MX23RW : Thursday, July 19 15:51:30

Can Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo be stopped in Champions League?

The group stages of the Champions League start on Tuesday, but which clubs and players can stop Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo and co winning three trophies in a row?

Back in June, Real Madrid made history by becoming the first team to win back-to-back Champions League trophies and the club coached by Zinedine Zidane and spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo are naturally the pre-tournament favourites to make it three in a row. You are also likely to be enticed by the betting odds of 4/1 which are on offer for the La Liga giants, a price rammed up by the fact that Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur feature in their group. However, after a slow start from Real in domestic action and a new super-power emerging in Paris Saint-Germain to move alongside the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, this could be the most open competition yet, and there is plenty of value to be had when making your predictions.

It means that when it comes to Champions League betting tips, you are effectively going to be spoilt for choice but at the same time, there will be no difficultly justifying your choice. Selecting Real goes without explanation, but the natural choice is to gamble on PSG at a huge 13/2. The signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe only match - rather than better - the combinations of Ronaldo and Karim Benzema at Real and Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona, but their trump card could be Edinson Cavani who is only going to benefit from having the best service of his career.

Neymar mounts Edinson Cavani during the Ligue 1 match between Guingamp and Paris Saint-Germain on August 13, 2017© Offside

It was a similar scenario with Gonzalo Higuain at Juventus last season. The Serie A champions are such a well-rounded team but having Higuain in the final third made all the difference in their run to Cardiff. Massimiliano Allegri's team are currently set at an outrageous price of 14/1 and the each-way bet on that is a no-brainer. Barcelona, Bayern - and the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea from the Premier League - are all likely to be in the mix but the focus of your outright bets for this year's Champions League should revolve around PSG and Juventus.

Taking an interest in betting specifically on the group winners probably feels like a bit of hassle but if you are willing to assess your options, you could easily pick up a profit from both singles and doubles. Manchester United traditionally get an easy group in Europe (just an opinion...) and it is no different here, and the 2/5 to finish ahead of Benfica, Basel and CSKA Moscow is practically buying money. Jose Mourinho will no doubt rotate throughout the campaign, but the Portuguese is understanding of the significance of not finishing as runners-up so there will be no complacency. AS Monaco are another team to watch and although they have lost a number of their stars, last season's semi-finalists should be considered at odds of 6/4 to prevail above the likes of Porto and RB Leipzig.

Jose Mourinho winks during the Premier League game between Stoke City and Manchester United on September 9, 2017© SilverHub

If you are feeling a little more adventurous, tipping Sevilla to top Liverpool's group and Napoli to finish ahead of Manchester City could be the way to go. We are yet to see how Liverpool will cope with having to combine their Premier League commitments with European action and although they have seemingly been given one of the easier groups, 3/5 is too short, and Sevilla, at 9/5, feels the obvious bet. Remember, the La Liga team beat Liverpool in the 2016 Europa League final so the Spaniards have history of overcoming Jurgen Klopp's side. As for City, Pep Guardiola's side are blessed with attacking talent but they are short on centre-backs so expect rotation in Europe. That could let in Napoli - last year's third-placed team in Italy - who have been priced at 2/1. Maurizio Sarri has largely kept the same group of players and we fancy them to edge out the big-spending English side. The Sevilla and Napoli double can be had at almost 15/2. What are you waiting for?!

As far as the Champions League Golden Boot is concerned, you may find yourself putting a quid on several selections. Cavani is 13/1, Sergio Aguero is 25/1, Alvaro Morata is 40/1 and and Benzema and Harry Kane are an almost unthinkable 50/1! However, we cannot look past Messi. The Argentine maestro - arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game - no longer has Neymar alongside him in attack, but that could prove to be a blessing in disguise. It allows Messi to take on more responsibility at Camp Nou, something which the 30-year-old should relish and a marginally easier group to Real Madrid should allow him to cash in more so than Ronaldo. The pair have both been priced at 5/1, but Messi has to be the pick. A betting price of 11/10 is also available if you think that Messi will score 10 goals in this year's competition. If the attacker stays fit, it is a near certainty.

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Barcelona forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring during his side's Champions League group game against Juventus at the Camp Nou on September 12, 2017
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