Champions League: Outright Picks & English Club Predictions

The Champions League has reached a key stage, after two group games, in which we can begin to assess how well each team can do, and who might be a useful outside bet for the title. Below we look at some outstanding sides that might get to the sharp end of proceedings, and we give you top bets and predictions for the four English clubs in their upcoming matches. All odds are at the time of writing and are subject to change.

OUTSTANDING TEAMS

Napoli
This shouldn't come as any surprise, really, but Napoli has been electric in the Champions League. A first defeat in Serie A, away to Atalanta, has dulled optimism about beating Juventus to the title, but we've seen time and again that if a well-balanced team is willing to prioritise the Champions League over domestic fortunes, success can follow, as shown by a 4-2 win over Benfica last time out.

Particularly impressive had been the way head coach Maurizio Sarri has integrated new signing Arkadiusz Milik into his possession-based 4-3-3. The Pole was on an impressive scoring run, hitting eight goals already, looking tailor-made for the latter stages of European competition. Milik has injured his anterior cruciate ligaments, one of the worst injuries a footballe can have. His absence is Napoli's biggest difficulty. If the team can adapt to the hole he leaves in the attack, Napoli could well "do an Atletico Madrid" and challenge the existing European superclubs in the knockout rounds - however this is now looking a much bigger ask.

Odds to Win Outright: 60/1 with Unibet

Atletico Madrid
Talking of Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone is still there, and it's business as usual for this rugged team of high-pressers. Unbeaten for the season so far (including a draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou), there's little doubt this side will challenge for the La Liga title.

Champions League glory has proved more difficult, but this is one of the best-equipped sides to pose a tactical challenge to its Spanish rivals, and indeed it leads Bayern Munich in the group stages. There aren't many better super-mobile false-nines in world football than Antoine Griezmann (who has scored six times for the club), and Kevin Gamiero (who has three) is an impressive addition.

Odds to Win Outright: 13/1 with BetStars

Monaco
A couple of seasons ago, it was looking like Dmitry Rybovlev's Monaco masterplan wouldn't work out. In spite of lavishing millions on his corporate plaything, the Russian oligarch wasn't seeing much of a return in terms of domestic or European glory. Falcao (and his massive wages) was loaned out to Manchester United then Chelsea, possibly in an attempt to balance the books for Financial Fair Play purposes, and Paris Saint Germain, owned by the investment arm of the Qatari government, was cleaning up in Ligue 1.

Monaco is, surprisingly, not behind PSG in Ligue 1, but local rival Nice, coached by rising management star Lucien Favre. Leonardo Jardim's team has improved considerably this season, though, and only one defeat, plus a berth on top of a group containing Tottenham, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow, should ensure safe passage to the latter stages.

Odds to Win Outright: 200/1 with Unibet

Leicester City
Come on, Leicester couldn't go and win the Champions League, could it? It's the longest of long shots, but having already missed out on 5,000/1 odds for Claudio Ranieri's side to win the Premier League, the odds of something even more incredible happening are worth a shot if you have a couple of quid spare.

Manchester City fans might rightly wonder why their team has routinely faced the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the early stages, while Leicester kicked off its Champions League experience with wins over a badly-organised Club Bruges, a faltering Porto and a forthcoming physical encounter with FC Copenhagen.

The big games are still to come, but the exciting thing, again, for Foxes fans is there is zero expectation from the European elites, and that's exactly how Jamie Vardy and company like it. A quarter-final slot, with a kind draw, is conceivable, as is a surprise run to the latter stages.

Odds to Win Outright: 50/1 with Winner Sports
Odds to Reach the Final: 20/1 with BetVictor

English Clubs: Next Games to Bet On

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs are on a good run at the moment, in spite of the absence with injury of Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele. Those players will return eventually, but one of the joys of the English season so far has been in watching Son Heung-Min fill the striker's position in the Spurs team so well.

Son returns, fitness permitting, to his former club when Spurs visit the BayArena for the game that will probably decide who ultimately qualifies for the knockout stages, so close are the group standings after two games. It's been a patchy season for Bayer, which has lost twice in the Bundesliga and drawn both its opening games in Europe. Spurs, with its high-intensity game, is built for difficult away games, but there is likely to be only one goal in the margin of victory either way here.

Top Bet: 27/20 with Betway for a one-goal margin of victory either way.

Leicester City vs. FC Copenhagen

This is intriguing. Leicester's biggest successes over the past season-and-a-bit have been against flowing, showy, possession-based teams who didn't develop a strategy to defend against pacy counter-attacking and precise long balls. In a way, Leicester is a rewind to an older, but still effective, style of English football.

Copenhagen, like a lot of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian teams, have developed based on English footballing values like solid defending, fast wing play and a physical centre-forward or two. Four points clear at the top of the Danish Superliga, Stale Solbakken's team has drawn and won its two Champions League games, and will defend for its life at the King Power Stadium. Don't be surprised to see a draw.

Top Bet: 5/2 with Betway for a draw

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19

Arsenal vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Arsenal is playing well in the Premier League, and has performed to par in Europe, with a routine 2-0 win over Basel at home following a draw against Paris Saint Germain that most fans felt was a missed opportunity to win at the Parc des Princes and take the group by the jugular.

Ludogorets showed by drawing against Basel that it isn't unsuited to this level, and if Jonathan Cafu is on his game, the Gunners' centre-backs will have something to think about, but this should be a narrow win in the end for the home side.

Top Bet: 7/2 with Betway for a half-time/full-time result of draw/Arsenal

Barcelona vs. Manchester City
The authentic European superpower takes on the emerging team that wants to be there. This is also another return for Pep Guardiola to his spiritual home, having been a player and a manager at Barcelona for most of his football career.

How this game goes will depend on many variables. Lionel Messi is struggling with an injury at the moment. Whether he plays or not, Neymar, Luis Suarez and either Rafinha or Paco Alcacer represent a formidable frontline for a defence that has shown it can be got-at. If the referee allows the game to flow (the Camp Nou atmosphere seems to do something to a lot of men in the middle), and if Fernandinho has the game of his life in defensive midfield, City can get away with a point.

Top Bet: 13/4 with 10Bet for a draw

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