Chelsea and Roma are the most attractively priced home teams as the UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off with 16 mouth-watering matches across two days of competition.
The European football season for most of the top nations is less than two months old but one is willing to declare Diego Costa as the signing of the season already. Costa was the player whom Chelsea needed to have a crack at regaining domestic and continental honours and his record of nine goals in his first five games for the Blues is terrific.
Chelsea, which reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last term, has to go close to its second title in four years if Costa stays fit. Chelsea’s first UEFA Champions League assignment is a home match versus Group G rival Schalke and, with several bookmakers including Ladbrokes and William Hill listing the Blues at odds of -278 , one is keen to back Jose Mourinho’s side in singles and multiples.
Schalke has carried over its pathetic pre-season form into its competitive games. Unable to get the better of English Premier League teams Newcastle, Tottenham and West Ham in warm-up matches, Schalke is 16th in the German Bundesliga after three rounds and out of the German DFB-Pokal also, with its away record reading loss, loss and loss.
Monchengladbach became the latest side to smash Schalke on its travels, romping to a 4-1 home victory on the back of drawing with Freiburg and Stuttgart in its previous German Bundesliga games. Embarrassing is an appropriate term to describe Schalke at the moment and one gives it little chance of avoiding defeat against Chelsea in London.
Chelsea beat Schalke 3-0 home and away in last season’s UEFA Champions League and it is obvious that the English Premier League team has improved since those meetings and the German Bundesliga side has deteriorated. If Fernando Torres could score two goals away to Schalke in October, how many goals is Costa going to score at home to Schalke on Wednesday?
Kicking off at the same time as Chelsea and Schalke will be Roma and CSKA Moskva in the Eternal City. Roma is trading at odds of -167 with William Hill, odds that one had to double and triple check because they appeared to be over the top.
Roma negotiated a tricky first Italian Serie A assignment to defeat Fiorentina 2-0 at home and followed up that with a 1-0 win away to Empoli. One of three Italian Serie A teams with a 100 per cent record, Roma was unbeaten in 21 home matches before Juventus scored in the dying moments of their Italian Serie A clash in May to snatch a 1-0 win in a game that was not hugely significant given that the outcome of the championship race had been decided prior to it.
CSKA Moskva is six points adrift of Russian Premier League leader Zenit after seven rounds but significantly it has failed its two toughest assignments. Also, CSKA Moskva crashed out of last term’s UEFA Champions League in the group stage with a record of one win and five losses, with its away games resulting in a 0-3 loss to Bayern Munchen, a 2-5 loss to Manchester City and a 1-2 loss to Plzen.
Fans of short-priced favourites will get stuck into Juventus and Liverpool, both of which win their UEFA Champions League group matches with something to spare. But one’s final pick is Leverkusen to beat Monaco away from home, an option that is available at the tasty odds of +130 with William Hill.
Leverkusen should have been five goals in front of Werder Bremen in Friday’s German Bundesliga game that did not go according to the script. It ended 3-3 and even Bremen’s former Leverkusen coach, Robin Dutt, admitted that the result was unjust. One is keen to follow Leverkusen in the short to medium term and one thinks that it will approach its UEFA Champions League Group C match versus Monaco in the principality no different to the way that it would approach such a game in Germany.
The manner in which Leverkusen is playing under ex-Salzburg manager Roger Schmidt makes it hard to stop unless everyone on the opposition side is pulling the same direction. One is far from convinced that Monaco is that type of team and its home advantage is not that big because a man and his dog describes the crowd at the Stade Louis II. Monaco is last but one in French Ligue 1 following five rounds.
Roma to beat CSKA Moskva
17th September 19:45 GMT
Where to Bet: William Hill
Leverkusen to beat Monaco
16th September 19:45 GMT
Where to Bet: William Hill
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