UEFA Champions League Preview

The final round of group stage matches for the UEFA Champions League are now upon us, and what crucial games they are. With so many great teams qualified, it can get very tricky. Matchday five produced some enchanting football and memorable moments as Lionel Messi broke Raul’s record in becoming the competition’s top scorer with 74 goals, while Sergio Aguero beat Bayern Munich single-handedly in the wake of a not so memorable moment for Roberto Di Matteo, as he was handed a rude awakening by his beloved Chelsea. Liverpool cost me my 44/10 treble but it was a good week of tipping nonetheless. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Group A

Olympiacos 7/20 draw 4/1 Malmo 77/10
Olympiacos have it all to play for in their Group A clash with Malmo on Wednesday night, as victory and a bit of a luck could see them advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Olympiacos need Atletico Madrid to beat Juventus away from home to ensure they have the opportunity to advance. When these sides met in Sweden earlier this season, Malmo came out on top with a 2-0 victory. Olympiacos were thumped 4-0 by a rampant Atletico side last time out while Malmo were outclassed 2-0 by Juventus. It should be a tight affair and these sides should cancel each other out. 

Juventus 11/10 draw 22/10 Atletico Madrid 27/10
Juventus will be looking to secure a spot in the knockout stages when they face group leaders Atletico Madrid. The Italian champions sealed a fifth consecutive home victory in the Serie A last weekend, beating Turin 2-1 and will be hoping to take that impressive form into the Champions League. It won’t be an easy task as the Spanish champions have been outstanding, winning four of their five matches in the group, losing just once to Olympiacos in the opening fixture. Atletico won the reverse fixture 1-0 in Spain and should come away with a point. The draw is tipped at 22/10. 

Group B

Liverpool 7/10 draw 11/4 FC Basel 37/10
It's all or nothing for Liverpool as they teeter on the brink of European elimination. Despite the Reds suffering three defeats with just one victory from five matches, they will be through with a win while a draw will see the visitor’s progress. It’s no secret that the season hasn’t been going well for Liverpool with under fire boss Brendan Rodgers admitting that he is “favourite” for the sack. The Reds have major issues in a tactical sense at the back, with errors looking more likely than not at the moment. Teams will now feel that they can get at Liverpool and even out score them, with a lack of goals another major issue. Daniel Sturridge is out until the New Year and his return might be too little too late by then. Despite losing 1-0 to Real Madrid last time out, Basel put in a spirited display and felt they were unlucky not to get a point. Basel won the reverse fixture 1-0, and I fancy them to get the draw they need to send Liverpool, and perhaps Rodgers packing.

Real Madrid 1/12 draw 95/10 Ludogorets 23/1
It’s top versus bottom as group winners Real Madrid take on minnows Ludogorets hoping to maintain their 100% record in the competition. Los Blancos have been head and shoulders above the rest in the group, winning all five of their matches, scoring 12 goals while conceding just two. Real Madrid are coming off a 1-0 victory over Basel while Ludogorets held Liverpool to a 2-2 draw at home last time out. When these sides met in Spain earlier in the season, Los Blancos were 2-1 victors. James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are beginning to form an incredible attacking triumvirate and this should be a routine home victory. There’s not much value on Real Madrid, so I recommend taking them on the half-time/full-time win double at 7/20. 

Group C

Monaco 15/10 draw 23/10 Zenit 18/10
There is a big prize waiting for the winner of this tie. Monaco and Zenit Saint Petersburg will battle it out for a spot in the knockout stages with Bayer Leverkusen’s place already secured regardless of the pending result against Benfica. Monaco beat Leverkusen 1-0 in Germany last time out and need at least a point to guarantee a place in the knockout stages. Zenit beat Benfica 1-0 at home but have struggled to pick up points on the road. These sides played out to a goalless draw in Russia but Monaco should make home advantage count.  

Benfica 19/10 draw 23/10 Bayer Leverkusen 15/10
Bayer Leverkusen will be looking to secure top spot in the group when they travel to Portugal to take on a struggling Benfica side. Benfica have been dreadful having lost three of their five matches in the competition with just one victory and a draw while Leverkusen have won three of their five matches, suffering two defeats. Bayer Leverkusen won the reverse fixture 3-1 in Germany and will be expected to win once again. Benfica have nothing but pride to play for and the away win looks a great bet at 15/10.

Group D

Galatasaray 23/10 draw 26/10 Arsenal 11/10
Arsene Wenger’s menacing Arsenal will be hoping to keep the pressure on group leaders Borussia Dortmund when they travel to Turkey to take on a Galatasaray side in discomfort. After drawing 1-1 at home with Anderlecht on matchday one, Galatasaray have lost four consecutive matches in the group. Arsenal are coming off a superb 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund and will be going all out for victory. The Gunners are finding their rhythm at the right time and have nothing to worry about from Galatasaray, who are in a terrible stretch of form. Alexis Sanchez has been a revelation for the Gunners this season and has now scored seven goals in his last seven appearances and will be expected to extend his goal-scoring streak. The Gunners are tipped to pile more misery on the Turks. 

Borussia Dortmund 7/20 draw 42/10 Anderlecht 62/10
Borussia Dortmund will be looking to stretch their legs at the top of the table when they host Anderlecht on Tuesday night. The Germans suffered a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal last time out and will be hoping to get back to winning ways. Anderlecht have been inconsistent with two losses and two draws from five matches played. Dortmund beat Anderlecht 3-0 in Belgium and should win quite comfortably at home.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014  

Group E

Roma 17/10 draw 23/10 Manchester City 16/10
Sergio Aguero single-handedly kept Manchester City in possession of their own destiny on matchday five, putting in a stellar performance against Bayern Munich to cause a 3-2 upset. Manuel Pellegrini cannot rely on the Argentine to lead the English champions to progression following ligament damage against Everton, and a trip to Rome will come as a challenging test. Both sides are level on five points and this has all the makings of an entertaining matchup. City have really struggled to find top gear and have again looked a pretty naive side in the Champions League. These sides shared the spoils in England earlier in the competition but Roma are tipped to capitalise on home advantage.

Bayern Munich 1/4 draw 11/2 CSKA Moscow 82/10
CSKA Moscow travel to the Allianz Arena on Wednesday to take on Group winners Bayern Munich. The Germans suffered their first defeat in the group, losing 3-2 at Manchester City while CSKA got a late equaliser to draw 1-1 against Roma last time out. Pep Guardiola’s men have won four of their five matches, scoring a superb 13 goals while conceding just four. The Russians have picked up just one victory away to Manchester City but have suffered two defeats and earning two draws. Bayern Munich are brilliant, they've got a brilliant manager, and their reserves could wipe the floor with this poxy CSKA side. Bayern won the reverse fixture 1-0 in Russia and will be more commanding at home. Bayern to win half-time/full-time looks a good bet at 7/10. 

Group F

Barcelona 5/10 draw 33/10 Paris Saint-Germain 5/1
Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will fight for top spot in Group F when the teams reconvene in Spain on Wednesday night. Barcelona have won four of their five matches, suffering just one defeat (3-2) against their opponents on matchday two. PSG have upstaged the Catalans by remaining unbeaten with four victories. Both sides thrive on free-flowing attacking football which could see defences exposed. There should be chances galore on either end and their respective frontlines should take their opportunities with open arms. Both teams to score looks a solid bet at 7/10. 

Ajax 6/10 draw 29/10 APOEL Nicosia 9/2
Ajax and APOEL Nicosia will battle it out for a Europa League spot with Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain already qualified for the knockout stages. Both sides are yet to register victories in the group with Ajax losing three games and drawing twice while APOEL have lost four of their five matches. These teams drew the reverse tie 1-1 but Ajax should take control of the game here and are tipped for the win.

Group G

Chelsea 7/10 draw 11/4 Sporting 4/1
Chelsea went through as group winners with a 5-0 win at Schalke on matchday five and find themselves in the privileged position of knowing that the top spot and qualification is already assured ahead of the match. Sporting have more to play for as they will be through with a draw or if Schalke fail to beat Maribor. I do expect Jose Mourinho to ring in the changes and rotate his squad as Chelsea enter a hectic run of matches. However, Chelsea have the squad depth to wrap this match in their favour. Sporting have started slowly in the Portuguese Liga this season. Although they’ve suffered just one defeat in 10 matches played, Sporting find themselves eight points behind leaders Benfica having drawn five of their league games and against a free scoring side such as Chelsea it’s only a matter of time before they start picking the balls out of Rui Patricio’s net. Chelsea are tipped at 7/10.

Maribor 7/2 draw 27/10 Schalke 8/10
Schalke travel to Slovenia to take on Maribor in desperate need of victory to get a place in the round of 16. Maribor are yet to win a match having lost twice with three draws, scoring just four goals and conceding 12 while Schalke have won just once with two losses and two draws. The Germans were given five love by a rampant Chelsea side last time out while Maribor suffered a 3-1 loss away to Sporting. There are upsets in every Champions League round and I’m expecting one to happen in this fixture. Maribor tipped to make home advantage count at a massive 7/2.

Group H

FC Porto 8/10 draw 5/2 Shakhtar 7/2
Shakhtar Donetsk travel to Portugal on Wednesday night to take on Group winners FC Porto. Julen Lopetegui’s side are unbeaten with four victories in five matches while the Ukrainians have struggled for consistency having won two matches with two draws. The reverse fixture ended in a 2-2 draw but home advantage should see Porto claim the win. It’s one for the multiples.

Athletic Bilbao 3/10 draw 9/2 BATE 10/1
Athletic Bilbao and BATE Borisov will battle it out for a place in the Europa League on Wednesday night with Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk already qualified for the knockout stages. Bilbao recorded their first win in Group H thanks to Mikel San Jose’s goal against Shakhtar Donetsk while BATE were thrashed 3-0 at home to Porto, their fourth defeat in the group. BATE are struggling to score goals having scored just twice and have conceded 22, showing their defensive frailties. Despite BATE winning the reverse fixture 2-1 in Belarus, The Lions have looked more solid of late and are unlikely to go down again. I’m expecting a close contest with Bilbao tipped to edge the victory at 3/10.

Here’s a treble that should do you some good, Chelsea/Ajax/Monaco to win at 58/10. Get on.

Written By Chadley Nagel

Chad's Picks
Olympiacos DRAW 4/1
Juventus DRAW 22/10
Liverpool DRAW 11/4
Real Madrid HT-FT WIN DOUBLE 7/20
Monaco WIN 15/10
Leverkusen WIN 15/10
Arsenal WIN 11/10
Dortmund WIN 7/20
Roma WIN 17/10
Bayern HT-FT WIN DOUBLE 7/10
Barcelona BTTS 7/10
Ajax WIN 6/10
Chelsea WIN 7/10
Maribor WIN 7/2
Porto WIN 8/10
Bilbao WIN 3/10