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Andrea Calo 7th Aug 2008 - 14:57

Champions League glory beckons for usual suspects

William Hill’s betting odds for the 2008/09 UEFA Champions’ League offers no surprises, with last year’s finalists Manchester United and Chelsea topping the list as 11/2 joint-favourites.

The bookies fancy the usual suspects will make it to the business end of the tournament, and the top eight clubs in the outright betting for Europe’s premier club competition have all played in a Champions’ League final this century.

Nine-times holders Real Madrid are co-third favourites at odds of 8/1 alongside Inter Milan and fellow Spaniards Barcelona. Los Merengues will be without Cristiano Ronaldo, their summer transfer target, but still have a squad that is the envy of just about every other club in the world.

Inter disappointed in the Champions’ League last season after running away with the Serie A the previous year, but the arrival of Jose Mourinho will bring new belief to the Italian champions. In the absence of city rivals AC Milan and with Juventus still weakened by the repercussions of the Calciopoli scandal, the Nerazzurri may be Italy’s best chance of keeping its position at European football’s top table.

2006 Champions’ League winners Barcelona boast another star-studded squad, although the rich strike force of Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry failed to sparkle last season.

Ronaldinho has moved on – many would say to the Catalans’ advantage – and Barca still have the potential to score goals against any opposition.

Two more English clubs come next in the betting. Arsenal are offered at odds of 9/1, despite having only reached one European Cup final during their prestigious history. Arsene Wenger’s team has frequently struggled against the top clubs, although his current squad can play some of the most exciting football in Europe on its day.

Liverpool are 11/1 and, in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, have two of the most feared players on the continent. Coach Rafa Benitez has proved himself a master of Champions League tactics, and few people would bet against him being able to coax an otherwise average squad to the latter stages of the tournament.

Fading giants Juventus and Bayern Munich have odds of 16/1 and 20/1 respectively, and will be passed over by many punters in preference for one of a quartet of unfashionable but potentially exciting smaller teams.

AS Roma – a 22/1 chance – perhaps rely too heavily on Francesco Totti, and may miss Mancini’s playmaking skills. But with the final being held at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico this season – Roma’s home ground – the squad may find an edge they have lacked in recent seasons. Villareal and Atletico Madrid (both 33/1) and FC Porto (40/1) could all give punters a decent run for their money given favourable draws and the run of the green.

Zenit St Petersburg are almost certain to face the season without star striker Andrei Arshavin, and the 50/1 bar on them and everyone beneath them on the betting coupon looks a decent way of dividing the possible outright winners from the rest of the field.


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