CL Group H Qualifying odds

Champions League 2019/2020: To Qualify from Group H?

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Group H - Ajax, Chelsea, Lille, Valencia

Arguably the most competitive group in this year’s competition, Group H is sure to be a physically draining one for its participants. The natural starting point is with Erik ten Hag’s Ajax, the side who were so impressive in the 2018/19 season, winning the Eridevese and the KNVB Cup. It would have been one of the most impressive trebles of all time had they managed to win Europe’s top club competition as well; sadly for them, however, Ajax’s staggering run was cut short in the semi-finals by Lucas Moura’s injury-time winner for Tottenham Hotspur. Before that stage, Ajax had knocked out two of the favorites to win the competition in Real Madrid and Juventus – they did so at a canter, too. While they have retained the services of key performers like Dusan Tadic, David Neres and Donny Van de Beek, Ajax were raided by Europe's top clubs for the cream of their crop, as is so often the case. Their regista Frenkie De Jong departed for Barcelona while their captain, Matthias De Ligt left for Juventus, both players commanded sizable fees but are irreplaceable for the Amsterdam team. In time, the Ajax team of 2018/19 will surely be regarded as era-defining, with their stars from that campaign going on to the best clubs in Europe sure to have a sizable influence on the game for the foreseeable future. But, while they still have an exceptional team, it would be truly staggering if they could recreate their form from last season – they may well qualify from Group H, but it won’t be easy. 

Chelsea, under the leadership of club legend Frank Lampard, will be another fascinating team to watch in Europe this season. They start the campaign with what is, on paper, a significantly weaker squad than they had in 2018/19 – Eden Hazard has left for Real Madrid while they have several players sidelined with long-term injuries. The transfer ban they were handed by UEFA for failing to meet their standards of conduct with regards to the signing of under-18 players has made them unable to strengthen in the areas they’d like, meaning previously loaned-out players and academy products have had to fill the gaps. Even so, they still have a strong side and their performances this season have been encouraging despite them winning only one of their opening five. Last year’s Europa League winners will be there or thereabouts at the top end of Group H.

Group H’s Spanish side, Valencia, were victorious in the Copa Del Ray last season, beating Barcelona 1-0 in the final. They also earned a creditable 4th place finish in La Liga despite pressure from the chasing pack, Getafe and Sevilla. They also reached the semi-finals of the Europa League after exiting the Champions League in the group stage.

Lille finished 2nd in Ligue 1 last season, albeit 16 points behind champions PSG. This was a monumental improvement from the previous season when they finished a staggering 15 places lower, in 17th - just one point from a relegation play-off game. Several of the players who starred for the French team last season have moved on, however; Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal, Thiago Mendes to Lyon and Rafael Leao to AC Milan. Lille, therefore, will have a hard time replicating the form of last season, especially with the additional stresses of continental football which they did not have to endure in that campaign.