THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE returns on Tuesday night. Here Adam Goodwin (@AGJournalism) picks out his favourite fancies from in the matches involving English sides.
Manchester United v Basel | Tuesday 12th September 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
The 2-2 draw at Stoke on Saturday was the first game Manchester United hadn’t won this season, and was also the first two goals they’d conceded.
The Red Devils haven’t played a Champions League match since 2015, where they were eliminated from a group containing PSV, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow.
Their first game in Group A will be against Swiss outfit Basel, who qualified for the Champions League by winning the Swiss Super League by 17 points last season. They haven’t started this campaign as emphatically, as they sit third in the table after 11 games and are currently winless in three matches.
English football fans may recognise some familiar faces that will come up against United at Old Trafford. Former Norwich striker Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has scored seven goals in seven games for the RotBlau this season, and United were one of many clubs interested in the Dutch striker back in 2011 before he moved to East Anglia.
Taulant Xhaka is the brother of Arsenal midfielder Granit, and he’ll be hoping to stop a Red Devils midfield potentially containing the likes of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera.
This is the first Champions League game at Old Trafford in two years and the atmosphere will be absolutely incredible. Playing in-front of 70,000 United fans will undoubtedly intimidate the Basel players, who are used to playing in front of a mere 25,000 people at their home ground in Switzerland.
I think they’ll adopt a similar approach to what Leicester did at Old Trafford and sit deep, looking to frustrate the Red Devils. It may take Mourinho’s men time to break down Basel, but there’s no doubt they’ll get the three points.
Back draw half-time and Manchester United full-time in the Half-Time/Full-Time market. It’s 17/5 with Unibet.
Chelsea v Qarabag | Tuesday 12th September 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Along with United, Chelsea have had a short break from Champions League football, something which probably aided them in winning the league last season.
Their 2-1 win over Leicester on Saturday will provide them with momentum heading into their first Champions League game since their aggregate defeat to PSG in March of last year.
Qarabag will be participating in their first ever Champions League group game on Tuesday evening, and they couldn’t have asked for a tougher start than away to the winners of the trophy in 2011/12. They haven’t played a game since their 2-1 win over Qabala on the 26th August and there will be understandable questions regarding the Azerbaijani sides match fitness.
Qarabag’s manager is Gurban Gurbanov, who’s been in charge of the Azerbaijani champions for 9 years, providing them with the stability that has won him four leagues and four cups since taking over in 2008. They play as a cohesive unit and pride themselves on a strong defence.
Whether they can keep out the stupendous attacking quality Chelsea have is yet to be seen. When the Blues have played at home against weaker sides in the Champions League in the past, there tends to be a glut of goals. Chelsea scored four against Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2015, six against Maribor in 2014 and six against Nordsjælland in 2012.
And despite Conte’s poor Champions League record as a manager at Juventus, he also encouraged his team to push forward and punish the European minnows at the Juventus Stadium. The Old Lady put four past Nordsjælland, three past Olympiakos and three past Copenhagen when Conte was in charge.
Bearing all of this in mind, Chelsea to put three or more past Qarabag on Tuesday night is 8/11 with Coral. This looks an absolute no brainer.