CAN Mark O’Haire continue his hot streak in the Champions League on Wednesday night? Here he shares his best bets from the evening kick-offs that don’t involve English sides.
Atletico Madrid v Galatasaray | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
It’s been a while but time for a bit more Atletico Madrid love. Yeah, I’ve backed them to win La Liga and the Champions League and despite not being anywhere close to full throttle, I’m happy with where the Mattress Makers are right now – under the radar.
Real Madrid’s Clasico mauling allowed their city rivals to slip into second in the domestic title race and much like Manchester United, Diego Simeone’s side have been going about their business in unfussy, unspectacular but encouragingly consistent fashion.
The Spaniards will most likely progress with a point but will be well aware back-to-back victories will be required to take top spot in Group C. And I’ve plenty of faith in Los Rojiblancos producing the goods this midweek. Sure, we won’t get rich quick backing a straight home win but I’m happy to invest in SkyBet’s even-money offer on an Atleti win ‘to nil’.
Jackson Martinez is Simeone’s only absentee but it was Antoine Griezmann’s double that helped the hosts to a comfortable 2-0 success in Istanbul against Galatasaray back in September. That victory at the at Turk Telekom Arena was just one of 10 clean sheets grinded out by Atletico in 16 fixtures thus far this season.
The same shape, organisation, determination and mentality that helped guide the Spaniards into a continental force still exists strong and the Mattress Makers boast a fierce W10-D2-L1 home Champions League record under Simeone, including shutouts in 10 of their last 12 at the Vicente Calderon.
The Benfica loss was an unwelcome blotch on the copybook but Atletico dominated proceedings in that outing and in all competitions they’ve kept their sheets clean in 10/15 fixtures in the capital and should be capable of resisting Gala for a second occasion.
The Turks won the domestic double last season but axed head coach Hamza Hamzaoglu having fallen five points behind table-topping Besiktas this term. That gap has increased to seven following their 3-3 weekend draw when welcoming Antalyaspor with their troubles at the back of most concern.
Mustafa Denizli is the new man in the dugout but won’t take charge of this contest. His new club are without Hamit Altintop and Lionel Carole through injury and most significantly, Burak Yilmaz and Selcuk Inan through suspension on Wednesday night, reducing their attacking options.
Lukas Podolski has scored 11 goals in his last 13 starts in the Champions League but he’s a fading force against quality opposition and Galatasaray arrive in Madrid on the back of a W1-D3-L8 run in Europe’s premier competition. Their road record in this tournament reads W0-D2-L8 lately and they’ve leaked at least two goals in all bar one of their last nine. They must be opposed.
Malmo v PSG | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s homecoming is likely to dominate this encounter but the Swedish megastar has yet to score in his seven Champions games in 2015. Still, his Parisian travellers should have enough nous to unlock a stubborn Malmo side this midweek.
PSG have bagged 10 wins in their last 12 away fixtures and should have Edinson Cavani and Angel De Maria back to flank Ibrahimovic in attack. David Luiz is suspended and injured quartet Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Serge Aurier and Marco Verratti all miss out but there’s still enough quality to pick up the points that will secure progression.
Les Rouge-et-Bleu battled to a 2-1 victory at Lorient on Saturday despite fielding a depleted XI and cruised to a 2-0 win in the reverse contest. That was only one of two Champions League successes in nine for the guests but that’s an unfair record to trot out considering seven of those games came against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea.
In this season’s group-stages, Laurent Blanc’s charges have leaked just one goal and that came at the Bernabeu when PSG were head and shoulders the best team in a 1-0 loss to Real. And I reckon the visitors can return to winning Champions League ways without conceding a goal at the Swedbank Stadion. A PSG win ‘to nil’ can be snapped up at even-money with Betway.
Malmo’s domestic season ended in October and the Blues have played just twice since – a 4-0 mauling at Shakhtar Donetsk and crushing 5-0 win over part-timers Gotene in the Swedish Cup. Age Hareide is without key centre-half Kari Arnason whilst Zlatan Azinovic and Guillermo Molins are both out injured.
The hosts still harbour remote hopes of qualification but eight defeats in 10 group-stage games in this competition suggests they’ll be out-classed once more. Those 10 matches saw the Swedes leak 23 goals and failing to net themselves on seven separate occasions.
Johan Wiland has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in this season’s Champions League and although Markus Rosenberg remains an attacking threat, Real Madrid, Atletico and Juventus have all departed Malmo with 2-0 victories since the start of last season.
Peculiarly, the last 12 Champions League contests at the Swedbank Stadion have seen at least one side keep their sheets clean and that’s also been the case in all eight Group A games. So I’m happy to get involved in a repeat with PSG coming out on top.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Real Madrid may be safely through to the next stage of the Champions League but there’s no respite for Rafa Benitez’s boys following their Clasico embarrassment. The Los Blancos boss is under fierce pressure back home following Real’s car-crash performance when losing 4-0 to Barcelona on Saturday, meaning they must bounce back ASAP.
I expect they will. I totally detest short-term thinking and it should be remembered that many top pundits and shrewd punters believed Real were a great bet going into the Clasico. As I said on Twitter last weekend, their defensive stats are a little generous based on their performances and stats but Madrid are still a top team and shouldn’t be written off.
The 4-0 romp at the Bernebeu against Shakhtar back in September wasn’t quite as one-sided as the score suggested, mind. Los Blancos were struggling to break the Ukrainians down before a goalkeeper clanger and two penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo gave the end result a bit of gloss.
But Real have W30-D6-L1 of their past 37 group-stage games, keeping a clean sheet in each of their last eight. On their travels, the visitors have won eight of their last 12 in this competition and although Sergio Ramos and Marcelo are both missing, Casemiro should be brought back in by Benitez in to provide more balance and stability.
Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Dortmund have all failed to beat Shakhtar in Ukraine in the past three years but only Bayern were stopped in Lviv. PSG strolled to a 3-0 win here back in September and the hosts must do without key defenders Olexandr Kucher and Darijo Srna on Wednesday night.
The Miners need just a point to secure Europa League qualification and will hope Alex Teixeira can continue his stunning goalscoring streak – he’s 19 goals in 13 league fixtures – but their recent Champions League record reads W1-D2-L5, failing to even score in five of their last six.
Real hold a dodgy W2-D3-L3 record away in Ukraine and Russia this millennium but a trip to the Lviv Arena isn’t quite as daunting as the Donbass and despite the sub-zero temperatures, the Spaniards should be good enough to claim maximum points at 19/20 with Bet365.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Sevilla | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Monchengladbach are one of four teams yet to win a game in this season’s Champions League group-stage but I like the look of the Germans to end that unwanted record at 6/4 with Coral when Sevilla visit.
The appointment of U23 coach Andre Schubert to replace Lucien Favre in September has given Gladbach a new lease of life and their performances and results deserve plenty of plaudits. Schubert became the first head coach of the Foals to go unbeaten in his first eight Bundesliga games in charge since Udo Lattek in 1975/76 (W7-D1-L0) and now the hosts have lost just once in 12.
On the continent, Gladbach have failed to win any of their six European games in 2015, including three defeats to Sevilla, but very creditable back-to-back draws against 2015 finalists Juventus and a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to Manchester City have shown the progress made by the Rhineland club.
The Foals can welcome back Julian Korb and Tony Jantschke to the side on Wednesday as well as key midfield man Granit Xhaka and although Alvaro Dominguez misses out, the Bundesliga outfit should have enough to get past a Sevilla side struggling on their travels.
Unai Emery’s men have lost each of their last three Champions League duels since dispatching Gladbach 3-0 in Andalusia. And a rotten display when losing 2-0 at manager-less Real Sociedad last weekend was further proof in the pudding that Los Rojiblancos are playing well below-par away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
The guests have suffered losses in five of their last six matches on their travels as well as four of their last five in all competitions. They’ve failed to record a clean sheet in seven away Champions League ties and make the journey without Beto, Gael Kakuta, Daniel Carrico and Nico Pareja. I’ll take a home win.
Atletico Madrid v Galatasaray – Atletico Madrid to win ‘to nil’ (1/1 SkyBet)
Malmo v PSG – PSG to win ‘to nil (1/1 Betway)
Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win (19/20 Bet365)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Sevilla – Borussia Monchengladbach to win (6/4 Coral)
Fancy a value acca on Wednesday night? You’ll love this from Paddy Power.
New players get 14/1 on PSG, Real Madrid, Man Utd & Atletico. All are long odds on.