MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has taken a look at the Champions League games that don’t involve British teams and shares his best bets.
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Bayern Munich are chasing revenge on Wednesday night as they go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid in the Vicente Calderon, a repeat of last season’s Champions League semi-final that saw the Germans exit on away goals.
Atleti may have made a false start to La Liga – picking up just two points against newly-promoted sides Alaves and Leganes – but Diego Simeone’s side were dominant in both encounters and have soon since found their groove.
Barcelona are the only side to score against Los Colchoneros in their past five outings and although a few debatable refereeing decisions went their way during a 1-0 win at Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven during matchday one, I’d expect the Spanish side to be on song here.
The 2015/16 finalists have looked as solid as ever at the back this term and although Gabi and Kevin Gameiro were required off the bench to beat Deportivo 1-0 on Sunday, Atletico offer great Asian Handicap value for us here.
BetVictor have chalked the hosts up as 10/13 shots with a +0.25 Asian Handicap start meaning we’ll make money should Simeone’s men avoid defeat. We’ll pocket a half-stakes profit should the match end all-square with a full-stakes win should Atletico take maximum points.
Los Colchoneros have suffered a solitary Champions League loss at home in 17 and have shipped just four goals across that sample. Atletico have kept a remarkable 12 clean sheets in 13 Vicente Calderon dates in this competition, shutting out the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern themselves.
Include all competitions and the capital club have churned out 19 clean sheets in 24 matches as hosts and with the likes of French forward Antoine Griezmann and Gameiro leading the line, the home side have a number of attacking threats to hurt the Germans.
Carlo Ancelotti has made a record-breaking start to life as Bayern boss – no manager in the club’s history has ever started with nine successive wins – and although the Bavarians demolished Rostov 5-0 in the opening round of fixtures, Munich haven’t been as convincing as their results suggest.
Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng were all rested for their trip to Hamburg on Saturday but Bayern required an 88th-minute winner to settle matters against the struggling northerners.
FC Hollywood’s previous domestic road trip saw them escape Schalke with a 2-0 success thanks to two goals in the final nine minutes – it would be no exaggeration to say they were slightly fortunate to pick up a victory.
But most worrying was perhaps Bayern’s performance at home to Ingolstadt around 10 days ago. Sure, the German giants ran out 3-1 winners but the expected goals – based on quality of chances created in the game – was massively in favour of the visitors by 0.5 to 1.7. Ancelotti got lucky.
It’s worth noting the visitors have W4-D4-L6 in away Champions League games since February 2014 keeping their sheets clean on just four occasions. So for me, there’s more than enough reason to oppose Bayern this midweek.
As well as the Asian Handicap bet, there are various goals angles to consider. The pair have collectively conceded just three goals this season whilst Atleti have seen four of their last eight in this competition produced Under 1.5 Goals, as well as three of seven matches this term.
Three of Bayern’s four away days in 2016/17 have paid out for Under 2.5 Goals backers so I’ll keep the draw covered by backing a stalemate and Under 2.5 Goals at 11/4 (BetStars). We’ll bank a winner should the encounter end 0-0 or 1-1.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Barcelona | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Borussia Monchengladbach have been the star of my European NAP for the past fortnight and the Foals can follow the trends to again net us a couple of decent winners on Wednesday when they welcome the mighty Barcelona.
The mood in Gladbach is good following the contract extension of head coach Andre Schubert and the Germans will fancy their chances of going toe-to-toe with the Spanish champions with goals likely to be on the agenda.
It’s worth ignoring the Foals’ 4-0 thumping at Manchester City – their home and away form is chalk and cheese and during the Schubert era, Gladbach have churned out an outstanding 18 wins in 23 matches as hosts; that includes a richly deserved 3-1 triumph against Bayern Munich and a current run of 11 successive victories.
Leading striker Raffael remains a doubt but is looks likely to start with Thorgan Hazard and with Patrick Hermann also now available, Gladbach have plenty of eye-catching offensive options capable of hurting Barcelona on the break. However, the Germans have had problems keeping the goals out.
Last season Gladbach posted the worst defensive record in the top-11 of the Bundesliga and their back-three could be given the run-around by a Barca side that rested a number of key players at Sporting Gijon on Saturday.
The Blaugrana beat Sporting 5-0 and although Lionel Messi is absent, Luis Suarez and Neymar have already notched 12 goals between them this season. Luis Enrique’s troops have won 18 of their past 22 matches in this competition and scored at least twice in 19 of their most recent 23 Champions League duels.
The visitors have suffered just three group-stage defeats in 40 but there’s definitely merit in backing the Catalans to claim maximum points and both sides to score at 2/1 (Betfair) quotes.
Barca were breached in two of their three away days in last season’s group-stage whilst Gladbach seen BTTS bank in each of their last five at home in the Champions League with eight of their past nine at any venue in the same competition featuring at least three goals.
As well as the above stats, four of their past five Bundesliga games at Borussia-Park have produced Both Teams To Score profit with the Foals also returning just a solitary shutout in seven Champions League group-games.
Alternative suggestions can be found in backing Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 10/11 (Coral) or even Gladbach with a +1.25 Asian Handicap start at 13/15 (BetVictor) – no side has beaten the hosts by more than a solitary strike at home under Schubert’s watch.
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich – Atletico Madrid +0.25 Asian Handicap (10/13 BetVictor)
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich – Draw and Under 2.5 Goals (11/4 BetStars)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Barcelona – Barcelona to win and Both Teams To Score (2/1 Betfair)
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