IT’S crunch time in the Champions League this week with 3rd Qualifying Round places up for grabs. Chris Graham (@chrisgrham79) gives us his Tuesday thoughts.
Milsami v Ludogorets | Tuesday 16:00
Moldovan side Milsami Orhei produced a big shock last week when they beat 2014/15 group stage outfit Ludogorets 1-0 in Bulgaria. Now on home turf they have a chance of progressing further in the Champions League.
Despite last week’s heroic victory, the bookmakers are not too keen on Milsami and Bet 365 are as big as 11/2 on them winning. I think that’s too large.
Frustratingly it’s very difficult to find detailed information on these games, but from the reports I read the Moldovan’s very much competed in the fixture. While Ludogorets dominated possession they were poor in the final third and Milsami registered the same number of shots on target as them.
On top of this, Ludogorets have had a shaky start to the season with a 2-0 loss to Litex Lovech in their opening league fixture as well as this result. They have a new man at the helm in Bruno Ribeiro and it may be that it’s taking him time to get to grips with the job.
With Ludogorets as short as 13/20 I’m happy to side with the home side. I’ll back them +1 at 11/8 with Betway and also the game to finish 0-0 at 9/1 with Paddy Power. The Bulgarians were awful in front of goal last week and I’d expect Milsami to pack their defence.
Vardar Skopje v APOEL Nicosia | Tuesday 19:00
There were some odd results last week in Europe. As mentioned above, Ludogorets losing was a major shock, but we also saw the classy Rijeka lose 3-0 at home to Aberdeen while APOEL Nicosia drew with Vardar Skopje in Cyprus.
What links all these sides is that they all overachieved last season in Europe and they may be finding it hard to get motivated by these early round fixtures this season.
Despite this I’m going to have a crack on APOEL on Tuesday at 21/20 with BetVictor. Last week’s game was hugely frustrating for Nicosia as they failed to break down the Skopje defence. The Macedonian club’s goalkeeper Tome Pacovski had an outstanding game and if it wasn’t for his efforts the scoreline would have been different.
I’m expecting Nicosia’s experience to count on Tuesday though. This is a side who got all the way to the group stages last season and lost by just one goal at the Nou Camp and the Parc des Princes. They also drew with Ajax.
Vardar Skopje have not won a European match (excluding Intertoto Cup) since 2003. I make it 17 games without a European victory and their last tie was two years ago when Steaua Bucharest knocked them out 5-1 on aggregate.
I just feel that class will tell on Tuesday and APOEL will grind hard enough to get the victory.
Milsami v Ludogorets – Milsami +1 (11/8 Betway)
Milsami v Ludogorets – 0-0 Correct Score (9/1 Paddy Power)
Vardar Skopje v APOEL Nicosia – APOEL Nicosia to win (21/20 BetVictor)