There isn't a more wide-open group in the Champions League this year.
|TEAM||TO WIN GROUP||TO QUALIFY||NOT TO QUALIFY|
Leipzig open as slight favorites to win Group G, despite making just their second appearance in the Champions League. Lyon and Benfica have been mainstays in the competition and will be hoping their experience can carry them through to the knockout stage. Zenit make their return following a three-year hiatus.
While oddsmakers consider Leipzig to be Group G's best, it's Lyon who deserve the title. The French outfit boasts the most dynamic player in the group in Memphis Depay, headlining a dynamic attack, and there's no shortage of talent in midfield and defense. Lyon also have the know-how to win in Europe; It speaks volumes about the character in this side that it was able to go into Donetsk for the final group match last season needing a win and getting the three points against Shakhtar in a hostile environment.
Lyon lost the engine of their team this summer with the departures of Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy, but they were efficient in reinvesting the money, signing midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide from Angers, full-back Joachim Andersen from Sampdoria, and Lille duo Thiago Mendes and Youssouf Kone. A well-coached side under new boss Sylvinho, they should like their odds of improving on last season's finish when they exited at the hands of Barcelona in the last 16 - no shame there.
Leipzig are overflowing with young talent all over the pitch, and new, highly touted manager Julian Nagelsmann will help them put on a show from week to week. However, a lack of European experience will likely result in inconsistencies that prevent them from reaching their full potential this season.
Pick: Lyon to win Group G (11-5)
Unlike Leipzig, Benfica are hardly bereft of experience, but they've been unable to translate their recent domestic dominance to Champions League success. The Portuguese outfit has failed to top its group in each of their last seven attempts. This year should be no different, unless manager Bruno Lage can magically rectify his squad's troubles away from home in the competition.
Benfica are winless in their last 10 Champions League matches against German clubs, dating back to 1998. They've also failed to progress to the knockout stage all five times they've faced either French or Russian opposition in their group.
Zenit are the dark horses here. They're entering the competition for the seventh time in club history and have progressed from the group in three of their previous six appearances, finishing first in their most recent appearance in 2015-16. They've been drawn into a group with each of Lyon and Benfica once before, winning all four of their matches against the pair. A relatively weak midfield could prove to be their undoing, but they can score with the best of them.
It's going to be fascinating to watch these clubs battle it out for a berth in the knockout stage. There's excellent value in backing Zenit in this spot, but Leipzig's overwhelming skill should ultimately shine through and be enough to send them into the last 16 as dangerous underdogs. Still, it's worth hedging with a bet on both to finish second behind Lyon.
Pick: Benfica not to qualify (5-6); Lyon 1st, RB Leipzig 2nd (6-1); Lyon 1st, Zenit 2nd (12-1)
Alex is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.