Barcelona are 4/1 favourites to win the Champions League after the final round of fixtures in the group stage was completed, while Rangers became the first Scottish side to make it out of the group stage. However, the biggest talking point was 1999 winners Manchester United's shock exit from the tournament following a miserable 2-1 defeat against Benfica.Group A.Juventus 15, Bayern Munich 13, Club Brugge 7, Rapid Vienna 0.Both Juventus and Bayern Munich had already qualified for the knockout stage, although the final round of matches decided who finished top of the group. Juventus, the 13/2 third favourites recorded a comfortable 3-1 win over rock bottom Rapid Vienna while Bayern Munich could only muster a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge despite taking a first half lead through Claudio Pizarro.
Bayern, now available at 12/1, face a tough draw in the next round.Group B.Arsenal 16, Ajax 11, FC Thun 4, Sparta Prague 2.Arsenal are flying in Europe this season and had already secured top spot before a ball had been kicked against Ajax. An experimental Gunners side drew 0-0 with their Dutch opponents, even allowing for Thierry Henry to miss a penalty.
Arsene Wenger's side are available at 14/1 while Ajax are a more speculative investment at 66.1.Group C.
Barcelona 16, Werder Bremen 7, Udinese 7, Panathinaikos 4.Udinese suffered Champions League heartbreak when they eventually finished third in the group. They needed a draw to finish second and were four minutes away from holding visitors Barcelona to a goalless draw but late strikes from Santiago Ezquerro and Andres Iniesta handed the Spaniards victory.Runners up spot went to Werder Bremen who hammered Panathinaikos 5-1 to leave their Greek opponents propping up the rest of the group.Group D.Villareal 10, Benfica 8, Lille 6, Manchester United 6.
Unthinkable when the groups were initially drawn, but Manchester United are out of Europe entirely after finishing bottom of Group D. The Reds were odds on to win in Portugal and even took a five minute lead through Paul Scholes. Two goals before half-time tipped the balance in favour of Benfica and United couldn't produce the equaliser necessary to replace them as group runners up.In what was the most opening group of the tournament, Villarreal secure top spot with a 1-0 victory over Lille. Long shot fanciers can now back Villarreal at 28/1 and Benfica at 66/1.
Group E.AC Milan 11, PSV Eindoven 10, Schalke 04 8, Fenerbahce 4.A 3-2 victory over Schalke 04 ensured AC Milan finished the group in first place and condemned the Germans to UEFA Cup football, while PSV Eindoven put in a professional performance to beat already-eliminated Fenerbahce to secure a place in the next round.AC Milan, the winners of the tournament in 2003, are fourth favourites at 10/1 while PSV Eindoven are available at a more generous 50/1.Group F.
Lyon 16, Real Madrid 10, Rosenborg 4, Olympiacos 4.Lyon remained unbeaten and topped the group in style following a 2-1 victory over third placed Rosenborg and have dark-horse credentials at 11/1. The glamorous, but often underachieving Real Madrid now face a stern test against one of the group winners after finishing in the runners up position.The Spanish giants lost their first game following the sacking of coach Wanderley Luxemburgo, falling 2-1 to Olympiakos, but will still have their supporters at odds of 16/1.Group G.Liverpool 12, Chelsea 11, Real Betis 7, Anderlecht 3.
Liverpool's goalless draw with Chelsea was enough to secure top spot in the group, after beginning their European campaign way back in July against Welsh minnows Total Network Solutions. Despite being the reigning European champions and also having a favourable draw in the next round, the Reds are only 10th favourite out of the remaining 16 teams and can be backed at 16/1.Chelsea remain second favourites at 11/2 but their runners-up position could see them drawn against Barcelona at this stage of the competition for a second year in a row.Group H.Inter Milan 13, Rangers 7, Artmedia Bratislava 6, FC Porto 5.
Rangers may be struggling domestically, but their battling 1-1 draw against group winners Inter Milan ensured they became the first Scottish club to progress beyond the group stages in Champions League history. However, this feat is reflected in the odds, with the Gers available at a whopping 150/1 to win the tournament outright, with Inter Milan seventh favourites at 14/1.Artmedia Bratislava's adventure in Europe continues with a place in the UEFA Cup after finishing in third place ahead of 2004's winners FC Porto..David Walker runs soccer betting and free bets websites. A free email course: "Seven Days to Better Betting" is available at both of these websites.
By: David Walker