The Champions League is Back with a Bang!

Have you spent all summer craving the sound of that glorious Champions League anthem? No me neither, but let’s not pretend it won’t be fantastic to feast on European football’s elite doing battle again this week. We’ve missed it.

Football betting expert Adrian Clarke looks ahead to five cracking ties involving Premier League clubs…

Manchester United v Basel

Of all the British raiders, Manchester United look best equipped to go deep in this season’s Champions League.

They give away precious few chances, are tactically sound, and have enough talent to score goals in a variety of ways.

They will win an easy group at a canter, so I see them as nailed-on quarter-finalists in 2018.

This Old Trafford opener shouldn’t exert too much energy.

Norwich flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel is a possible danger man (he has six goals in six starts) but Raphael Wicky’s side aren’t in great form, and don’t travel brilliantly in Europe.

They’ve drawn their last two league games against inferior opposition, and were quite frankly powder puff away from home in last season’s competition, failing to score in each of their three group phase contests.

With an element of revenge in the air (remember Basel knocking United out in 2011?) I see this as a comfy home victory for a side that cruised to Europa League glory just a few months ago.

Prediction:

Manchester United 3 Basel 0 (23/4)

 

Chelsea v Qarabag

The Azerbaijani champions may be nicknamed ‘The Horsemen’, but I don’t see them riding off into the West London sunset with anything other than a hiding on MD1.

Manager Gurban Gurbanov is Qarabag’s greatest ever boss, but this is a trip into the unknown for him and his minnows, who have made it to the group stage for the first time in their history.

I expect them to play defensively, trying to eek out a goalless draw, but it’s hard to envisage a dominant Chelsea not having the wherewithal to open them up, perhaps from half time onwards.

With in-form Willian at the forefront, and Alvaro Morata eager to make a positive European impression, this should be a stroll in the park.

Prediction:

Chelsea 4 Qarabag 0 (6/1)

Chelsea to score in both halves (8/15)

Feyenoord v Manchester City

Pep Guardiola would have wanted a cushier opener than this.

Feyenoord, for so long a sleeping giant of Dutch football, are back with a bang under Gio van Bronckhorst, who led them to an impressive title triumph last term.

With the Rotterdam faithful full of beans, the hosts will be roared on by a fanatical support at the De Kuip Stadium, where Manchester United were beaten 1-0 last year.

Attitudes will be the key to City’s prospects of grabbing a three-point haul.

Should they bring their A-game and total concentration, Pep’s boys will have too much class.

Should they take their eyes off the ball, don’t be shocked to see a slip-up.

On the back of an international break, against a team brimming with self-belief, this is a tricky first game.

Prediction:

Feyenoord 1 Manchester City 1 (15/2)

Draw (18/5)

 

Liverpool v Sevilla

The Reds are playing beautifully at the moment, creating chances for fun and defending from the front with purposeful aggression.

While I have doubts these standards will be maintained over the full season at Anfield, their current momentum will surely make life nightmarish for Sevilla, who were Liverpool’s conquerors not so long ago in the 2016 Europa League Final.

Former Premier League ‘stars’ Jesus Navas and Nolito will line up for the classy La Liga outfit, but they don’t look quite as strong on paper as they did last term.

Providing Firmino, Mane and Salah carry on their tremendous form, Liverpool should get off to a morale-boosting start to the group.

It’s an old cliché, but Anfield under the lights in Europe is often worth at least a goal start.

Prediction:

Liverpool 2 Sevilla 1 (7/1)

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Borussia Dortmund

Peter Bosz, the mastermind behind Ajax’s run to last season’s Europa League Final, is in charge at Borussia Dortmund these days – and he’s got off to a fabulous start across the border.

Winning both Bundesliga matches without conceding a goal, playing some sweetly made football in the process, the Germans will come to Wembley with a victory on their minds – and so they should with the brilliant Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang supported by whiz kid Christian Pulisic.

In last year’s group stage Dortmund bagged 21 goals in 6 games, so they really do know where the net is.

Spurs will go on the attack too, make no mistake about that. This should be a thrilling game to watch, perhaps the best of any MD1 clash.

Eighteen months ago the Germans did the double over Tottenham, but this time I sense the hosts might fare a bit better. They need an uplifting display at their new home.

A draw wouldn’t be disastrous for either side, so that’s the result I envisage.

Prediction:

Tottenham 2 Borussia Dortmund 2 (19/2)

Draw (49/20)