Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – Wednesday
Manchester City have booked their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the third consecutive season but now the Citizens are looking to finish as group winners for the very first time.
Juventus v Manchester City, Wednesday 25 November 2015 19.45, BT Sport 2
Avoiding defeat in Turin on Wednesday night will be paramount to those aspirations. Manuel Pellegrini’s men should have relished this trip knowing the pressure is off but their 4-1 capitulation to Liverpool at the Etihad on Saturday left the club shell-shocked and the spotlight firmly on City again. That loss ended a nine-match unbeaten run with the end result only kept to four thanks to the heroics of Joe Hart in goal.
Still, the Citizens have enjoyed their continental travels in recent seasons and should be able to compete at Juventus Stadium. Despite being handed the toughest draw, City top Group D with the highest points total of any English side thus far and have W6-D1-L3 in their most recent 10 away days in the Champions League.
Of the three losses, two came at the hands of Barcelona with Bayern Munich completing the negative record. But all three defeats came by one-goal margins. The visitors produced sterling displays to come out on top in trips to Sevilla and Monchengladbach already this campaign and should fancy their chances of completing a hat-trick of away victories.
But the Premier League outfit are likely to be undone by their sloppy defensive record. Pellegrini’s troops have kept just two clean sheets in their previous 14 and are likely to be without defensive stalwart Vincent Kompany once more. Martin Demichelis will play and it may be no coincidence the Argentine has featured in both 4-1 defeats to Tottenham and Liverpool this season.
City have kept just four clean sheets in 32 Champions League ties and so it would be a surprise to see them shutout Juventus on home soil.
In contrast, the Citizens’ eight goals in this season’s competition have been scored by eight different players and I’d be happy to get involved in a Both Teams To Score play.
The BTTS bet has banked in all four of City’s Champions League games this season whilst Over 2.5 Goals has landed in seven of their last 10 away matches in Europe. Juventus have only followed suit in one of their four Group D games (the opener v City) with only one of their last nine in Turin breaking the 2.5 goals barrier. But if you believe the visitors can notch, it looks the best bet at 4/5.
Juve shut out both Gladbach and Sevilla and need a point to consolidate their own progression. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have started to pick up results alongside their positive performances of late and their W8-D4-L2 return from their past 14 fixtures has brought them back to within nine points of the Serie A summit.
The Old Lady have W8-D5-L1 in their last 14 Champions League outings – the 2015 final their only reverse – and it’s more than two years since their previous defeat on home soil in this competition (W7-D4-L0) to Bayern Munich. In fact, Bayern (twice) are the only side to come away from Turin with a victory in 42 continental ties dating back to 2004/05.
But moreover, Juve have kept their sheets clean once in their past five games and are having to shuffle their pack in defensive quarters thanks to injuries to Patrice Evra and Martin Caceres. The three centre-halves of Georgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli keep the core strong but wing-backs Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado are much more adept in attacking areas and can be exposed.
Both Teams To Score @ 4/5
Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven, Wednesday 25 November 2015 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Solid but far from spectacular appears to be the familiar line trotted out when it comes to Manchester United’s season and the Red Devils’ consistency in grinding out narrow victories should again ring true on Wednesday night.
Louis van Gaal’s side currently top Group B and victory will book their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League but their steady progress has been overshadowed by an increasingly severe injury list. As many as nine players could be missing from this midweek match.
Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and James Wilson are all potential absentees. However, Rooney, Martial, Wilson and Fellaini all look likely to figure as United look to extend a W6-D1-L0 home record in Europe’s premier club competition.
Four of those victories arrived ‘to nil’ but only two were bagged by more than a one-goal margin. However, it’s worth noting, the Red Devils have failed to net just once in 19 Champions League outings at Old Trafford and head into this contest with a strong W8-D3-L0 return in front of their home supporters.
Intriguingly, seven of those 11, including their most recent five, have been level at half-time and the 45-minute stalemate has also proven profitable in five of United’s last six league and Champions League dates as hosts. The Draw-Manchester United double result in the Half-Time/Full-Time market is an attractive 3/1 poke and well worth a wee play.
The second-half has been highest scoring in PSV’s last seven on the spin.
As already hinted, United boast a strong trend for shutouts in this competition at Old Trafford and that tallies nicely with their defensive progression under van Gaal. Only three of the last 11 visitors to the Theatre of Dreams have managed to net whilst the hosts haven’t conceded a goal from open-play since their 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow on 21st October. The win ‘to nil’ is an 11/8 shot but I’ll happily leave it alone with the Red Devils’ injury issues looming large.
I do expect United to get the job done. Seven of the eight Group B games have concluded in home victories and although PSV’s threat in attacking areas is enough reason to leave the win ‘to nil’ selection alone, the Dutch champions don’t tend to travel too well in Europe.
Philip Cocu’s men, who are third in the Dutch League, have W1-D1-L9 in their last 11 away Champions League days and have W3-D2-L7 on the continental road since 2012. The Dutch outfit saw their five-game winning streak ended by Willem II on Saturday and all three of their defeats in 2015/16 came away from Eindhoven.
PSV were a little fortunate to beat United in September and the key architect that day, Maxime Lestienne, was given a special leave of absence at the start of October and hasn’t featured since. He played a direct hand in eight goals in six matches before his unavailability but even so, Luuk De Jong remains a handful.
The Netherlands international has scored in each of his last five games and has smashed 16 goals already this campaign. He’s well capable of feeding on scraps and is just another reason behind avoiding the win ‘to nil’ and favouring the HT-FT approach at a larger price.
Draw-Manchester United @ 3/1
*Prices correct at time of publication