Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – Wednesday’s MatchesStats
The word ‘crisis’ is often banded about willy-nilly in football but make no bones about it, Chelsea are in the black stuff.
Chelsea v Maccabi Tel Aviv, Wednesday 16 September 2015, 19.45, BT Sport 2
Jose Mourinho’s men were abject when going down at Everton on Saturday, their third defeat of the season already. When winning the Premier League title last season, the Londoners were beaten just three times.
Their four-point haul from their first five league games represents their worst start to a season since 1986 and they’ve already leaked a league-worst 12 goals – last season Mou’s Blues let in just 32 goals and the year previously 27. Want more? Chelsea’s opposition have fired in 39 shots on goal, again a league-high.
With a crunch clash against Arsenal scheduled for Saturday lunchtime, the English champions know they must address their faults sooner rather than later. Could the Champions League offer light relief? You’d assume so with the unheralded Maccabi Tel Aviv lining up in the opposition tunnel. But closer inspection suggests we should be treading very carefully.
Despite opening their continental campaign at Stamford Bridge in each of the past three years, Chelsea have failed to record a win. Yeah, they’ve returned W8-D4-L1 of their previous 13 Champions League curtain-raisers but this fixture can be compared to a date with Rosenborg at the Bridge back in September 2007.
Eight years ago the Blues failed to record three points against the Norwegians in their European bow and Mourinho was sent packing. Only victory will do on Wednesday night to relieve the mounting pressure but they should be good enough to deliver in front of their home supporters.
The Londoners have lost just once in 35 previous home Champions League group games and they’ve been ahead at the interval in their most recent nine since 2012/13. The hosts are 1/2 to lead at half-time and 8/15 in the Half-Time/Full-Time market but those prices are just too skinny considering the circumstances.
Maccabi make the journey with an unremarkable recent record since mid-June. The Israeli treble champions have W2-D4-L1 of seven fixtures in all competitions but do deserve respect. The Yellows knocked Basel out of the qualification play-off round and in Eran Zahavi have a striker that’s notched six goals in his five recent outings.
Coached by Championship-winning former Watford boss and ex-Chelsea midfielder Slanisa Jokanovic, the visitors will hope to rattle Mourinho’s cage. However, Israeli clubs do hold a pretty treacherous return in Europe’s elite competition – W4/24 with all four victories recorded on home soil.
Still, I’m going to stick my neck out here and back Both Teams To Score at 19/10. It’s been a winner in six of Chelsea’s past nine Stamford Bridge clashes at this stage of the competition and Jokanovic often oversaw high-scoring duels last term with the Hornets – 21/36 (58%) fixtures featuring three goals or more.
Both Teams To Score @ 19/10
Dynamo Zagreb v Arsenal, Wednesday 16 September 2015, 19.45, BT Sport Europe
Arsenal are entering their 18th consecutive season in the Champions League and having made it past the group stages in the last 12 campaigns, the Gunners fans will be hoping they can end a run of five Last 16 exits on the spin. Arsene Wenger’s men have been handed a plum draw but with Bayern Munich joining the capital club in Group F, second place looks the most likely.
The visitors produced a commanding display to see off Stoke 2-0 on Saturday and boast plenty of positive Champions League trends worth noting. For starters, the Gunners have W6-D2-L2 in their past 10 continental away days and they’ve also managed maximum points in seven of their last 10 group stage openers.
Delve a little deeper and Arsenal have bagged a strong W12-D0-L3 during their opening two away group games across the past 10 seasons with goals also high on the agenda. The Gunners have posted just three shutouts in those 15 fixtures with Both Teams To Score proving profitable in each of their last nine.
Wenger’s charges have kept only one clean sheet in 10 away group stage games and may well have one eye on Saturday’s date with Chelsea.
I do expect Arsenal to get the job done but it might be worth backing the 23/10 for Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score as well as the 5/4 on Arsenal -1 in the handicap market.
Dinamo are sitting pretty at the top of the table back home after nine matches. Zoran Mamic’s men are unbeaten and have smashed 11 goals in their past three outings. But that’s no major surprise – the Zagreb side have won the Croatian League 10 years on the bounce.
The Blues dominate domestically (unbeaten at the Stadion Maksimir since July 2010) but have been outclassed on the European stage all too often in recent years. A kind qualifying draw against Albanian side Skenderbeu Korce saw them through the easier ‘champions path’ but a W0-D1-L5 return from six group stage games in recent years has included four defeats by two goals or more.
Goals have been a feature of their continental contests with four of their six Europa League matches last term throwing up six goals or more, including all three at their Zagreb base. In November, Austrian side Salzburg hammered the hosts 5-1 in their own back yard and failure to keep their sheets clean in 15 European matches should prove their undoing.
Former Manchester United striker Angelo Henriquez will line up in attack and Dinamo can call upon a clean bill of health ahead of this game but picking up a point or better looks beyond them. The Blues should play their part in a high-scoring away success for Arsenal.
Arsenal to win and Both Teams To Score @ 23/10
Arsenal -1 @ 5/4
*Prices correct at time of publication