After an eye-catching transfer window, expectations of (and at) Chelsea have risen and alongside a favourable draw, Frank Lampard will be looking to see off Europa League holders Sevilla and secure top spot in a group that should contain little threat beyond the La Liga side. They are priced 11/10 to do so, while a Sevilla team shorn of club legend Éver Banega and new Tottenham signing Sergio Reguilón are a closely-priced 11/8 to finish as group winners.
It has become a footballing cliché to guard against underrating the Spanish side and despite the loss of Banega and Reguilón, they have retained one of Europe’s most sought-after defenders in Jules Koundé and welcomed Ivan Rakitić back to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. In Julen Lopetegui, they also have a manager who was considered worthy of fighting over by Real Madrid and the Spanish FA not too long ago and who led the team to their highest league finish in over a decade, alongside that sixth Uefa Cup/Europa League, in his first season at the club.
The remaining two teams, Rennes and Krasnodar, are both making their debut at this level of European competition, a fact which is remarkable in each case though for differing reasons. Krasnodar, who finished 3rd in Russia last season, qualified after beating PAOK in the qualifying playoff to reach the Champions League group stages for the first time since their founding in 2008.
Rennes, on the hand, have waited 65 years to make their first appearance in the European Cup/Champions League, a prospect they achieved by finishing 3rd in Ligue Un’s curtailed season. It will be a swift return to France for new Chelsea goalkeeper, Eduoard Mendy, who left Rennes in the most recent transfer window for £21.6m, while many observers are excited to see how one of Europe’s hottest prospects, 17-year-old midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, fares at this level.
A Chelsea- Sevilla 1-2 is 9/4, Sevilla - Chelsea 11/4.