UEFA Champions League Preview

The final round of group fixtures for the UEFA Champions League promises to leave you at the edge of your seat with teams looking to book their place in the knockout stage. All eyes will be on Jose Mourinho and Chelsea as the Blues welcome Porto to Stamford Bridge in a thrilling encounter. Chelsea need a victory to qualify which will also see them top the group. Elsewhere, Arsenal will need to beat Olympiacos by two or more goals and might have to do it without Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez. Manchester United face a daunting trip to Germany to take on group leaders Wolfsburg with Louis van Gaal’s side only assured of progression by claiming maximum points. Teams to have qualified are Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Benfica, Juventus, Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Zenit. Who will join them in the knockout stages? I’m confident I have the answers, you can put your money on it.

Tuesday 8 December

11/20 Man City | Draw 34/10 | Monchengladbach 17/4 (21:45)

Manchester City suffered a setback in finishing as the group’s leaders when they endured a 1-0 loss to Juventus. They must defeat Borussia Monchengladbach and hope that Sevilla beat Juventus to get back on top and avoid Europe’s biggest giants. Despite an impressive 4-2 victory last time out against Sevilla, Gladbach stand no chance of reaching the last 16 round but have the Europa League to play for. The Citizens will fight for top spot whereas the Borussians have third place to battle for. It will be a tight encounter so play it safe and back Both Teams To Score at 11/20.

14/10 Wolfsburg | 9/4 | Man United 39/20 (21:45)

Wolfsburg replaced Manchester United at the top of Group B in the Champions League as Andre Schurrle’s heroics helped them to a 2-0 victory at CSKA Moscow. It was the first away win by any team in the tightly fought group and put the German side on nine points. The Red Devils slipped up on the opportunity to advance into the next round with a game to spare after their goalless draw at home to PSV. United now face a difficult challenge to qualify when they travel to Germany in a game that they have to win. Both teams have all to play for, but with home advantage, Wolfsburg are tipped to oust their opponents for qualification.

1/14 Real Madrid | 10/1 | Malmo 28/1 (21:45)

Real Madrid ensured top spot with a 4-3 win over Shaktar Donetsk on Matchday 5. It was the first time that Rafael Benitez’s men conceded in the tournament this season after a late scare from Shakhtar which saw them score three goals in the space of 11 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo will look to add to his seven goal tally in the Champions League, however, Benitez could rest a few of the big names knowing that his side will finish as Group A leaders. Malmo come off the back of a 5-0 massacre to PSG and they could see their shaky defence in for another flurry of goals. Back Madrid to Score In Both Halves at 7/20.

31/20 Sevilla | 9/4 | Juventus 7/4 (21:45)

Sevilla will hope to end a run of four straight defeats in the Champions League when they host group leaders Juventus. Los Rojiblancos will need maximum points plus a slip up from Monchengladbach in order to qualify for the Europa League with a third place finish in Group D. Juventus need only a draw to cement their position at top spot knowing that they have a better head-to-head record against second-placed Manchester City. Paul Pogba has been vital for the Old Lady and could play a key role in Juventus’ fight for a point. Sevilla are tipped to break their losing streak with a draw which will see the Italians finish as group leaders.

7/20 Galatasaray | 39/10 | Astana 8/1 (21:45)

Galatasaray host Astana in a crucial fight for third spot in Group C. Gala come off the back of a 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid which saw the Turkish champions stand no chance of reaching the next round with Europa League football being the only competition to play for now. Astana went into their first ever Champions League campaign as the outsiders in the group but will finish unbeaten at home, recording draws in all three games, including a 2-2 draw against their opponents. However, the Kazakhstan champions have not managed a goal away from home in the tournament and are tipped to fall short once again. Back Gala for the win at 7/20.

7/20 Paris Saint-Germain | 4/1 | Shakhtar 13/2 (21:45)

PSG ensured their spot in the next round with a 5-0 thumping to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hometown club Malmo. The Parisians have no chance of finishing the group as leaders because of their head-to-head record against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Laurent Blanc’s side have been tight in defence conceding just one goal and have kept clean sheets in both their home matches played. For Shakhtar, it was always about third spot in the group knowing that Real Madrid and PSG will be the dominating forces in Group A. Shakhtar will have a bit of hope in securing that third spot position knowing that they have a greater head-to-head record against Malmo who travel to take on Real Madrid. PSG have produced some high scoring displays this season and with Shakhtar scoring three goals in the space of 11 minutes against Real Madrid, we can expect an exciting matchup between these teams. PSG to Win + Over 3.5 Goals at 18/10 will do it for me.

9/10 PSV Eindhoven | 26/10 | CSKA Moscow 28/10 (21:45)

PSV earned a commendable point at Old Trafford last time which now takes the pressure off the Dutch outfit in a must win game against CSKA Moscow, who are already eliminated from the competition. A win for PSV would see them qualify through to the next round, unless Manchester United claim maximum points in Germany against group leaders Wolfsburg. CSKA come off the back of the first home defeat in the group when they were downed 2-0 in their own backyard by Wolfsburg. PSV showed good balance in attack and defence against Man United and are tipped to earn a victory here at 9/10.

19/10 Benfica | 21/10 | Atletico Madrid 31/20 (21:45)

Atletico Madrid travel to Portugal to take on Benfica in a fight for top spot after both teams secured qualification in their last fixture. Benfica are on top of Atleti by a better head-to-head record after winning the return fixture 2-1 in Madrid. Diego Simeone will look to the same sort of performance that his team displayed last time out when they trumped Galatasaray 2-0 at home. Benfica didn’t look like the side that beat Atletico last time out when Astana took an early 2-0 lead over the Portuguese giants. Benfica showed great character to fight back to a 2-2 draw but cannot afford any slip ups against Atleti. This match could go either way, but Both Teams To Score is the safest bet at even money.

Wednesday 9 December

26/10 Olympiacos | 5/2 | Arsenal 19/20 (21:45)

It’s do or die for Arsenal as they face a stern test against Greek Champions Olympiacos in a match that will decide their fate. Could it possibly be that Arsenal are about to complete one of the most emphatic feats of escapology from all their years competing in the Champions League? They have certainly enhanced their chances with a victory over Dinamo Zagreb and if they can beat Olympiacos in Piraeus then Arsene Wenger’s record of having qualified for the knockout stages in 15 successive seasons may yet be extended. The Gunners have never picked up a point in Piraeus losing all three of their meetings. Arsenal have Bayern Munich to thank for keeping their hopes of reaching the last 16 alive after the German champions handed Olympiacos a 4-0 trouncing on Matchday 5. Arsenal will need to win the game by a two goal margin or by scoring three goals or more to progress and I’m expecting just that. Back Wenger’s side for the Win + Over 2.5 Goals at 17/10.

14/10 Gent | 47/20 | Zenit 19/10 (21:45)

Gent moved a step closer to the Knockout Round when Kalifa Coulibaly headed home in the 95th minute to hand his side a 2-1 victory over Lyon. Gent lie in second spot, just a point above third-placed Valencia and know that victory will grant them a ticket to the next round. Zenit St Petersburg maintained their 100% record this season in the competition with a 2-0 win over Valencia. Andre Villas-Boas’ men will look to be the only team to make it six from six in the group stage with a win over The Buffalos. A tight affair is expected with Both Teams To Score the best bet at 8/10.

2/9 Roma | 52/10 | BATE 10/1 (21:45)

Despite coming off the back of a humiliating 6-1 thumping to Barcelona, Roma have their fate in their own hands knowing that a home win would seal qualification. Roma were missing the pace of Gervinho and Mohamed Salah going forward, but face a much easier challenge at their own turf against BATE. The Belarusian champions have been dismal on the road and have suffered defeats on both their travels so far. BATE got the upper hand on Roma last time out when they ousted the Italians, 3-2 at home. There will certainly be goals in an encounter like this – but Roma are tipped to outscore their opponents. Take Roma to Win + Both Teams To Score at a valuable 33/20.

47/20 Bayer Leverkusen | 26/10 | Barcelona 21/20 (21:45)

Leverkusen find themselves in a tough situation and will need maximum points and hope that other results go in their favour. Roger Schmidt’s side have failed to win in the competition since their opening day victory when they thrashed BATE 4-1 at home. Barcelona will be weary of the fact that Leverkusen have scored an impressive eight goals in their two home games played so far. The Catalans have already qualified as group leaders and have ensured their place in the last 16 for the 12th consecutive season. I fancy Leverkusen to cause the European holders problems but you just cannot back against Barcelona considering the form they are in. Expect a heated game from the start with Both Teams To Score in the First Half at 9/4.

1/6 Dynamo Kyiv | 6/1 | Maccabi Tel-Aviv 15/1 (21:45)

Dynamo Kiev blew the group wide open with an emphatic 2-0 victory away to Porto. Kiev lie in third spot but have the best chance of qualifying knowing that the top two teams face each other in the other group fixture. A win would seal qualification for Kiev regardless of what happens in the Chelsea and Porto fixture due to the head-to-head rule. Maccabi Tel-Aviv have lost all five of their games and have scored just once in the competition. Dynamo Kiev are expected to qualify to the next round and are tipped on the Halftime-Fulltime Double at 11/20.

9/20 Valencia | 34/10 | Lyon 11/2 (21:45)

Valencia must claim maximum points against Lyon and hope that results go their way in the other Group G encounter to ensure that they are not stuck with the burden of playing Thursday night football in the Europa League. Los Che are one point behind Gent and will need Zenit to get something out of the game in order for the Spaniards to stand a chance of going through. For Lyon, its much different, the French giants have failed to win in the group so far and find themselves at the foot of the table with just a point from their five games. Valencia are tipped to play their part in the hope of qualifying with a win.

19/20 Chelsea | 24/10 | FC Porto 29/10 (21:45)

A second successive win in the Champions League has showed that Chelsea have the quality to bounce back after a disastrous start to the season and are now joint leaders in the group. It’s a must win game for Jose Mourinho’s men knowing that a draw would see Porto advance ahead of their opponents on head-to-head. Their other rival for qualification is Dynamo Kiev who are expected to win at home against basement-dwellers Maccabi Tel-Aviv – putting more pressure on both teams. Porto will be going all out to earn a point at the least which would guarantee their spot in the next round. The Blues have started to get their season back on track and will look to make home advantage count with a win at 19/20.

19/2 Dinamo Zagreb | 5/1 | Bayern Munich 1/4 (21:45)

Bayern Munich eased into the Champions League knockout stages after demolishing Olympiacos 4-0 last time out to secure top spot in Group F with a game to spare. Bayern have been in excellent form this season and have lost just once in all competitions. The Bavarians have managed a resounding 17 goals in their five matches played so far and you just cannot back against a scoring record like that. Dinamo Zagreb lie at the bottom of the group with just one win and four defeats. Expect another one-sided victory for Bayern, with the Bavarians tipped to Win By Three Goals Or More at 17/10.

UCL Picks
Manchester City BTTS 11/20
Wolfsburg WIN 14/10
Sevilla DRAW 9/4
Galatasaray WIN 7/20
PSG WIN + OVER 3.5 GOALS 18/10
PSV WIN 9/10
Benfica BTTS 1/1
Arsenal WIN + OVER 2.5 GOALS 17/10
Gent BTTS 8/10
Roma WIN+BTTS 33/20
Levekusen BTTS 1ST HALF 9/4
Dynamo Kiev HT-FT WIN 11/20
Valencia WIN 9/20
Chelsea WIN 19/20
Bayern Munich WIN BY 3 GOALS OR MORE 17/10

Written by Jesse Nagel