Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – Wednesday
Manchester United are top of the Premier League for the first time in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Manchester United v Wolfsburg, Wednesday 30th September 2015, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Although, the Red Devils will know, there’s little margin for error in Wednesday night’s Group B showdown with Wolfsburg at Old Trafford having been beaten in their Champions League opener at PSV Eindhoven.
United’s form in front of their home fans has remained solid, if not spectacular, since Louis van Gaal took over the hot-seat and based purely on the results, it’s hard to knock the Dutchman’s achievements. At Old Trafford, United have W20-D3-L4 with five victories bagged in their last six outings at the Theatre of Dreams.
And so the bookmakers certainly believe Man Utd can give the Premier League something to cheer about this midweek with the hosts chalked up as 3/4 shots to do the business. The Red Devils have W46-D15-L4 of their 65 Champions League games when entertaining and also proudly boast the best defensive record in the English top tier whilst failing to score only once in 11 matches during 2015/16.
Visitors Wolfsburg started their campaign with an entertaining 1-0 win at home to CSKA Moscow. Dieter Hecking’s troops continued their cavalier approach to fixtures at the Volkswagen Arena but results and off-field issues since have threatened to derail their season.
The Wolves were involved in a historic defeat at Bayern Munich last midweek – leading 1-0 at the interval and playing some fantastic football. Robert Lewandowski’s half-time introduction saw the Pole smash five goals in nine minutes after the interval – and last weekend Hecking’s charges were held to a very disappointing 1-1 derby draw with struggling Hannover.
Wolfsburg, normally so strong in front of their home fans, were wasteful in front of goal and their head coach believes they’ve been missing a key ingredient. Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic’s departures have both hit the side hard and now the continued uncertainty surrounding the club’s main sponsor Volkswagen, the Wolves look a little in limbo.
Midfield enforcer Luiz Gustavo misses out for the visitors and with little protection to cumbersome Naldo and Dante at the heart of the Wolves defence, you’d expect United to have some joy in the final third.
The Red Devils have scored three times in four of their last five
…and have pace and guile to burn with Anthony Martial leading the line alongside Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay.
United have netted two or more goals in 18 of their 27 home games since the start of the 2014/15 season and I reckon they can repeat that feat on Wednesday night. But at 3/4 quotes, it’s best to look elsewhere.
For all Wolfsburg’s travel woes – winless away in the Bundesliga this season – the visitors still have the potential to cut loose and so the best angle to take could be to back a Manchester United win and Both Teams To Score at a bulbous 5/2.
The Wolves’ six away games in last term’s Europa League produced 21 goals, they’ve only failed to notch once in 16 outings and are likely to field a strong front four featuring Bas Dost, Max Kruse, Andre Schurrle and Julian Draxler.
Manchester United To Win And Both Teams To Score @ 5/2
Borussia Monchengladbach v Man City, Wednesday 30th September 2015, 19.45, BT Sport
If this match was priced up just a fortnight ago, we’d have been offered very different odds. Manchester City were steamrolling their way to five successive Premier League wins to open their season and looking a great prospect to enjoy a slice of Champions League success. However, the Citizens suffered an avoidable loss at home to Juventus and since that, things have gone sour very quickly.
Hosts Monchengladbach returned to Europe’s premier competition for the first time in the modern era. Wily head coach Lucien Favre performed miracles to bring the Foals off the bottom of the German top tier before fourth, eighth, sixth and third-place finishes alongside a wonderful W70-D38-L40 record in league action before 2015/16. But Gladbach lost their first five in the Bundesliga this season and were dreadful when going down 3-0 at Sevilla, resulting in the veteran Swiss boss waving the white flag.
The Rhineland club have appointed U23 coach Andre Schubert on a temporary basis and back-to-back wins over Augsburg and Stuttgart have certainly lifted spirits around Borussia Park. But it’s important not to get too carried away by those victories against sides struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Gladbach’s problems stem from their porous defence. Skipper Martin Stranzl is the glue to the Foals defence and his continued absence at the back is really hitting the Foals hard. Throw in the departure of midfield schemer Christoph Kramer and the hosts are missing the impenetrable defensive shield from last term too. No wonder they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in nine and leaked 18 goals.
So City may have lost three of their last four and are definitely without Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony but magician David Silva and Yaya Toure have travelled. Sergio Aguero will lead the line and so with Kevin De Bruyne making an instant impact, the Citizens can still call upon a fearsome XI.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men have W4-D1-L5 of their past 10 Champions League road trips, which isn’t bad going. Sure, they’ve W2-D2-L7 of their last 11 in this competition but I do reckon they can expose Gladbach’s fragile defence. However, four clean sheets in 29 Champions League outings suggest they’ll have to do it the hard way.
The Foals have scored in each of their last 15 home games in European competition – a record dating back to 1987 – and have plundered seven goals in their previous two matches. The duo have been involved in 14/18 games that have featured three goals or more collectively this campaign so again I’m looking towards the goals markets alongside a City win. A Manchester City win and Over 2.5 Goals is backable at 9/5 – that’s what I’ll be on at Borussia Park.
Manchester City To Win And Over 2.5 Goals @ 9/5
*Prices correct at time of publication