Tue, Sep 13, 4:12pm by Senior Writer
The group stage of the UEFA Champions League gets underway this week with eight games to be played Wednesday morning AEST and another eight to be played Thursday morning.
The highlight of the Wednesday morning matches will be the battle between French champion Paris St Germain and English club Arsenal as well as Spanish powerhouse Barcelona facing off against Scottish champions Celtic at the Camp Nou and Manchester City entertaining Borussia Monchengladbach.
On Thursday, Real Madrid begin their Champions League defence at home to Sporting Lisbon, while Tottenham host Monaco and Leicester City’s first Champions League tie as English champions sees them travel to Brugge.
The first French-English battle sees a slightly out-of-sorts PSG host the Gunners, with both sides desperate to progress further than they did last season. Arsenal bowed out to Barcelona at the Round of 16 while PSG made it the quarter finals only to edged out by Manchester City.
The Qatari owners of PSG have designs on being a European powerhouse but four years into the project we are yet to see them truly emerge as a competitor to the biggest clubs in the world. They have lost at the quarter-finals stage in the last four editions of the UCL.
However, the home side’s domestic form hardly inspires. Having lost to Monaco and drawn to St Etienne in their past two matches, they are just seventh of the Ligue 1 table.
Coincidentally, Arsenal, who have won their past two EPL games, have exactly the same record to sit in seventh in their league with seven points and +2 goal difference. Their campaign so far has been ho-hum.
Celtic are coming off a 5-1 league victory over Rangers on the weekend and while there was plenty of tension in the first Old Firm league derby in four years, it will be nothing compared to being thrown into the fire at Camp Nou.
Celtic actually beat Barcelona in this tournament in 2012, but the last time they got a point in Barcelona was way back in 2004.
Former Barca mentor Pep Guardiola has been brought to Manchester City to make them a serious Champions League challenger and this week’s match against Borussia Monchengladbach is a significant one.
City are yet to lose in six competitive fixtures under Guardiola and prevailed 2-1 over Man United at Old Trafford on the weekend. They go into this match as $1.40 favourites, with BMG, coming off a 3-1 loss to Frieburg, at $7.50 and the draw at $4.50.
Real Madrid’s record in this tournament surpasses all other and Zinedine Zidane begins his defence against Sporting Lisbon.
Real Madrid have won 18 of their past 20 Champions League matches at the Santiago Bernabeu and have won all three matches so far in La Liga. They haven’t lost a competitive match since April and go into this one as $1.22 favourites.
Tottenham embark on their first Champions League campaign in six years by hosting the current leaders of the French League Monaco at White Hart Lane.
Spurs haven’t lost in the Premier League yet, but haven’t overly impressed and will face a big challenge against Monaco, who have won five games on the bounce, including two tricky Champions League qualifiers against Villareal.
And Leicester City, who have secured just four points in the first four matches of their Premier League defence, make their Champions League bow against Club Brugge, who are in similarly poor form.
UEFA Champions League: Match Odds (William Hill)
Barcelona vs Celtic
Basel vs Ludogorets
Bayern Munich vs Rostov
Benfica vs Besiktas
Din. Kiev vs Napoli
Man City vs M’gladbach
Paris S.G. vs Arsenal
PSV vs Atl Madrid
Club Brugge vs Leicester
Juventus vs Sevilla
Legia Warsaw vs Dortmund
Leverkusen vs CSKA Moscow
Lyon vs Din. Zagreb
Porto vs FC Copenhagen
Real Madrid vs Sport. Lisbon
Tottenham vs Monaco
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