesliga squad while . Alli is serving the first of his three-game European match suspension on Wednesday and it puts a lot of pressure on Harry Kane to deliver.
Dortmund has conceded just a single goal in their last five matches and beat Tottenham 5-1 on aggregate in the 2015-2016 Europa League. Dortmund is stout defensively, and Spurs are shorthanded. It adds up to a missed opportunity at home to get a much-needed three points, and could very well be what prevents them from advancing past the Group Stage of the competition.
Dortmund is an intriguing value at +195 on the three-way wager, but you can eliminate the loss on a hard-fought draw by taking them on the two-way at +115.
2. Leipzig Opens in Style
No European squad has ever made the Group Stage in their debut in European competition, but that is exactly what Red Bulls will be doing Wednesday. They host defending semifinalist and French champions Monaco, no easy task, but one I think this emerging German power is equipped to handle. Their meteoric rise from Bundesliga debutant to ECL participant in the span of a year is insane, but I see no reason to doubt them now. Monaco clearly had their eyes on this game, getting housed 4-0 in Sunday’s trip to Nice, but will obviously field a fuller and more focused squad in Germany.
But I don’t think it will be quite enough. My favorite play this Wednesday is Leipzig -1/2 at +115 on the two-way line, or +115 on the three-way (same wager). I think they get a HUGE three points to open Group G and stake a legitimate claim to advancing into the Knockout Phase of the Tournament.