It’s three down and three to play as the group stages of the Champions League gather pace this week.
With the first set of reverse fixtures and with the Premier League’s quintet of contenders all sitting pretty at the halfway stage, English hopes of making a real impact in Europe this season are soaring.
Football betting expert Iain Spragg tells us his expectations for the upcoming Champion’s League games…
Manchester United and Chelsea are first up with their clashes at home against Benfica and away to Roma, respectively.
With both José Mourinho or Antonio Conte’s teams on the verge of booking their place in the last 16 with two games to spare, neither should be short on motivation.
A great win v Spurs yesterday – now Nemanja Matic is already eyeing our @ChampionsLeague clash with Benfica… pic.twitter.com/dMAMeYZXqI
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 29, 2017
United are red hot favourites to beat the Portuguese (priced at 7/20) after their gritty 1-0 win at the Estádio da Luz two weeks ago. If Mourinho’s boys do that and CSKA Moscow fail to beat Basel, the Red Devils are through to the knockout phase for the first time in three years.
Benfica are rated 9/1 to pull off a shock victory in Manchester, but considering United have only lost twice in 16 games this year and beat Spurs 1-0 at the weekend to stay in second in the table, it is – as the odds suggest – a long shot.
Marcus Rashford was United’s match-winner in Portugal and is 7/5 to hurt Benfica again on Tuesday.
Romelu Lukaku is shorter at 4/5 to add to his tally of 16 for club and country while Benfica’s Brazilian striker Jonas – the scorer of 12 goals in 13 club appearances so far this season – is 7/2 to give the Old Trafford faithful cause for concern.
Chelsea can win Group C with a victory over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico regardless of other results.
However, they will have to significantly improve against the Italians after surrendering a two-goal lead at Stamford Bridge in the first game.
The squad have been training this morning, ahead of their trip to Rome… pic.twitter.com/bktEIPRjko
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 30, 2017
The Blues had to settle for a 3-3 draw two weeks ago thanks to a late Eden Hazard equaliser and Roma’s stirring fightback in London sees Eusebio Di Francesco’s side installed as the most marginal of favourites at 13/8 while the Blues are 17/10.
The draw, which would see Chelsea maintain what could prove a pivotal two-point lead over the Italians, is 49/20.
The prospects of a repeat in Rome of the previous 3-3 thriller is 33/1 while the chances of Chelsea winning the match with a clean sheet – which would only be their sixth shutout in 17 fixtures in all competitions this season – is 9/2.
The more dramatic scenario of the Blues conceding first but still battling back to wrap up the three points is 21/2.
Former Man City striker Edin Džeko beat Thibaut Courtois twice at the Bridge and is a 33/20 to repeat the trick on Tuesday night. Hazard was also on target on twice in the match and is rated 47/20 for another goal while Álvaro Morata is 7/5 to end his surprising five-match goal drought.
English teams may be flying high on the Continent but Group B has proved an altogether sterner test for Celtic.
The Scottish champions have to beat Bayern Munich in Glasgow on Tuesday night to harbour any realistic hope of being involved in the competition come the New Year.
⏪ It ended in stalemate the last time #CelticFC played @FCBayern at Paradise! #CELFCB #UCL pic.twitter.com/CgNIgQ2W2D
— Celtic Football Club (@celticfc) October 29, 2017
That’s a tall order given that Brendan Rodgers’ side was beaten 3-0 by the Bundesliga giants at the Allianz Arena earlier in the month and despite home advantage, it’s no surprise Celtic are 8/1 outsiders while Bayern are 4/11 for the three points.
The good news for the Bhoys is they are at least in imperious form in Scotland – their 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock on Saturday equalling the club’s own, 100-year-old British record of 62 domestic games unbeaten – but Europe is, of course, a different story.
The bad news is Bayern are unbeaten in five since Jupp Heynckes replaced the sacked Carlo Ancelotti for his fourth managerial stint with the club.
Their win against RB Leipzig on Saturday ominously taking the team back to the top of the Bundesliga.
A battling 1-0 win for the home side would be manna from heaven and is a 24/1 shot but the perceived gulf in class is reflected in the odds with the Germans 9/1 to score the only goal of the game in Glasgow.
Englishman Scott Sinclair is Celtic’s top scorer this term with 10 and is 16/5 to make it 11 against Munich while Leigh Griffiths is rated the most likely Bhoys’ hero in front of goal at 47/20.
Bayern have an embarrassment of attacking threats. Arjen Robben – in the absence of the injured Robert Lewandowski – is the shortest-priced of them at 27/25 to find the back of the net at Celtic Park.
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