So, onwards to the final night of the Champions League group stages. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) is on hand to share his two best bets from the matches.
Ajax v Apoel Nicosia | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Interactive
I’m pretty sure I’ve included an APOEL Nicosia match in all my Champions League previews so far this season. I very much believe in the stick-with-what-you-know policy in betting and the Nicosia focus has paid dividends so far.
The key to this side (usually) is that they’re tight in defence and meek in attack. In the opening four matchdays they conceded just four goals and that was despite turning up at the Nou Camp and the Parc des Princes in half of those games. The wheels came off a little two weeks ago when Barcelona smashed four past them in a glorious night for Lionel Messi, but I’m prepared to keep the faith.
As I mentioned, they don’t score many goals either. Just one in fact in this year’s group stage, fewer than the other 31 sides in the competition. I’m willing to bank on a similar toothless attack on Tuesday.
APOEL travel to Amsterdam to face Ajax this week and the Dutch side are as short as 4/7 with some layers (Skybet). It’s without doubt a great opportunity for them to pick up a first and final win of the Champions League campaign, but I’m not expecting a heavy victory.
Frank De Boer’s side have scored just four goals in this group and have no win to show for their endeavours. It’s fair to say that if they are going to rack up goals in the Champions League, then this match provides the perfect platform. But I have faith in APOEL’s stubborn resistance, after all this is a side that conceded just one goal away in Barcelona and Paris earlier in the group.
I’m prepared to get involved with Under 2.5 Goals here for all the reasons above. Betfair are odds-against at 21/20 on that very outcome and that appeals to me.
Maribor v Schalke | Wednesday 19:45 | Sky Interactive
Not the smartest or most interesting pick here, but I’m willing to back Schalke to beat Maribor in Group G on Wednesday night.
After knocking out Celtic, Maribor have performed with great credit in this Champions League group. They’ve no wins to their name, but have managed to pick up draws against all three other sides. Two draws were at home, but a third was achieved in Germany against Schalke on Matchday 2 in late-September. If they turn that away draw into a home win here they’ll enter the Europa League at the expense of the German side.
However, I don’t think that will happen. Put that awful home loss to Chelsea from two weeks ago out of your mind and concentrate on other recent results achieved by Roberto Di Matteo’s side. In recent weeks they’ve beaten high-flyers Wolfsburg 3-2, smashed up mid-table Mainz 4-1, and then put to bed poor away form by strangling Stuttgart 4-0 at the weekend.
I’m willing to forgive that Chelsea mauling, because as I said at the time, I was expecting the precious Jose Mourinho to do all he can to crush any kudos channelled towards Di Matteo from Chelsea fans and the media. He did that wonderfully well.
Schalke are back up into the Bundesliga Top 5 and know they have a serious task in front of them here. A win is a must if they wish to continue their Champions League adventure.
I think they’ll have too much class for plucky Maribor and expect them to oblige at the 4/5 chalked up by Betfred.