MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has taken a look at the Champions League games that don’t involve British teams and shares his best bets.
Dynamo Kiev v Benfica | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
Defending Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kiev have struggled to exert their authority domestically this season and Serhiy Rebrov’s side already find themselves six points adrift of pace-setters Shakhtar Donetsk – their biggest deficit since 2013/14.
Dynamo have returned just two triumphs in eight across all competitions (W2-D3-L3) since mid-August, keeping their sheets clean in just four of their 15 outings since the start of last season.
Although the hosts were unbeaten at their NSC Olimpiyskiy base in last season’s group-stage against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Porto and Chelsea, the home side have suffered three defeats in four when welcoming opposition outfits to the capital and do appear vulnerable here.
Dynamo Zagreb and Maccabi Tel Aviv are only Champions League group-stage guests to depart pointless in the past seven years (W2-D3-L3) and Rebrov’s rabble will lean heavily on the influence of Andriy Yarmolenko to produce the goods going forward.
Elsewhere, Serhiy Sydorchuk is available after serving a one-game ban whilst 18 year-old midfielder Viktor Tsygankov will be hoping to extend his impressive recent goalscoring steak; the youngster was also named Kiev’s player of the month for September.
The temperature won’t be far above freezing in Ukraine but Benfica make the journey with a solitary loss in 20 matches (W16-D3-L1) dating back to last season; it came in a 4-2 loss at Napoli on matchday two of the Champions League.
Rui Vitoria’s troops haven’t played a league fixture since the start of the month and fielded a much-changed side for Friday’s cup victory at Dezembro. The Eagles spent the international break in Brazil and the time off has allowed plenty of players to recover from injury.
Rafa Silva and Andreas Samaris are very close to returning to the fold as the Portuguese club look to enhance a mediocre road record in this competition (W2-D2-L4). Domestically Benfica have W14-D1-L0 on their travels so picking up a positive result should be high on their agenda here.
Intriguingly, 14 of the Eagles’ 25 goals this season have come in the last 20 minutes of games but I’m taking time out of the equation and I’ll back Benfica to net in a goal-friendly game on Wednesday as Both Teams To Score appeals at 21/20 (Betfair).
It’s a selection that’s paid out in all four Group B games thus far with the average goals-per-game standing at a handsome 3.25.
The BTTS bet has also proven profitable in five of Benfica’s past six away Champions League ties, as well as nine of their last 11 at all venues and eight of their most recent 10 outings across all competitions.
Napoli v Besiktas | Wednesday 19.45 | BT Sport Extra
With Gonzalo Higuain sold to champions Juventus, few gave Napoli a chance in the Serie A title race. But the Partenopei began 2016/17 in flying form (W4-D2-L2) and trailed the Old Lady by a solitary point after six fixtures.
Include the Champions League and Napoli were eight unbeaten (W6-D2-L2) with summer signing Arkadiusz Milik making an immediate impact as Higuain’s replacement. But the 22 year-old – scorer of seven goals in nine games – faces several months out due to a cruciate ligament injury picked up on Polish duty.
Maurizio Sarri’s men have also fallen to back-to-back defeats. Before the international break Napoli suffered a sobering reverse at Atalanta before their 22-match unbeaten home record in league action under Sarri was ended by Roma on Saturday (W19-D2-L1).
The two defeats have left the Partenopei seven points off the pace in Serie A so they should welcome the return of Europe’s premier club competition considering the side are in a commanding position in Group B, four points clear of the pack with a 100% record.
Antonio Granata is serving a one-game ban and Raul Albiol and Vlad Chiriches are both battling to be fit so Nikola Maksimovic may continue to feature at centre-half here. Either way, I’m always a fan of following goals in Napoli’s encounters.
Although Milik’s absence will be hurt – his replacement, Manolo Gabbiadini, is a talented forward, but made from a completely different mould – I’m certain the Naples outfit can find the back of the net.
Since Sarri arrived at the Sao Paolo, Napoli have only fired two blanks on home soil and in Jose Callejon have a player in tow with five goals in eight Serie A appearances this term whilst Dries Mertens and Marek Hamsik pack undoubted offensive quality.
Before that 3-1 Roma reverse, the Partenopei had churned out 10 successive victories as hosts by an aggregate 34-8 but they look a little short here to return to winning ways. So instead I’ll enter the Both Teams To Score market again at 5/6 (Betfair).
Four of Napoli’s five home fixtures this season have rewarded BTTS backers and 17/28 (61%) San Paolo dates under Sarri when counting league and Champions League action.
Besiktas have W5-D5-L0 in their 10 contests this season, notching in each but keeping only three clean sheets. In fact, the Black Eagles have found the back of the net in each of their past 22 outings with 15 featuring winning Both Teams to Score selections.
The Turkish champions have been second-best in both 1-1 draws against Dynamo Kiev and Benfica thus far but have both Adriano and Atiba Hutchinson fit and available, whilst Dusko Tosic has recovered from flu. Oguzhan Ozyakup remains a doubt.
Summer signing Vincent Aboubakar has scored just once in seven for Besiktas but Ricardo Quaresma is the visitors’ main creative force and should be capable of unlocking a far from stable Napoli backline on Wednesday night.