It won’t be long now until the Champions League proper is upon us, once the likes of FC Santa Coloma, Havnar Boltfelag and La Fiorita shuffle out of the preliminaries.
There are a number of European powerhouses making their return to the competition this term after spells away, and the three below should be of particular interest to those who fancy a shrewd outsider bet on this oft-unpredictable tournament.
Monaco @ 25/1
The principality club’s halcyon days in the late ’80s and ’90s – when coaches Arsene Wenger and Jean Tigana worked with superstars such as Glenn Hoddle, Jurgen Klinsmann, Lillian Thuram and Thierry Henry – could be here again under new boss Leonardo Jardim and owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.
Monaco made it all the way to the final of the Champions League just over a decade ago, before financial issues dragged them down into France’s second tier, where they languished from 2011-13.
Rybolovlev’s rubles have already brought in world-class talent such as Colombian duo Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, and the sorry current state of Ligue 1 should ensure they’re not overstretched at the weekends in their first season back at the top table.
Liverpool @ 28/1
Luis Suarez’s long-expected departure has swelled the Scouse coffers by a reported £75m, and the Reds’ return to this lucrative competition had already signalled a Brendan Rodgers buying spree.
The Northern Irishman has already brought in Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert for fees approaching £40m, and more signings – including Belgium’s World Cup springer Divock Origi and Benfica winger Lazar Markovic – are expected.
Don’t forget, Liverpool are the joint-third most successful club in the history of the European Cup/Champions League with five wins, and have made the final seven times in total.
Roma @ 33/1
The Giallorossi have been going about their business quietly but confidently this summer, after making it back into Serie A’s Champions League spots last term for the first time in four years.
Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita have signed, while midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Kevin Strootman look extremely likely to stick around the Eternal City, and although centre-half Mehdi Benatia seems certain to leave, Roma will expect to make a huge profit on a player they paid Udinese €13.5m for last summer.
Coach Rudi Garcia has his feet firmly under the Stadio Olimpico table, having finished second behind recent Scudetti dominators Juventus during his first term in charge, so expect a good showing from his charges on their return to Europe’s main event.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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