The Champions League returns to our screens tomorrow night, and it’s fair to say the Ladbrokes News team are rather excited. But while we’re all looking forward to seeing heavyweights like Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Arsenal in action, there are plenty of intriguing plotlines elsewhere.
Among the 32 teams are several odds-against underdogs with the quality to make it through to the knockout rounds. Here are three sides likely to do just that…
FC Basel (Group A)
The Swiss supremos have made it to the last 16 of the Champions League twice in the last five seasons, beating the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool along the way. And FCB’s group is easier than it might initially appear.
Group favourites PSG have had a faltering start to the Ligue 1 campaign with just a point from their last two games, while Arsenal made heavy work of an easy group last time out, losing to Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb. As for outsiders Ludogorets, their main achievement is making it this far.
Basel also have the benefit of being in red-hot form, having won their first seven games in the Swiss Super League, scoring a mammoth 24 goals and conceding just five. That means tomorrow’s visitors Ludogorets should be worried, with Basel good value for victory at 7/10 on the night.
Best Bet: Basel to qualify from Group A @ 4/1
Monaco (Group E)
The principality club have made it to the UCL knockouts during three of their last five attempts, including an appearance in the final. They knocked out Arsenal in the latter stages as recently as March 2015, so the fact they’re 5/4 to make it through one of the weaker groups is quite a surprise.
Monaco have started the campaign in blistering form and find themselves top of Ligue 1 following a 4-1 thumping of Lille on Saturday. Brazilian right-back Fabinho has already netted three times, while young winger Bernardo Silva has been leaving defences in shreds.
Group favourites Tottenham are the only side capable of matching Monaco, with CSKA Moscow having won just five of their last 24 games in the competition, while Bayer Leverkusen haven’t made it past the round of 16 since 2002.
Best Bet: Dual Forecast – Tottenham/Monaco @ 13/5
Club Brugge (Group G)
While Group C is clearly the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’, it’s G which could be the best to watch, with a well-matched quartet of Leicester City, Porto, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen facing off. And the signs suggest the Belgians could just have the edge on their opponents.
For starters, they have some recent European pedigree. In 2014-15, Blau-Zwart topped their Europa League group ahead of Torino. And Copenhagen certainly won’t be relishing being drawn with Brugge, who hammered the Danes 4-0 in their own backyard during that season’s European run.
Factor in the signing of midfield magician Tomas Pina and goalscoring winger Anthony Limbombe this summer, and you have a side who can reach the last 16 of the Champions League in the perfect position.
Best Bet: Club Brugge to win Group G @ 13/2