UEFA Champions League Preview

The UEFA Champions League returns with some mouth-watering encounters lined up. Arsenal will look to claim their first points in the competition, but it won’t be easy as they face Pep Guardiola’s mighty Bavarian juggernaut. Speaking of juggernauts, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid will lock horns at the Parc des Princes with both teams gunning for top spot in the group. Elsewhere, a Messi-less Barcelona face BATE Borisov who come off the back of a thrilling victory over Roma. Jose Mourinho will be hoping to get his Blues back to their best when they take on Dynamo Kiev, but the Ukrainian champions rarely get bullied on their turf. There’s great football to watch and I can assure you there’s money to be made. Let’s get to it then. 

Tuesday 20th October

Zenit 17/20 | Draw 26/10 | Lyon 3/1

Russian Champions Zenit St. Petersburg will look to make it three out of three wins when they take on Olympique Lyon who have been mediocre in their domestic league. Lyon will look to improve on their European record this season, picking up just one point in their opening two games in Group H. Zenits’s Brazilian powerhouse, Hulk, will be looking to add to his two goal tally after netting a brace on Matchday 1 for the Russian side. Lyon have been poor so far and could prove to be second best against Andre Villas-Boas’ side. I’m tipping Zenit to come out strong and claim maximum points. 

BATE 13/2 | Draw 38/10 | Barcelona 4/10

BATE come off the back of an impressive 3-2 home victory against Roma. The Belarusian side got off to a dream start in the match scoring three goals in the opening half, and did very well to hold on to the lead for the remainder of the match. BATE proved their quality to participate in Europe’s elite tournament showing that they have goal scoring options in every position with Serbian left back, Filip Mladenovic, netting a brace. They will look to get off to the perfect start again like they did before against Roma. BATE will have the confidence of winning the game knowing that four time Ballon d'Or winner, Lionel Messi will be side-lined due to injury. Barcelona will be missing their star player but have plenty other attacking options in their arsenal with the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta. Barcelona lead Group E after making a late comeback against Bayer Leverkusen winning the game 2-1. Luis Suarez will be high in confidence after scoring in both of Barcelona’s matches so far and has proven to be vital for the Catalonian side. Despite Lionel Messi missing in action, Barcelona have the depth and quality to bag all three points and I’m tipping them to come out on top.

Dynamo Kyiv 17/10 | Draw 23/10 | Chelsea 16/10

Jose Mourinho will look to get Chelsea back to their best when they take on Dynamo Kiev. Mourinho has been under a lot of criticism recently with the Blues failing to pick up where they left off last season as champions of England. There’s been loads of speculation regarding whether the Chelsea boss is the right man to lead them forward, but Mourinho will look to his players to get the job done after the club have come out and publicly backed their manager. Despite Chelsea’s poor form of late, Brazilian midfielder, Willian has been key to the Chelsea side going forward this season netting in both European games for the Blues and grabbing four goals in all competitions this season. Kiev know that they have what it takes to get past a Chelsea defence who have been questioned many times this campaign. With the likes of Paraguayan youngster, Derlis González and Ukrainian International Andriy Yarmolenko, Dynamo Kiev have every chance of breaking through the London teams defence. Chelsea will look to bounce back against Kiev after failing to beat Mourinho’s former team FC Porto. The Ukrainians have an excellent record at home and are capable of challenging the Blues. A draw is predicted at 23/10. 

Dinamo Zagreb 31/20 | Draw 22/10 | Olympiacos 31/20

Dinamo Zagreb have made big headlines in the Champions League with midfielder Arijan Ademi failing a drug test after their Group F win against Arsenal. If the player’s blood type shows positive then he will face a ban and will be out of the clash against Greek Champions, Olympiacos. The Greek side will take a lot of positives from their previous match which saw them overpower Arsenal in their own backyard and will look to extend that run of form away from home when they travel to Croatia. With their opponents looking confident, Zagreb will look to put the 5-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich behind them.  A win for Olympiacos would see them edge closer to the next round with two of their three remaining games being at home. The Greek Champions will go all out for the Win and are tipped to get the victory here.

Arsenal 31/10 | Draw 29/10 | Bayern Munich 8/10

Arsenal will look to pick up their first European points this season when they take on German giants, Bayern Munich. The Gunners have endured two losses to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos. They know that it will be their greatest challenge yet with Polish striker, Robert Lewandowski leading the front line for Bayern Munich looking to add to the hat-trick he picked up on Matchday 2. Bayern have been in terrific form and despite not having the combination of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on either flank due to injury, the Bavarians still have depth and quality with the likes of Douglas Costa, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze driving the team forward and feeding arguably the most lethal striker at the moment, Lewandowski. These sides last met in the 2013/14 Champions League where Arsenal travelled to the Allianz Arena and stole a point. Arsenal have quite a decent record when facing German opposition but lost in that return leg 2-0 at home to Bayern. Arsene Wenger was questioned against Olympiacos when he decided to drop his first-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech. The former Chelsea star will be key to putting a stop to the attacking force that Bayern pose and will boost the Gunners’ defence who have kept four clean sheets in their domestic league so far with him being in goals. Guardiola’s men have been ruthless in all competitions this season and are tipped to win at Arsenal.

Porto 1/7 | Draw 62/10 | M. Tel-Aviv 20/1

Israeli Champions, Maccabi Tel-Aviv have’nt got off the mark failing to score in both matches so far. Slaviša Jokanović’s men will face a tough task when they travel to Portuguese giants, FC Porto. The Dragons will look to keep up their good run of form so far beating Chelsea and picking up a point at Dynamo Kiev. In attack, Porto will look to Algerian winger Yacine Brahimi who has been described by his coach as a “technically gifted player”. Brahimi was influential in their 2-1 win over Chelsea bossing the defence on the left flank. In defence, Porto will look to the experience of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who has won this tournament three times with Real Madrid, most recently in 2014. Maccabi Tel-Aviv know that they will have to go all out to steal something from this game, but know that will take something special. FC Porto are favourites at 1/7 and are tipped to get the home Win.

Valencia 5/10 | Draw 34/10 | Gent 11/2

Belgian Champions Gent travel to Valencia on Matchday 3 and will look to grab something from this game after picking up just one point in their opening two encounters. Gent will need to work on their defensive abilities after conceding first in both of their Group H openers. Known as the Buffalo’s, Gent will look to ram their horns in the Spanish side’s defence. Valencia come off the back of an impressive away win at Olympique Lyon, winning 1-0 in France with a first half strike from Algerian midfielder, Sofiane Feghouli. Valencia will look to stay in that run of form and are tipped to get the Halftime–Fulltime Win Double at 5/2.

Bayer Leverkusen 17/20 | Draw 26/10 | Roma 31/10

Leverkusen were outstanding in their first fixture at home to BATE, winning 4-1. Leverkusen showed their class in the second half of that game scoring three goals after the halftime interval. Roger Schmidt was relieved to grab the victory after seeing his side concede so soon after going 1-0 up which saw them sharing the spoils at halftime. Roma will look to bounce back after a shock defeat to BATE in their second match of Group E. The Italian giants left it too late when they scored two second half goals from Gervinho and Vasilis Torosidis which proved to be a little too late as they still went down 3-2. Arsenal loanee Wojciech Szczęsny was horrendous in their last match and I’m expecting Bayer Leverkusen to get the Win with Both Teams To Score at 7/10.

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Wednesday 21st October

CSKA Moscow 17/10 | Draw 23/10 | Man United 16/10

Both teams will look to extend their run of form after picking up their first victories of the campaign. CSKA face a tough test when they host Louis Van Gaal’s men. Seydou Doumbia has been vital for the Russian side since his loan move from AS Roma. Doumbia netted twice in their last game and helped his side to a 3-2 victory over PSV. Manchester United goalkeeper, David De Gea squashed all speculation of him leaving the Red Devils by signing a long term contract, and he will need to be at his best to prevent CSKA from getting on the scoresheet. United know that they have the strength to overcome the Russian side with Anthony Martial leading the front line and Juan Mata in exceptional form so far this season. The Red Devils will also look to their German general Bastian Schweinsteiger to control the game in midfield and create goal scoring opportunities for the more attacking players. I’m backing Man United to come out strong and get the away win at 16/10.

Atletico Madrid 1/7 | Draw 6/1 | Astana 22/1

Astana picked up their first points in their first ever Champions league competition on Matchday 2 when they held Galatasaray to a 2-2 draw. Astana found themselves lucky in that game with the Turks helping them with two own goals. Atletico will look to bounce back after a 2-1 home defeat to Benfica and Diego Simeone will need his star players to be at their best. Atleti have some world class players in Diego Godin, Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres and Koke. I’m tipping Atletico to win on the Halftime-Fulltime double at 5/10. 

Juventus 4/10 | Draw 36/10 | Monchengladbach 72/10

Monchengladbach will be looking to pick up the pieces in Turin after failing to beat Manchester City. Despite going 1-0 up in the 54th minute with a goal from Lars Stindl, The Borussians failed to get the result with a 90th minute penalty from Sergio Aguero, putting the game to bed for the Sky Blues. Brazilian striker Raffael will be looking to put the misery of missing a penalty behind him by netting in his first goal in the campaign. Juventus got off to a good start so far winning both of their games and will look to make it three on the spin. With Spanish striker Alvaro Morata in superb form, expect The Old Lady to extend their lead at the top of Group D with three wins out of three.

Galatasaray 26/10 | Draw 23/10 | Benfica 11/10

Portuguese Champions Benfica, travel to Turkey to face Galatasaray. The Eagles will look to reproduce the same sort of result they picked up when they travelled to Atletico Madrid to win 2-1. Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan has been key for the Portuguese side, netting in both games so far. Galatasaray lie at the foot of Group C with just a point to their name. They know that winning this game would get them closer to the next round or at least see them find a spot in the Europa League. Benfica have won both games so far but are tipped to slip up and get a draw against The Lions.

Malmo 11/4 | Draw 5/2 | Shakhtar 19/20

Both teams have failed to score so far and lie at the foot of Group A with no points apiece.  With PSG and Real Madrid being the other two teams in the group, these sides could fight for nothing more than a third place finish which would see them advance to the Europa League knockout round. Shakhtar have been below par and will need the likes of Alex Teixeira, Taison and Bernard to drive the team to victory. At 19/20, the Ukrainian giants are tipped to come out with a valuable win. 

Paris Saint-Germain 17/10 | Draw 23/10 | Real Madrid 31/20

PSG host Real Madrid in a mouth-watering fixture as both teams got off to the perfect start winning both their games while keeping clean sheets. This will be arguably the tie of the competition so far with both sides proving that they stand a good chance of going all the way to the final. Real Madrid will look to the ever-present Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo to produce his magic. Ronaldo will be looking to exploit PSG’s defence and will be a constant threat in attack along with Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Los Blancos will see a familiar face in Angel Di Maria, who has been prolific since his big money move from Manchester United. Di Maria alongside Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Imbrahimovic will prove to be a big challenge for Rafael Benitez and his men. Home advantage could play a key factor and I’m going for PSG to win at 29/20. 

Wolfsburg 13/20 | Draw 3/1 | PSV Eindhoven 39/10

Wolfsburg host Dutch Champions PSV Eindhoven in a thrilling Group B fixture. All teams stand a chance of progressing in the group as all are level on three points each. Both sides come off the back of defeats and will be looking to bounce back to get an upper hand on their opponents. The Wolves will hope to emulate the result at home against CSKA Moscow on Matchday 1 with Julian Draxler scoring the only goal of the game. The German midfielder has filled the void that Kevin De Bruyne left since his move from Schalke and is proving to be a world class player. Nicknamed the Peasants, PSV will look to their Captain, Luuk De Jong to help them up front to get the victory.  He will also look to support from on loan Belgian winger, Maxime Lestienne who netted a brace in their 3-2 defeat at CSKA. PSV are valued as underdogs at 39/10 but I feel that they could go all the way to victory.

Man City 6/10 | Draw 33/10 | Sevilla 42/10

Maunuel Pellegrini ‘s side have picked up the pieces since their opening day defeat to Juventus winning 2-1 at Monchengladbach. The Citizens will need to show their quality with the absence of Argentine striker, Sergio Aguero. Wilfired Bony is expected to replace him up front and with a midfield of Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, they possess one of the strongest attacking forces in Europe. Sevilla will need Adil Rami at his best to stop the likes of Bony and company. City have troubled in Europe so far and need to take their domestic form into the Champions League. Sevilla are on three points from their two games but are tipped to fall short at the hands of City at 6/10.

UCL Picks
Zenit WIN 17/20
Barcelona WIN 4/10
Chelsea DRAW 23/10 
Olympiacos WIN 31/20
Bayern Munich WIN 8/10
Porto WIN 1/7
Valencia HT-FT DOUBLE 5/2
Bayer Leverkusen BTTS 7/10
Man United WIN 16/10
Atletico HT-FT DOUBLE 5/10
Juventus WIN 4/10
Benfica DRAW 23/10
Shakhtar WIN 19/20
PSG WIN 29/20
PSV WIN 39/10
Man City WIN 6/10

Written by Jesse Nagel