THE Champions League group phase concludes this midweek. Here Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies from Wednesday night’s coupon.
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport ESPN
If Cristiano Ronaldo fails to score on Wednesday night, it will be his worst Champions League group-stage goalscoring return since arriving at Real Madrid. And Ronny’s motivation for a positive result is shared throughout the camp.
Los Blancos are chasing a club record equalling 34-game unbeaten run this midweek and arrive at the Bernebeu knowing that victory over Borussia Dortmund would seal top spot in the group.
So whilst CR7’s two-goal tally will keep Madrid’s main man focussed, Real still have business to attend to.
Zinedine Zidane’s charges required a last-gasp leveller from Sergio Ramos on Saturday to take a point from El Clasico and whilst the Frenchman has overseen this gargantuan spell without defeat, it’s fair to say the capital club haven’t been at their ultimate best throughout.
That might sound like a strange statement to make for a side that are six-points clear in La Liga and claimed Champions League top honours only a matter of months ago. But performances have been built on discipline and organisation as much as attacking flair and entertainment.
That’s certainly not a whinge or moan. In fact, seeing the hosts offered at odds not far off even-money (17/20 Paddy Power) appears a little too good to be true. After all, Real Madrid are on an eight-match winning streak at home in this competition and have W28-D3-L1 in their last 32 continental ties at the Bernebeu.
Los Blancos have picked up eight wins from 11 games at the Bernabeu this season and boast a pretty imperious record against Bundesliga sides in the Spanish capital too (W24-D4-L3).
But I’m going to bolster the odds on offer to 2/1 (William Hill) by backing Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score – a selection that’s paid out in 11 of Real’s 15 wins this season.
If Dortmund do score they will equal the Champions League group stage record of 20 goals and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus notching 10 goals between them in BVB’s last five outings across all competitions, you wouldn’t want to oppose an away goal.
Die Schwarzgelben have W7-D1-L2 in their past 10 European away days but trips to La Liga clubs have rarely worked out favourably – Dortmund’s sole success in 12 previous visits came in 1996 (W1-D4-L7).
Thomas Tuchel’s troops have suffered only three losses in 20 (W12-D5-L3) this term but all three came on the road (W4-D1-L3) and the guests were dreadful when going down 2-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt in their most recent away day.
Still, BVB have found the back of the net in 11 of their last 12 matches in all competitions and are the Bundesliga’s top goalscorers.
The BTTS part of this selection has proven profitable in nine of Real Madrid’s 10 home matches whilst Los Blancos haven’t failed to score in a home game in the Champions League since April 2011.
Legia Warsaw v Sporting Lisbon | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport Extra
There’s a Europa League spot at stake when Legia Warsaw take on Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday night.
Legia are seeking their first Champions League group stage victory since 1995 but having conceded 24 goals across their opening five fixtures, the Polish outfit have already equalled the worst defensive record of BATE Borisov in 2014/15.
Talented young midfielder Sebastian Szymanski is suspended this midweek and whilst new head coach Jacek Magiera has coaxed a more fluent and vibrant attacking style from his troops, the capital club are likely to go down fighting.
Legia have W6-D2-L1 since their 5-1 shellacking at the Bernebeu – their only loss in that sample was the extraordinary 8-4 defeat in Dortmund. Of that nine-match run, the Poles have scored at least twice in every game and hit four goals or more in five.
Legia’s five games in Group F have produced an unprecedented 32 goals and considering the hosts have struck seven goals in their most recent skirmishes against Real Madrid and Dortmund, we should have faith in Magiera’s men signing off in another goal-filled game.
But I won’t be holding out hope for Legia adding to their point tally here. Instead, it’s the 5/2 (Bet365) quote for a Sporting Lisbon triumph alongside Both Teams To Score that appeals.
The Lions arrive on the back of five wins from their last six outings and are unbeaten in 10 domestically where they trail Primeira Liga leaders Benfica by just two points.
Jorge Jesus’ charges lost all four group games against Real Madrid and Dortmund, but they only went down by a single goal on each occasion and against the Spanish club they conceded late goals in both fixtures.
The visitors haven’t tasted away day success in this competition since December 2008 but were comfortable 2-0 winners when the two teams locked horns in Lisbon and despite suspensions to Goncalo Vieira and Joao Pereira, I’m more than happy to hang my hat on the Portuguese team.
Jesus could revert to a three-man defence but either way, goals have become a common occurrence when Sporting have competed on the continental stage – nine of their last 11 Champions League games have featured at least three goals.
And with Legia having already faced 121 shots – 86 of which were attempted from inside their own penalty area – plus giving up 20 golden goalscoring opportunities across just seven-and-a-half hours of Champions League group football, I’m confident the Lions can gain the upper hand.
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund – Real Madrid to win and Both Teams To Score (2/1 William Hill)
Legia Warsaw v Sporting Lisbon – Sporting Lisbon to win and Both Teams To Score (5/2 Bet365)