Mark O’Haire’s Champions League Tips – Wednesday’s Matches
Group B is nicely poised in the Champions League with all four sides locked together on three points so this matchday could be pivotal in deciding which teams end up in the knockout stage in the New Year.
CSKA Moscow v Manchester United, Wednesday 21st October 2015 (19.45), BT Sport Europe
Manchester United come into this game in buoyant form. An away tie against Everton on Saturday looked a tricky one but the Red Devils produced a performance of such merit that the Toffees were blown away by three goals to nil. It was as good as we’ve seen United under the tutelage of Louis Van Gaal and if that level can be maintained then expect a bold title challenge.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly in the Champions League yet though. A Matchday 1 defeat in Eindhoven against PSV produced not only zero returns but also a (likely) season-ending injury to the improving Luke Shaw. Two weeks on from that painful night, United edged a 2-1 win over Wolfsburg at Old Trafford to put them back in the reckoning in the group.
Their opponents on Wednesday are last year’s runners-up in Russia CSKA Moscow. The Muscovites won the previous two editions of the Russian championship but fell short last season to Andre Villas Boas’ Zenit St Petersburg side.
Twelve games into the new Premier League season CSKA have scooped up 32 points out of 36 and are unbeaten in their domestic campaign. They’ve already faced six of the other seven sides that filled the Top-8 spots in last year’s division and managed to pick up a point against champions Zenit in September. It’s been an impressive start.
CSKA entered the Champions League in the third qualifying round this season and managed to sneak past Sparta Prague and Sporting Lisbon in earlier rounds to reach this group. They beat PSV on home soil on Matchday 2 following on from an opening matchday defeat to Wolfsburg.
A glance back at the Russian team’s performance in last season’s Champions League provides us with more clues. A narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Bayern Munich was bettered by draws against Man City and Roma at the Arena Khimki. They even won at the Etihad as well so a reproduction of that form would really challenge Manchester United.
BoyleSports favour the English side at odds of 6/4 in this game but considering the home form of the Russians that could be worth taking on.
At 12/5 the draw is the biggest price of the Win-Draw-Win prices and that looks appealing.
Sparta Prague were smart enough to hold CSKA to a home stalemate earlier in the campaign and although the Russians have improved since then, Manchester United are capable of taking a point.
On top of the draw, a small interest in a 2-2 Correct Score may pay dividends. The Russians have seen goals in five of their six games in the Champions League this season while, as Saturday reminded us, United can be lethal in front of goal.
2-2 Draw (12/1)
Manchester City v Sevilla, Wednesday 21st October 2015 (19.45), BT Sport 2
It’s been a frenetic season for Manchester City so far full of big highs and a sprinkling of lows. In many ways their Champions League campaign has been a microcosm of their 2015/16 overall.
Well fancied to beat a struggling Juventus side on Matchday 1, City fluffed their lines and went down 2-1 at the Etihad. Two weeks later it was off to Germany to face Borussia Monchengladbach and after finding it tough going they eventually found the breakthrough thanks to goals from Martin Demichellis and Sergio Aguero in the last minute.
They went into that game on the back of a scalding 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham. Question marks were still abound regarding their title challenge and suitability of manager Manuel Pellegrini. This time though it’s a lot more different with 6-1 and 5-1 wins over Newcastle and Bournemouth still reverberating round the club.
There is a negative though and that is the absence of Aguero. The Citizens have struggled in this elite competition without his presence and that may reoccur on Wednesday. On top of this playmaker David Silva will also miss out limiting the creative potential of the English title favourites.
Sevilla have been one of the best sides in European competition in recent years with back-to-back Europa League triumphs under their belt. Domestically though they’ve been struggling this season with just two La Liga wins from their eight matches. Things have seriously improved though in recent weeks with a stunning win over Barcelona just before the international break.
In the Champions League Unai Emery’s side have been positive. A 3-0 home win over Gladbach certainly caught the eye and there was no huge disgrace in going down 2-0 away to last season’s runners-up Juve.
If Manchester City wish to be taken 100% seriously in this competition then these are the games they need to be winning. This will be a level up from what Sevilla faced in the Europa League last season and they could be found wanting.
City have conceded in eight of their last nine Champions League games and with the attacking flair of Sevilla on show that can reoccur here. However, the English title favourites can certainly bring something to the party here and a bet on Man City to win in a game involving Over 2.5 Goals (13/10) looks the one to be on.
A small saver on a 2-2 draw at big odds of 12/1 also makes sense.
Over 2.5 Goals (13/10)
2-2 Draw (12/1)
*Prices correct at time of publication.