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Zenit head the best group bets ahead of the Champions League

| 18.09.2012

Zenit have been heavily backed in recent weeks to progress from Group C in the Champions League, but some value still remains in the 7/4 that they qualify as group winners.

The signings of Axel Witsel and in particular Hulk have largely been responsible for the support of Luciano Spalletti’s men, while the return of Danny from a cruciate ligament injury will provide a further boost.

Meanwhile, group favourites AC Milan have hardly set the world alight this season and look a team in decline after a host of summer departures, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

There may even be some grounds to take the 17/2 that Zenit win the group and Malaga take second spot, with Milan being eliminated from the competition.

In Group E, it is widely expected that Chelsea and Juventus will be the qualifiers and 1/2 is the price that they progress in any order.

However, although FC Nordsjaelland can be written off, it would be foolish to count out Shakhtar, who have a squad that is largely proven at this level.

With Juventus manager Antonio Conte unable to tinker from the touchline thanks to a 10-month ban and Chelsea looking slightly open at the back, Shakhtar have more than enough speed on the break and squad quality to make it beyond the group.

They are worth siding with at 13/10 to qualify from the group stage.

In terms a straight forecast, the 11/5 on Barcelona progressing as group winners with Spartak Moscow in Group G looks reasonable value.

Barcelona are arguably the biggest banker in the whole group stage at 1/9 to win Group G, with Benfica considered the most likely to take second.

However, captain Luisao has been banned for 11 games for pushing a referee and leading midfielders Javi Garcia and the aforementioned Witsel have departed over the summer.

This could leave them susceptible and Spartak are more likely than Celtic to take advantage.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing



Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.