The 25th edition of the Champions League kicks off on Tuesday with a host of teams from across the continent looking to get their campaign off to the best possible start.
On June 3 next year two sides will take to the hallowed turf of the Millennium….sorry, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff for the right to be named champions of Europe.
But every journey starts with a first step, so which teams will get the job done on Tuesday?
Barcelona vs Celtic (7:45pm)
The last time that Celtic stepped foot in the Nou Camp they lost 1-6, and so they will be looking to avoid a repeat of any such episode here.
Unfortunately, they have already lost on the road in Champions League qualifying to the might Lincoln Red Imps and Hapoel Be’er Sheva, and with Barcelona able to name their Messi-Suarez-Neymar front three for the first time this season he signs are ominous.
Bizarrely, the two teams enter this match in contrasting form; and probably not in the way in which you might expect. Celtic hammered their Old Firm rivals Rangers 5-1, and will be absolutely buzzing as a result. Barcelona, meanwhile, suffered a rather humbling 1-2 defeat at the hands of Alaves. That might not be good news for the Hoops however against a Catalan side in the mood for immediate rectitude.
Barca’s price of 1/9 speaks volumes, but an ability to win with ease at home (they’ve won seven of their last ten Champions League matches at the Nou Camp by two goals or more) means we can back them with a -2 handicap at 4/6 with Coral and walk away happy.
Also, Paddy Power have Neymar to score anytime at 1/3 – Betfair have the Brazilian at 19/20. We’ll take the latter price with gusto.
Bayern Munich vs Rostov (7:45pm)
This is FC Rostov’s first assault on the Champions League, and while they may experience some joy in their home matches – 4pm kick offs on a Tuesday afternoon in the bleak Russian mid-winter are something of a leveller – a trip to the Allianz Arena is a different kettle of fish altogether.
So far this season Bayern have played four, won four, scored fifteen, conceded none. They have won their last 12 Champions League matches at home and 18 of their last 20 in the Bundesliga.
It would be rude to imply that Bayern will run up a cricket score here – Rostov have beaten Ajax and Anderlecht in qualifying for the last 32 of the tournament – but clearly the Russians’ work is cut out for them.
Finding a price that represents value is nigh-on impossible then, although perhaps there’s a smidge in the 4/6 offered by SkyBet on Bayern -2.
Other than that punters have got nothing of interest to play with, so a speculative flutter on the 4-0 correct scoreline at 7/1 with Paddy Power is worth a try.
Manchester City vs Borussia M’gladbach (7:45pm)
Context is everything of course, but Borussia M’gladbach have lost eight of their last twelve away Bundesliga matches – conceding 25 goals along the way, and that will be of particular interest to Pep Guardiola and a Manchester City side on the crest of a wave after triumphing against their Mancunian rivals on Saturday lunchtime.
A 3-1 triumph against Young Boys ultimately got the Germans into the hat for the Champions League group phase, and coming less than a year as this fixture does since their 2-4 thrashing at the hands of City at their Etihad Stadium home, they probably could have wished for a better draw.
The standout bet here is City with a -1 handicap at 21/20 with Betfair, but we’re also willing to chance our arm on Both Teams to Score at 7/10 with Unibet considering that Guardiola’s side have conceded in all of their outings thus far this season.
Manchester City -1 Handicap at 21/20 with Betfair
Both Teams to Score at 7/10 with Unibet
PSG vs Arsenal (7:45pm)
These must be worrying times for PSG fans, who after seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Luiz leave the club this summer have also had to sit through a 1-3 defeat at the hands of Monaco and a 1-1 with St Etienne thus far. That’s hardly the template for a Ligue 1 champion.
There are two main problems with the loss of Zlatan and Luiz: both are huge characters, born leaders and respected amongst their peers, so to lose not one but two ‘champions’ is a disaster. The second is that neither has been adequately replaced, with Edison Cavani a mere shadow to Ibrahimovic’s goal scoring nous. Factor in a new coach, Unai Emery, that is clearly feeling his way in French football and you have a classic recipe for an away win.
But….Arsenal are hardly firing on all cylinders, are they? Played off the park by Leicester three weeks ago, they have since had to scrap tooth and nail to beat Watford and Southampton, and in attack they appear surprisingly toothless.
Defensively, well, Laurent Koscielny looks set to miss this match through injury, which means that Rob Holding – he who was part of Bolton’s relegation season to League One – will deputise.
This match has Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals written all over it; take the available double at bet365.
Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals at 6/5 with bet365