MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has taken a look at the Champions League games that don’t involve British teams and shares his best bets.
CSKA Moscow v Monaco | Tuesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Bayer Leverkusen welcome Spurs for the standout fixture in Group E but CSKA Moscow’s match-up with Monaco in the Russian capital has the potential to produce plenty of thrills and spills.
Russian champions CSKA have struggled with injuries and suspensions in recent weeks and although playmaker Roman Eremenko remains suspended having allegedly failed a doping test after a Champions League match, star man Alan Dzagoev is expected back this midweek.
Dzagoev should re-take his position alongside Pontus Wernbloom in the centre of midfield with the talented Aleksandr Golovin also back in action during the weekend’s 1-0 win over FC Ufa. With skipper Igor Akinfeev set to return between the sticks, head coach Leonid Slutsky has options once more.
Ivorian striker Lacina Traore was left on the bench at the weekend but should take his place in attack against his parent club and the Army Men will be desperate for the gangly forward to find his range.
CSKA have only scored more than a solitary strike in three of their 14 fixtures across all competitions (W6-D4-L4) with only 6/14 (43%) featuring Over 1.5 Goals and 4/14 (29%) breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier.
Saturday’s triumph over Ufa represented the Army Men’s first shutout in seven and with 34-year-old Vasili Berezutski and 37-year-old Sergei Ignashevich still holding Slutsky’s defence together, the Russians appear unlikely to end a 22-match run without a clean sheet in this competition.
Monaco are the only unbeaten outfit after two matchdays in Group E (W1-D1-L0) but have Falcao back in training and available to lead the line, as well as a glittering array of forward-thinking talent across the board.
Portuguese pair Bernardo Silva and Joao Moutinho are the obvious highlights but Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Guido Carillo and Valere Germain have all impressed in recent weeks whilst the Principality club also offer plenty of power and pace from full-back with Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe.
Leonardo Jardim’s troops have scored 13 goals from open play in Ligue 1 and only once failed to score in W10-D2-L3 outings this term across all competitions. As already alluded too, the visitors are no longer the dour and dull team that bored us silly over the past 18 months.
Indeed, 12/15 (80%) of Monaco’s matches have featured three or more goals with Both Teams To Score banking on 10 (67%) occasions. The latter is an angle I’m keen to explore once more with 10/11 available from Bet365 for BTTS.
Les Rouges et Blanc were beaten 3-1 at Toulouse on Friday night and now boast just two shutouts in 11 away days. Meanwhile, Spurs are the only side to keep a clean sheet at CSKA since November 2015 with the hosts seeing this bet collect in 10 of their last 13 Champions League ties in Moscow.
Club Brugge v Porto | Tuesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Last season Club Brugge were the only Belgian side to show any sort of domestic consistency and Michel Preud’homme’s men reaped the rewards with their first league title in 12 years.
During the summer it was agreed that Preud’homme would become manager of the club in a more English tradition – with more input on transfers and less time actually coaching – but the transition certainly hasn’t run smoothly for the Blauw-Zwart.
Assistant Philippe Clement has been handed more responsibility but results this season have been dramatically inconsistent – W7-D1-L6. Club are already five points off the summit in League 1A having W5-D1-L4 whilst their two Champions League outings have ended in convincing defeats.
Leicester cruised to a 3-0 triumph at the Jan Breydel Stadium in September and a fortnight later the Blauw-Zwart were swatted aside 4-0 at FC Copenhagen. The Belgians have landed only two efforts on-target from inside the penalty box across the 180 minutes.
It’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the Belgians heading into Tuesday night’s tussle and their woeful Champions League record extends to their return to Europe’s premier club competition in 2015. The hosts have W1-D0-L5 by an aggregate 2-16.
A 1-0 weekend loss at Sporting Charleroi has only increased the feeling of doom amongst Brugge supporters and with regulars Jose Izquierdo, Laurens De Bock, Bjorn Engels and Refaelov all out, Porto should be more than capable of capitalising at odds of 20/23 (Betfred).
The Dragons eased back into action following the international break with a routine 3-0 cup success on Saturday and Nuno Espirito Santo saw Maxi Pereira return to the fold during that encounter. The visitors could be without Jesus Manuel Corona but otherwise have an almost fully fit squad available.
Three trophy-less seasons have left Porto fans anxious and although they trail Benfica by three points in domestic action, there have been promising signs of progression under the ex-Valencia boss (W7-D3-L2).
In four of the Dragons’ seven away dates the guests have notched at least three goals and against both Copenhagen (1-1) and Leicester (0-1) they won the shot count, corner count and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession despite their disappointing return.
CSKA Moscow v Monaco – Both Teams To Score (10/11 Bet365)
Club Bruges v Porto – Porto to win (20/23 Betfred)
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