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Two teams leap off the UEFA Champions League coupon as being well worth opposing as the group stage gets under way this week and those teams are Monchengladbach and Juventus.
Monchengladbach is shaping as this season’s Dortmund in that it is a German Bundesliga giant stuck on the wrong half of the divisional ladder. Monchengladbach spent more money on transfers than it received during the European summer but the early signs are that the Foals are missing Max Kruse badly. Kruse scored 11 German Bundesliga goals last term and, equally importantly, he assisted for another nine.
It is a fine line between jumping to conclusions based on a sample size of four German Bundesliga matches and being too slow to react that what seems to be a trend. One could have forgiven Monchengladbach for losing 0-4 at Dortmund on the opening weekend of the German Bundesliga but it is difficult to turn a blind eye to losses to Mainz, Bremen and Hamburg, particularly the latter. One cannot think of a worse way to prepare for a UEFA Champions League assignment at Sevilla than losing 0-3 at home to a hugely flawed Hamburg side.
Monchengladbach’s third-place German Bundesliga finish last season was built upon its strong defence and ability to eke out one-goal wins. Monchengladbach has scored two German Bundesliga goals since Wolfsburg signed Kruse and it has leaked 11 goals – only the defensively incompetent duo Hannover and Stuttgart have hit double digits as well.
One would prefer Sevilla’s recent results to be stronger than what it has recorded but its home form has been very good for a very long period of time. Since the beginning of last term, Sevilla has played 31 home games across a range of domestic and international competitions for 23 wins, six draws and two losses, with the defeats occurring against Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid. Monchengladbach was not in the class of Atletico or Real last season and the Foals are even further behind those Spanish superpowers this season.
Bet365 and William Hill are among the bookmakers which are offering odds of -161 about Sevilla making a successful start in UEFA Champions League Group D and that Tuesday wager is the most attractive option on the entire card.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has ruled out Sergio Aguero for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League Group D versus Juventus at Etihad Stadium but the Citizens coach expects both David Silva and Raheem Sterling to take part against an Old Lady team that is in a bit of a mess.
Juventus is clinging on to Italian Serie A title favouritism but the Old Lady are probably only one more below-par result away from giving way to Roma. Opinions were split right down the middle about Juventus before the Italian Serie A season kicked off and the Old Lady have done little in their first three league matches to convince the Doubting Thomases – they required an 83rd-minute penalty kick to draw 1-1 with Chievo and avoid the ignominy of three consecutive losses.
The numerous personnel changes appear to have caught up with Juventus and one would say that it is playing like a bunch of talented individuals rather than as a team. What Juventus would have given to kick off its UEFA Champions League Group D campaign with a home game against Monchengladbach rather than an away match versus Manchester City. And Manchester City must see Tuesday’s fixture as a great opportunity to get a big scalp and put itself in a good position to make progress in the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
Manchester City is available at odds of -125 with several bookmakers, including Coral and PaddyPower, to beat Juventus and one thinks that is the second best UEFA Champions League bet provided that Silva and Sterling play.
Finally, one thinks that the quality gap between Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal is greater than the betting on the UEFA Champions League Group F game suggests. Arsenal is a grade or two short of Europe’s top brass but the Gunners should have too much all-round ability for a Dinamo Zagreb team that, en route to the UEFA Champions League group stage, drew 1-1 at home to Luxembourg’s Fola Esch and needed the away-goals rule to get the better of Norway’s Molde.
Betfred are among the bookmakers which are listing Arsenal at odds of -200 to defeat Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia and the Gunners look good bets on their travels.
Sevilla to beat Monchengladbach
15th September 19:45 GMT
Man City to beat Juventus
15th September 19:45 GMT
Arsenal to beat Dinamo Zagreb
16th September 19:45 GMT
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