Preview and Predictions for UEFA Champions League Group E
I think that group E of the UEFA Champions League is among the least competitive, at least when it comes to the top spot.
The German powerhouse Bayern Munich is the clear favorite here and should have no issue finishing above Benfica, Ajax Amsterdam, and AEK Athens.
The second place in the group is a bit more complicated. The Portuguese side is probably the favorite, but both Ajax and AEK have a shot at progressing to the knockout stages.
I’m not entirely sure what will happen, but I will take a closer look at each team and the betting odds. Hopefully, there will be some exciting opportunities to find wagers with positive expected value.
It’s quite obvious that the bookies share my opinion when it comes to Bayern Munich’s chances to win the group and qualify further. The reigning German champions are head and shoulders above the other teams and are the only side that is actually a contender to win the UEFA Champions League.
The Bavarians are starting a new era with head coach Niko Kovac at the helm. The young specialist has a strong and balanced squad with enough quality and quantity available.
The most notable transfer business this summer probably is the departure of Arturo Vidal, who joined Barcelona. The Chilean was replaced by Leon Goretzka, who arrived from Schalke 04 as a free transfer.
It’s curious that Robert Lewandowski seemingly was on his way out but is now focused on the season ahead.
All concerns that he might not be at his best are now gone, as the striker has scored in each of the four games Bayern has played since the start of the season, including a hat-trick against Eintracht for the DFL-Supercup.
It’s safe to say that Lewa will be at his best, which is crucial for the German side. He is one of the reasons that Bayern has won every single game from the 2018-2019 season.
I can easily see the Bavarians win the domestic title under Niko Kovac, but the big goal in front of him is the UEFA Champions League. Bayern Munich is traditionally one of the teams that make deep runs on a regular basis, and I expect more of the same during this campaign.
The German should easily win this group E, but the odds are simply not worth it. They are too short, even if we all agree that Bayern Munich is the overwhelming favorite.
Benfica has been having all sorts of trouble in the European club competitions, ever since the Bela Guttmann curse.
Superstitions aside, the team is actually quite decent and often reaches the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Last season was different, as Benfica had one of its worst performances in the tournament. The side was eliminated in the group stage after failing to win even a single point.
While this wasn’t completely shocking against Manchester United, the other two teams in the group were Basel and CSKA Moscow.
It was a very similar situation to this year’s group, as the English side was the main favorite, while many believed Benfica would finish second.
This is the reason I have my doubts when it comes to the Portuguese side. The main squad is not much different compared to last year. Benfica lost the young Joao Carvalho and Andre Horta but instantly replaced them with likes of Gabriel, Alfa Semedo, and a couple of other players.
Despite the unconvincing performance in the UCL and the failure to win the league, the board decided to stick with Rui Vitoria at the helm. The head coach has been around since 2015, but I think that his boys have to be better this year if he’s going to stay.
Under normal circumstances, I would say that it’s worth a shot to back Benfica for a spot in the knockouts at the price of 1.91. However, what happened last year makes me wonder if the Portuguese side is capable of reaching the next stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Ajax Amsterdam is certainly enjoying the start of the season. The team managed to win ten points in its first four games in the Dutch Eredivisie and also earned a spot in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League after beating the strong Dynamo Kyiv side in the final knockout stage.
This certainly gives the supporters hope that Ajax could actually beat Benfica and AEK Athens for the second qualifying spot in this group E.
Another reason to be optimistic is the work done in the summer transfer window. The club did lose the hot prospect Justin Kluivert, who joined Roma, but acquired a couple of players that should instantly improve the side.
The one that stands out for me is Dusan Tadic. The Serbian winger might not have the long-term potential of Justin Kluivert, but he is a much better player right now.
He started the season on fire and already has a couple of goals and assists for Ajax, which is a good sign for the things to come.
The other excellent incoming transfer is the one of Daley Blind. Despite his struggles in Manchester United, the son of Danny Blind remains a versatile player who could fit multiple roles expertly. His defensive awareness and passing skills make Blind an invaluable asset.
On top of that, Ajax managed to buy a couple of promising youngsters that could inject some freshness whenever needed.
I certainly like the squad of the Dutch side, and I think it has the right balance between experience and youth. The last couple of times Ajax played in the UEFA Champions League, the team had terrible luck with the draw.
This year is different, as the second spot in group E is a realistic target. The odds for Ajax to win it are currently 2.20, which looks like a solid choice.
A quick look at the odds provided by the best soccer gambling sites shows that no one expects AEK Athens to qualify for the next stage of the UEFA Champions League. In fact, reaching the group phase is already a success for Marinos Ouzounidis.
AEK beat Celtic along the road, which shows that the Greek champions shouldn’t be underestimated. I feel the side could win some points at home, as the crowd in Athens can be fanatic at times. Still, I don’t think this will be enough for a spot in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
The squad of the team can’t compare with what Benfica and Ajax Amsterdam have, while Bayern Munich is simply on another planet. AEK didn’t manage to sign any players that could change that significantly in the summer, either.
The realistic goal for the Greek champions would be to fight for the third place and continue their European adventure in the Europa League. If Benfica performs the same way the team did in the 2017-2018 Champions League season, this is actually quite possible.
The Key Clash in the UCL Group E
I think that the key clashes in this group of the Champions League are pretty clear. Benfica and Ajax Amsterdam will play each other in the third and fourth round of the group stage, with the Dutch side hosting the first game.
I would break the rules a bit here and select both matches as key clashes. They are simply too important, and I find it hard to separate them in any way.
Group E Final Prediction and Betting Picks
I don’t think there are any doubts over the first place in group E of the UEFA Champions League. Bayern Munich is simply miles ahead of everyone else, so the club should easily take the top spot.
However, the price for that to happen is way too low, so I will pass that.
It also seems clear that AEK Athens doesn’t stand a chance for the second place. The Greek champions might finish above Benfica or Ajax in third, but I don’t think they could beat to snatch a place in the next stage of the competition.
This leaves us with a direct duel between Benfica and Ajax for the second qualifying spot. I will go for the Dutch side for three reasons. First of all, they improved their squad a lot in the summer. Second, Benfica was abysmal last year in a similar situation.
And finally, the price for Ajax to qualify for the knockouts is 2.20, while the odds for Benfica are only 1.91.
I honestly feel that it’s time for Ajax Amsterdam to reach the knockouts of the Champions League, after years of absence. The Dutch side certainly has a shot in this group, but Benfica is no joke. What do you expect to happen?
Do you agree with me that Ajax is better prepared to go through, or will the Portuguese team prevail? And can AEK Athens actually get involved in the battle for a knockout place?