|By PAUL GOUGH
They may have made their worst start to a domestic season in more than a decade, but Real Madrid remain hot favourites to beat Manchester City in the pick of the eight Uefa Champions League matches on Tuesday [Wednesday morning Australian time].
The group stages of the world's most prestigious club competition finally get underway across Europe, with all eyes on the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, where English Premier League champions Manchester City face one of their biggest tests yet.
Fresh from winning the Premier League title for the first time since 1968, City are facing their first ever meeting with Real Madrid, who have won the Champions League on a record nine occasions - though not since 2002.
That 2001-02 season in which Real was last crowned champions of Europe was also the last time they have made a worse start to a Spanish league season than they have this campaign, with Jose Mourinho's team picking up just four points from four matches so far to already trail fierce rivals Barcelona by eight points.
And Mourinho, the former title winning manager of Chelsea, has already started playing his usual mind games, declaring that it is only a matter of time that big-spending City are eventually crowned champions of Europe.
|Real Madrid to win v Man City in Group D at $1.60 at Luxbet
||Arsenal to win v Montpellier in Group B at $2.12 at Luxbet|
But the punters are not buying it and nor are they convinced by Real Madrid's poor early season form, with Los Blancos clear favourites to beat City at home.
"Real have most of the backing but there has also been a lot of interest in the draw," Luxbet's Andy Scott told Goal.com.
City have also made a stuttering start to the new season but have picked up eight points from four games to be sitting fourth on the Premier League table, although they have conceded in every match and have already drawn both away games to suggest they will struggle at the Bernabeu.
In the other Group D game, in what is by far the toughest of the eight groups, German champions Borussia Dortmund are heavy $1.39 favourites at Luxbet to beat Dutch giants Ajax at $7.25, with the draw at $4.30.
The other big game on Tuesday is in Group B, where Ligue 1 champions Montpellier host Arsenal, with the English club still yet to win the Champions League despite appearing in the group stages for an incredible 15th consecutive season.
But with Montpellier already struggling to live up to last season's heroics - they sit a distant 16th on the Ligue 1 table after five games - Arsenal look the bet of the night, and have been heavily backed at Luxbet at $2.12 to win away, while the home side are at $3.35 with the draw at $3.10.
*Note prices subject to change