CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) casts his eye over the Wednesday Champions League matches.
HJK Helsinki v FC Astana | Wednesday 17:00
Slim pickings tonight to be honest guys. I’ve covered the Celtic game elsewhere but this is the only other tie I like from a betting point of view.
I’m slightly uneasy getting involved with sides making their debuts in this round and would prefer to look at games involving teams who’ve come from the previous qualifying round. This tie fits perfectly.
Both HJK Helsinki and FC Astana cruised through the previous round. The Finns beat Latvian side FK Ventspils home and away to record a 4-1 aggregate win while the Kazakh outfit impressively knocked out Maribor 3-1 overall.
To me FC Astana look a really progressive side. Last year was the first time they won their domestic title and this is only their third season in Europe. Two years ago they made their European debut and were outclassed by Botev Plovdiv at the first hurdle. Those days are long gone though.
Last season Hapoel Tel Aviv and AIK Stockholm were dismissed in the early rounds of the Europa League before they found things too tough against Villarreal in the play-off round. It’s worth pointing out that Astana won 3-0 in Sweden against AIK, in fact their away performances in Europe have been decent overall with two wins in their last five road trips.
Let’s not underestimate the elimination of Maribor either. This was a side who reached the Champions League group stages last season and drew with Chelsea in their pool. Tremendous form.
HJK have a richer European heritage than Astana but it’s hard to get excited about them I feel. They were knocked out of this competition two years ago by Nomme Kalju (nope, me neither) but to be fair last season did well in the Europa League. They finished third in their group after wins over Torino and FC Copenhagen, but these came late in the campaign when they’d already been eliminated.
I’m going have a small bet on Astana here at 21/10 with BetVictor. To be honest, the price isn’t amazing but it might look massive if the Kazakhs convincingly see off HJK over the two legs.
HJK Helsinki v FC Astana – FC Astana to win (21/10 BetVictor)
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