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Champions League groups pair Arsenal and Mourinho with familiar foes

For once, it’s not Manchester City getting an unfavourable Champions League group stage draw alongside one of Europe’s heavyweights, but Arsenal. As a result of getting Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in their pool, Coral have lengthened the Gunners to 22/1 in the outright market.

One silver living for Arsene Wenger, though, is at least they aren’t pair with the German giants in the knockout stages, having been eliminated from Europe’s elite club competition in two of the last three seasons by 9/2 second-favourites Bayern (shortened from 5/1).

Group F is completed by Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos; neither look vintage, despite the latter’s capture of ex-Leicester City cult hero Esteban Cambiasso. This explains why Arsenal and Pep Guardiola’s Munich men are both firmly odds-on to advance to the last 16.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, will visit and entertain the club where things really took off for him, Porto, 11 years after he steered the Dragons to Champions League glory.

Looking to become the first manager to lift the European Cup with three different teams, ‘the Special One’ is 10/1 (from 9/1) to make history. Both the Blues and Porto are odds-on to get out of Group G, which also contains long trips to war-torn Ukraine (Dynamo Kiev) and Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv).

European mainstays Juventus, who were Champions League runners-up last term, and Sevilla, the first beneficiary of new rules that give a place among the elite to winning the Europa League, join Man City (12/1 outright chances) in their pool.

High-profile exits, namely Carlos Tevez and Carlos Bacca respectively, have left the Old Lady and Bathtubs looking slightly weaker on paper with coaches Massimiliano Allegri and Unai Emery taking their teams in new directions. Group D is completed by Borussia Monchengladbach, but it leaves Manuel Pellegrini’s men in pole position to come top (evens).

Manchester United’s chances of coming through Group B as winners seem to heavily hinge on whether Wolfsburg let prized asset Kevin De Bruyne go to the Etihad. One way or another the Belgium international is set to be a spectre of the Red Devils this season.

Louis van Gaal, a 16/1 shot for a second European Cup 21 years on from his young Ajax side’s awesome triumph, is also set to pit his wits against CSKA Moscow and Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven in a pool entirely comprised of continental competition regulars.

United summer signing Memphis Depay thus faces a swift reunion with the club he left. As Lightbulbs boss Philip Cocu also lost captain Georginio Wijnaldum when Newcastle United came calling, Eindhoven may not pose as many problems as there Eredivisie status suggests.

With that Premier League quartet all figuring in the Champions League group stage, we run a number of specials. Which team will go furthest? Chelsea are 7/4 favourites ahead of Man City (9/4), with Man Utd at 11/4 and Arsenal 5/1 outsiders.

Will all four reach the knockout phase? It’s odds-on at 4/6 that they do, while an 11/4 price says an English side will lift the European Cup, and it’s 16/1 for the final to be contested by two of them.

Away from Premier League interest, 10-time Champions League winners Real Madrid (5/1 for an 11th crown) only have French Ligue 1 champions PSG as major competition at this initial stage. Group A is completed by minnows Malmo and Shakhtar Donetsk, who looked destined to drop into the Europa League knockout phase.

Mainstays Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Galatasaray give Group B an open feel, though Diego Simeone is a firm odds-on 1/6 favourite to steer the Spanish side to top spot. Kazakhstan team Astana complete the pool, but look most likely whipping boy candidates.

Sticking with La Liga heavyweights, defending champions Barcelona (3/1 to retain the Champions League) should make serene progress from their pool. Group F contains Bayer Leverkusen, a side battered by Lionel Messi and company before; Roma, who will field a much-changed defence, and BATE Borisov of Belarus.

It’s all about who finishes behind Barca really, with the Bundesliga and Serie A teams in cut-throat competition to get past this first hurdle. And finally, Group H is an intriguing one as Zenit St Petersburg, Valencia and Lyon. Only two from thus resurgent trio of teams can give the last 16 a refreshing look.

Coral will be profiling all 32 Champions League group stage entrants over the coming weeks before it begins on Tuesday, September 15th.