Betting round-up: Arsenal expected to progress

Wednesday's UEFA Champions League fixtures are under Paul Gough's microscope, with Arsenal's proud record of progressing from the group stage tipped to continue

Arsenal face a stern test of their ability to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League when they kick off their 2013-14 campaign proper in Group F on Wednesday night.

Under long-serving manager Arsene Wenger, the Gunners have made it past the initial group stage of the world's most prestigious club competition for the past 13 seasons - with their best effort being the beaten finalists against Barcelona in 2006.

However, this season the Gunners - after getting past Fenerbahce in the playoffs - have been drawn in the 'group of death' ‑ alongside last year's Champions League runners-up Borussia Dortmund as well as big-spending Italian club Napoli and powerful French side Marseille.

But leading bookmakers bet365 expect the Gunners to again survive the group stages, with Dortmund the $1.36 favourites to qualify for the knockout stages out of Group F ahead of Arsenal at $1.66, Napoli at $1.80 and Marseille at $4.33.

In Wednesday night's opening round of matches in Group F - Arsenal and Dortmund are both slight favourites at $2.50 to win away from home against Marseille and Napoli respectively at $3 while the draw in both matches is paying $3.40.

However the Gunners have a strong record against French clubs under Wenger and beat Marseille 1-0 away from home the last time the two sides met in this competition two years ago.

Marseille have also dropped points in their past two French Ligue 1 games - after winning the first three - while Arsenal have won all their matches since a shock opening day loss to Aston Villa and will be boosted for this season's campaign by the arrival of German superstar Mesut Ozil.


Back Arsenal to beat Marseille at odds of $2.50 at bet365.

Napoli ($51) and Atletico Madrid ($41) are the two best outsiders to win this season's competition at bet365.

In the other game Napoli - coming off their best season in Serie A (runners-up behind Juventus) for 23 years - have a great chance to score an upset win at home against Dortmund.

Napoli are now being led by former Liverpool and Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez - a man who has had European success wherever he goes despite his critics - and have one of the best strikers in the world at their disposal in Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain.

At $51 overall they are the best outsiders in overall tournament betting on this season's competition along with Spain's Atletico Madrid at $41 at bet365.

Atletico make a welcome return to this seasons Champions League - after winning the Europa League in two of the past four seasons - as well as upsetting Real Madrid to win last year's Copa Del Rey final.

They are the $1.28 favourites to qualify out of Group G ahead of Porto at $1.33 and Zenit at $1.72 with Austria Vienna the $9 outsiders.

And both Atletico at $1.57 and Porto at $1.50 at bet365 should win their opening games on Wednesday night at home to Zenit ($6.50) and away to Austria Vienna ($8) respectively.

Chelsea, who won the Europa League and the Champions League respectively in the past two seasons, begin their campaign on Wednesday night in Group E alongside German side Schalke, Swiss side Basel and Romanians Steaua Bucharest.

The Blues are the $1.05 favourites to qualify at bet365 ahead of Schalke at $1.44, Basel at $3 and Steaua at $7.

However, Basel look value to qualify after reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League last season - eventually losing to Chelsea after beating another English club in Spurs in the quarter-finals - although they are rank outsiders at $12 for Wednesday night's trip to Stamford Bridge with Chelsea the $1.30 favourites.

And in Group H, Scottish champions Celtic face a huge task to repeat last season's effort of qualifying for the knockout stages.

The Bhoys are the $10 outsiders at bet365 to qualify out of Group H behind big guns and fellow former winners of this competition in Barcelona at $1.01, AC Milan $1.20 and Dutch side Ajax at $5.

Celtic, which barely survived the qualifying round against Kazak team Shakhter Karagandy, are a massive $8 to win away at AC Milan ($1.50) on Wednesday night while Barcelona are the shortest priced favourites of the night at $1.14 at home to Ajax at $19.

*Note prices subject to change

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