MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) has taken a look at the Champions League games that don’t involve British teams and shares his best bets.
Monaco v CSKA Moscow | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport Extra
Time beat me to penning Wednesday’s Champions League column 24 hours earlier and in doing so, the value hunters snapped up all the 4/5 goodness that was available on Monaco beating CSKA Moscow.
Ladbrokes are still offering 3/4 on the Ligue 1 high-flyers picking up maximum points at the Stade Louis II and even at that price, I’m keen to back the hosts this midweek.
Monaco began the group-stage with a surprise success against Spurs at Wembley but have required late levellers against Leverkusen and CSKA in their following two fixtures. However, Les Rouges et Blancs were full value for the point in Moscow.
Bernando Silva’s 87th minute equaliser was just rewards for Leonardo Jardim’s men who enjoyed over 60% ball possession, won the shot count 15-8, the shots on-target count 6-2 and had 10 efforts from inside the CSKA penalty box.
Sure, recent form has been patchy for Monaco (W3-D3-L2) but they’ve saved their best performances for the Stade Louis II (W6-D2-L0) this term and are yet to fire a blank on home soil.
Nabil Dirar remains the French club’s only main injury concern and there’s a suggestion Jardim could deploy a 4-4-2 formation for this encounter, with Radamel Falcao and Valere Germain leading the attack in a more forward-thinking approach.
Visitors CSKA arrive following back-to-back derby defeats to Lokomotiv and Spartak Moscow and an eight-game run of just W1-D2-L5. The Russians have also suffered four successive defeats on their travels.
Leonid Slutsky celebrated seven years in charge at CSKA last week but the Russian champions have often struggled outside of their domestic league, finishing rock-bottom in last season’s group-stage (W1-D1-L4) and recoding eight losses in 10 Champions League away days.
The Russian champions are again without leading lights Roman Eremenko and Alan Dzagoev on Wednesday night and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is now without a clean sheet in this competition in 40 appearances – that encapsulates a 10-year run of results.
If you’re hunting a little more value, Monaco to win 1-0 or 2-0 could appeal. The visitors have seen six of their last seven games feature fewer than three goals.
Legia Warsaw v Real Madrid | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport Extra
Real Madrid are rated at just 1/8 to clinch a victory in Warsaw on Wednesday night but it may pay to back Los Blancos to bag three points in a game that sees both sides scoring.
Betfred have chalked up Real to win and Both Teams To Score as a 6/4 chance and it’s a price worthy of taking considering the La Liga leaders have managed just two shutouts in 15 outings this term and none at all in their most recent nine encounters across all competitions.
Zinedine Zidane’s men have made the journey without first-choice centre-back pairing Sergio Ramos and Pepe, left-back Marcelo, as well as defensive midfield shield Casemiro and all-important game-manager Luka Modric. There’s also a doubt over goalkeeper Keylor Navas’ participation.
Of course, reserve cat Kiko Casilla is no mug whilst Nacho and Raphael Varane are still a class apart from their Polish opponents but the lack of Modric and Casemiro in the middle could prove their defensive undoing, as it was when these two teams met in the Bernebeu.
Sure, Madrid ran out 5-1 winners and Legia’s goal came from the penalty spot. But Legia attempted 13 shots – 10 from inside Real’s penalty box – and landed five on-target. They could easily have notched a second strike.
Modric’s ability to control the game is arguably Los Blancos’ biggest strength but their struggles without Casemiro are also rather surprising – Real have won all five games he’s played, but only four of the eight that he’s missed this season.
Now I’m not expecting Legia to pick up a positive result – Madrid are unbeaten in 26 games, have scored 24 goals across a five-match winning streak – but would it really be a surprise to see the hosts score here? I don’t think so.
Legia have won back-to-back Ekstraklasa games to move up to sixth and the Poles do have centre-half Michal Pazdan back available. But they’ve already shipped 13 goals in three group-games and claimed only two league triumphs in seven at their Polish Army Stadium home.
Appearing in their first Champions League campaign since 1995/96, Legia have endured a rotten season thus far, winning only eight of 25 matches and losing nine of their past 16 across all competitions. They’re unlikely to offer stern resistance to Real but I’ll happily back them to score.
Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport Extra
I’m not sure I expected to see Sevilla faring so well so quickly under the guidance of Duracell bunny Jorge Sampaoli but Los Rojiblancos have really impressed during the opening stanza of 2016/17.
Sevilla are just three points behind league leaders Real Madrid and remain unbeaten in three Champions League group-games – including a 0-0 draw away to Juventus on matchday one. Only goal difference keeps the Andalusians behind Juve in Group H.
Sampaoli’s side churned out five successive wins before being held to a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon on Saturday but an injury to bang in-form Samir Nasri is a blow. The Frenchman had been outstanding since signing on-loan and the playmaker could well be missed in the coming weeks.
Still, Benoit Temoulinas and Michael Krohn-Dehli are the only other unavailable players for Wednesday night’s date with Dinamo Zagreb and the La Liga outfit should be backed to pick up another three points – Sevilla have won each of their six matches at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan this season.
Atletico Madrid left Seville empty-handed with a 1-0 loss not long ago and seeing as Sevilla have kept three clean sheets on the spin in the Champions League, it’s well worth supporting the Spaniards to win ‘to nil’ at a very attractive 20/21 with BetVictor.
The Croatian double winners have failed to score in each of their three Champions League group-games this season and only managed a solitary strike in three away days in this competition last season. In fact, Dinamo have only notched once in eight Champions League group-games now.
The Blues have lost five of their last 10 games in all competitions and while some will point out they’ve won three of their last four, each of those victories came against a side in the bottom half of the Croatian league.
Zlatko Kranjcar has already been sacked this season and former Bulgarian coach Ivaylo Petev is now attempting to rebuild the fallen giants who arrive in Spain without injured skipper Domagoj Antolic, Marko Leskovic and Ivan Fiolic.
Dinamo have managed just two shots on-target across their opening three Champions League fixtures and only three attempts from inside the penalty box in their two games against Juventus and Sevilla. I’d expect another toothless display here.
Monaco v CSKA Moscow – Monaco to win (3/4 Ladbrokes)
Legia Warsaw v Real Madrid – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (6/4 Betfred)
Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb – Sevilla to win ‘to nil’ (20/21 BetVictor)