MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his favourite fancies from the two early kick-offs in Tuesday’s Champions League.
BATE Borisov v Bayer Leverkusen | Tuesday 17.00 | BT Sport Extra
The race to join Barcelona (almost certainly) in qualifying from Group E intensifies on a chilly Tuesday night in Belarus. BATE host Leverkusen in an early kick-off with temperatures looking like staying just above freezing.
The nippy weather shouldn’t bother the German visitors too much but there’s plenty of reason to believe they may find the going a little bumpy at the Borisov Arena. For all Die Werkself’s attacking intent, Roger Schmidt’s side have been lacking in defensive areas and struggled to collect results on the road.
Bayer snapped a three-game losing streak at the weekend with a commanding performance in beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 on Saturday but four consecutive losses on their continental travels has stunted Leverkusen’s prospects. In Champions League football, Die Werkself have managed just W1-D1-L5 away from the BayArena.
The Germans sit just a point and a place ahead of BATE and have conceded at least twice in each of their last three group-games, failing to keep a shutout in any of their Group E games. Although impressive when going down at the Camp Nou, I still need convincing Bayer can produce the goods consistently and so I’m happy to explore the goals markets in Borisov.
The reverse fixture finished 4-1 in Schmidt’s side’s favour (Hakan Calhanoglu scoring twice and creating another) whilst Javier Hernandez has been a revelation since joining the Bundesliga club – he’s notched in three of his four Champions League appearances, as well as 10 in his last nine starts, and should have some joy against a shoddy home backline.
No side has conceded more goals in this year’s tournament than BATE’s 11 with the hosts leaking two goals or more in each of their four continental clashes. It’s 22 group-stage matches without a clean sheet for the Belarusians who’ve lost seven of their most recent eight group-stage outings.
However, BATE have beaten Roma, Athletic Bilbao and Bayern on home soil since 2012/13 and their record in front of their home supporters reads W3-D0-L6 suggesting they’re capable of causing an upset from time to time. Having scored four goals in two encounters with Roma and Leverkusen already, I believe they can net again on Tuesday.
Vitali Rodinov is BATE boss Aleksandr Yermakovich’s only injury concern whilst Leverkusen must do without suspended defensive duo Omer Toprak and Kyriakos Papadopoulos. The visitors’ last seven matches in all competitions have produced 36 goals and I’d like to think we could see more here with both sides gunning for a Last 16 place. Both Teams To Score is 4/5 with Betway and seems a sensible play.
Zenit Saint Petersburg v Valencia | Tuesday 17.00 | BT Sport 2
Zenit St Petersburg are the only side to boast a 100% record after four rounds of group action to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League for only the third time. But Andre Villas-Boas is determined to complete the job by taking at least a point against Valencia on Tuesday to guarantee top spot in Group H.
The hosts have combined a stingy backline with a ruthless attack to great effect on the continent this term. The Russians have scored at least twice in each of their four Champions League ties with Hulk and Artem Dzyuba scoring seven of their 10 goals between them.
In St Petersburg, the hosts have W6-D1-L0 in their past seven as hosts and their record when welcoming European opposition is also strong enough to merit plenty of support – W22-D7-L3 since 2010/11. Having already won 3-2 at the Mestalla back in September against the Spaniards, 6/5 quotes from William Hill look attractive enough to support AVB’s boys this midweek.
It should be noted, Zenit will be without the suspended Alexander Anyukov whilst Igor Smolnikov and Oleg Shatov are doubts with Viktor Faizulin definitely absent. Even so, Valencia arrive suffering their own injury issues and are unlikely to relish the journey to a below-freezing St Petersburg.
Seven players are missing for Los Che, including key defender Shkodran Mustafi, and Nuno’s travellers must improve dramatically after a dreadful display at home to newly-promoted Las Palmas at the weekend. Normally so strong at the Mestalla, Valencia were devoid of ideas and energy in a lacklustre performance.
On their travels, the Bats have struggled for consistency. Losing at Gent on Matchday 4 was their fourth in five European road trips and also their fifth in eight away days this season. It’s also worth noting, Los Che may have struck twice in their 3-2 loss to Zenit on home soil but they only registered three shots-on-target in that contest and look vulnerable this midweek.
BATE Borisov v Bayer Leverkusen – Both Teams To Score (4/5 Betway)
Zenit St Petersburg v Valencia – Zenit St Petersburg to win (6/5 William Hill)
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