Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – Tuesday’s Matches
I’m struggling to work out how Manchester City warrant favouritism on Tuesday night.
Sevilla v Manchester City, Tuesday 3 November 2015 (19.45), BT Sport 2
To begin with, Sevilla were very unlucky not to leave the Etihad with at least a point a fortnight ago, having surrendered a lead of their own. And secondly, Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors make the journey without their two key offensive starts in Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
Sure, if City win and Juventus beat Gladbach in Group D’s other game, the Premier League leaders will be into the Champions League last 16 with two rounds to spare. And a draw would be enough to maintain their three-point lead over the Spaniards and remain on course for the knockout stages. But we can’t be basing our pre-match punt on permutations.
Sevilla were dealt a blow with the news that sharp-shooting forward Kevin Gameiro is out with a hamstring injury but Fernando Llorente’s a capable replacement and playmaker Ever Banega should have recovered in time to take his place in the host’s starting XI.
The Andalusians have been very hit or miss in 2015/16 and their weekend loss made it four defeats in 10 La Liga matches this term. However, their fearsome return from Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan fixtures deserves more respect than 9/5 quotes on a home win.
Sevilla have won their last 10 European matches as hosts – nine of which came under current boss Unai Emery during their successive Europa League titles across the past two campaigns. If we look at purely Champions League performances, Los Rojiblancos have W7-D1-L1, netting in each game.
Having dispatched Gladbach convincingly at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan already this season, Emery’s men have now W6-D1-L0 in their previous seven outings in the group-stages at their Andalusian base. And if you’re in need of more convincing, they did beat Barcelona comfortably just last month.
In fairness, Man City have vastly improved on their travels. Their W5-D1-L1 record on the road in group-stage games is noteworthy but with a point enough to put the Citizens in pole for qualification, plus the significant injuries, I just can’t be entertaining a play on the visitors.
My first selection will be to invest my faith in a quality Sevilla showing their true colours and odds of 21/20 in the Draw No Bet market at least allow us to keep the stalemate onside whilst supporting the hosts to pick up three points at juicy odds-against quotes.
But I’ll also have a solid wager on Over 2.5 Goals at 7/10. Sevilla have struck 14 times in their last five fixtures as hosts and since March they’ve plundered at least two goals in all bar two of their 15 appearances on home soil. In all, their six games covering both La Liga and Champions League contests this term have delivered in the Over 2.5 Goals market.
City have logged just a solitary clean sheet in 18 Champions League matches but only Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Dortmund have stopped the Citizens scoring in their previous 15 away days in Europe.
And when Pellegrini’s troops have notched on the road, Over 2.5 Goals has banked in all bar one of those 11 outings.
If you’re in need of a clincher, Man City have seen Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals land in 10 of their last 11 encounters in all competitions. Now that’s strong.
Sevilla draw no bet @ 21/20
Over 2.5 Goals @ 7/10
Manchester United v CSKA Moscow, Tuesday 3 November 2015 (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Boring, boring Man Utd. The Red Devils have failed to score in their last three games and return to Old Trafford knowing they’ve not fired blanks in four successive games since 1992. That record should be blown apart on Tuesday mind when CSKA Moscow make their way to Manchester.
The four-game winless run is the joint-longest experienced under Louis van Gaal’s tutelage but the crucial point picked up in Moscow two weeks ago has put the Red Devils in a strong position to qualify. The two teams head into this showdown with identical records so the onus is on the hosts to pocket maximum points.
For all United’s dull and dour football, they can boast the joint-best defensive record in the Premier League, leaking just eight goals in 11 with their backline being breached just three times in nine in front of their home fans. More recently, opposition sides have scored just once in five at Old Trafford.
That solid foundation should allow the Red Devils to play with confidence and two wins from two in continental action under Van Gaal as well as W6-D1-L0 in Champions League action since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club should again ensure United are a tough nut to crack.
However, it should be noted that the hosts have only won by two or more goals twice in their last 17 Champions League group-stage matches at the Theatre of Dreams. Nine of their previous 14 of that sample featured fewer than three goals with seven of those 14 even failing to produce two goals or more.
The Russians are now nine points clear at the top of the Russian Premier League following their 2-0-weekend success over lowly Ufa. This season the Army Men have been beaten just twice in 23 but those defeats came in their previous two Champions League away days at Sporting Lisbon and Wolfsburg.
Seeing CSKA struggle on their travels in European competition is nothing new. Since the start of 2012 they’ve lost eight of their 10 away games in the Champions League but those with fresh memories will recall a 2-1 triumph at Manchester neighbours City last November.
Leonid Slutsky’s side don’t often go down with a fight, mind. CSKA have netted in all bar three of their last 11 away days in this competition. They do boast enough quality to give United a scare but with Halloween long gone, I’m not expecting the Red Devils to be spooked by their Russian guests.
Guy Fawkes Night is next on the agenda and the likelihood is United get the job done in uncompromising and rather unglamorous fashion rather producing any flashy fireworks. Visiting glovesman Igor Akinfeev has failed to shut out any opposition team in 34 Champions League appearances dating back to 2006 so I’ll back United to end their barren run with a narrow victory.
Man Utd to win and Under 2.5 Goals is an 11/4 play.
I value the hosts’ low-scoring and defensive trends higher than that of their visitors’ exploits and believe Van Gaal’s charges can take one step closer to the knockout stages of Europe’s premier competition.
Manchester United to win and Under 2.5 Goals (11/4)
*Prices correct at time of publication.