THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE continues on Tuesday night. Here Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies from the coupon.
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid | Tuesday 26th September 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Real Madrid remain under intense scrutiny despite picking up a well-deserved 2-1 triumph over rock-bottom Alaves on Saturday. Zinedine Zidane’s charges fired in 21 efforts at goal in Vitoria but in truth, were far from their fluent best with Karim Benzema still missing from the attack.
Dani Ceballos scored twice on his La Liga debut as Los Merengues rested Luka Modric and Gareth Bale with this encounter in mind. Both are expected to return, along with Marcelo as Madrid attempt to take control of Group H.
But whilst Los Blancos have failed to convince many this season, we might be clouding our judgement based only on results. Real were humbled at home to Real Betis little over a week ago at the Bernebeu – failing to score for the first occasion in a record 75 outings – despite racking up 27 shots.
The data available suggests Madrid have been the best and most dominant team in La Liga so I’m certainly not going to write this side off just yet. Cristiano Ronaldo hit the woodwork twice against Alaves and if just one of those efforts went in, the outlook from Saturday would probably have been different.
Anyhow, Zidane’s side function at their best as a counter-attacking force and their display at Real Sociedad recently shouldn’t be dismissed. With Dortmund desperately needing points on the board, this contest should play straight into the visitors’ hands.
However, Madrid often tend to struggle in Germany and particularly at Dortmund. The Spaniards have W0-D3-L3 in their last six trips to Nord-Rhine Westphalia whilst at least two goals in each of their last three meetings with BVB. Indeed, Real’s last group-stage defeat came here in 2002 (W21-D7-L0).
Last season the pair played out two thrilling 2-2 draws in the group stages of the Champions League – Real surrendering leads late on in both – and I’m happy to take a chance on the 6/1 (SkyBet) available for this showdown to follow a familiar high-scoring pattern by backing Both Teams To Score in both halves.
Each of Los Merengues’s last 14 in the competition have featured Over 2.5 Goals with Zidane’s charges notching two goals or more in 12 of those fixtures. Meanwhile, the guests have only kept their sheets clean once in seven matches across all competitions, when shot-shy APOEL Nicosia travelled to Madrid.
Los Blancos have fired a solitary blank in 51 group games and although Dortmund’s defence has stood up well in the Bundesliga – the hosts have shipped a single strike across their opening six games – I just can’t see a Peter Bosz team shutting out the European champions here.
Die Schwarzgelben were magnificent in their 6-1 shellacking of Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday – leading 3-0 at half-time and dominating the Expected Goals metric – to make it W5-D1-L0 in domestic duties, despite the absence of seven significant players through injury. The home side boast a league goal difference of +18 in Bundesliga action already.
New signings Andriy Yarmolenko and Maximilian Philipp have both made eye-catching contribution whilst former Real Madrid target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to rack up the goals. Going forward, it’s hard to imagine Dortmund not causing problems in the final-third.
However, there’s a very real sense of jeopardy in the air for BVB. The hosts have never started a Champions League campaign pointless after two games and defeat would be a disaster having already lost at Wembley to Spurs. It’s not the Dortmund way to sit back so I expect a full-throttle performance here.
Bosz’s teams aren’t renowned for their defensive solidity and although the gamble should give Madrid the advantage, goals are in theory our best angle of attack. Dortmund have seen Over 3.5 Goals cop in six of their last seven in this competition, Madrid following suit in eight of their previous 13.
That market presents an opportunity at 11/10 (Unibet) but I’m feeling bullish enough to stick with our BTTS in both halves option at a bulbous price. BVB have scored twice or more in seven of their previous 10 outings in the Champions League at the Westfalenstadion and they’ll be desperate to make their mark.
Napoli v Feyenoord | Tuesday 26th September 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Napoli broke a Serie A record on Saturday when scoring at least three goals for the 10th successive match during their 3-2 success over new boys SPAL. The final result was kind on SPAL who managed only six efforts at goal and an Expected Goals return of just 0.3.0.
That victory means Mauricio Sarri’s side have kept their perfect domestic record intact (W6-D0-L0) whilst scoring 22 goals. Chuck in a W2-D0-L1 in Champions league football this term and the Partenopei’s goals haul reaches 27.
The attacking triumvirate of Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne are looking as hot as ever with Marek Hamsik orchestrating proceedings from his playmaker role. Napoli racked up 94 goals in Serie A action last season and early indications suggest they’ll probably beat that return this time around.
The only blemish on their outstanding early season record came in a surprise but deserved defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk. Allan and Jorginho started on the bench in that clash but should be included here as the hosts bid to improve a rather unimpressive W1-D2-L4 record in Champions League group games.
Question marks can still be raised over a defence that’s shipped five goals in the Partenopei’s past four fixtures but Sarri’s troops showed what they’re capable of when nullifying Nice in tough qualifying encounters home and away. Even so, it would take a brave man to back Napoli to keep their backdoor firmly closed.
Anyhow, the Italians should put three points on the board on Tuesday night with relative ease. So much so, I’m backing Napoli to win both halves against Feyenoord at the Stadio San Paolo at a kind even-money from Marathon.
Feyenoord managed one effort on-target – the lowest from matchday one – as they were cut to ribbons by Man City at De Kuip. That result has sparked a series of poor performances with the Dutch champions subsequently losing 1-0 to PSV before an embarrassing 2-0 reverse at home to newly-promoted NAC Breda.
Goalkeeper Brad Jones made a horrific error in the loss to NAC and the visitors arrive having suffered 11 defeats in their last 15 away days in Europe. The Eredivisie outfit suffered group-stage elimination in the Europa League last term and head here without a host of last season’s title winning squad.
The away side have failed to find the net in three of their last four and Giovanni van Bronckhorst must again make-do without Kenneth Vermeer and top goalscorer Nicolai Jorgensen. With Eljero Elia, Terence Kongolo, Rick Karsdorp and Dirk Kuyt no longer at the club, you have to fear the worse for Feyenoord.
Besiktas v Leipzig | Tuesday 26th September 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
I covered Besiktas quite extensively before the matchday one fixtures so I’ll keep their coverage fairly light here. The Turkish champions produced the biggest betting upset of the round when winning 3-1 at Porto but in fairness, it was a slightly fortuitous result.
Nevertheless, the experienced backbone that the club’s ambitious president brought in over the summer provided the necessary experience to pick up maximum points and boss Senol Gunes spoke promisingly about the Black Eagles’ prospects of clinching knockout qualification for the first time.
However, Besiktas suffered their first Super Lig defeat of the season at the weekend when losing out 2-1 to fierce rivals Fenerbahce in a hot-headed contest. Five red cards were shown and the draining physical and mental fall-out from that tie has to be considered here.
Besiktas have only lost one of their last 17 European home matches and W2-D4-L1 in their last seven Champions League ties. But their inability to keep clean sheets at home – only three in eight this term – and on the continent – zero in eight Champions League matches – suggests they could come unstuck.
The Black Eagles have conceded in nine of their last 10 Istanbul encounters in this competition so it’s comforting to know they boast a bit of punch in the attacking third at least. The Turks have scored in all their competitive games in 2017/18 whilst also scoring in seven of those 10 home Champions League games.
Ricardo Quaresma – sent off on Saturday – will lead the attacking charge with Anderson Talisca so there’s certainly enough creativity and ingenuity to at least get Besiktas on the scoresheet here. Indeed, I’m keen to punt a high-scoring contest with Both Teams To Score standing out at 4/6 (Betfair).
RB Leipzig played well in their weekend triumph against Eintracht Frankfurt to move into sixth in the Bundesliga. They impressed in large swathes of a 1-1 draw against Monaco in their opening clash but failed to create enough clear-cut openings for Timo Werner and Jean-Kevin Augustin.
Naby Keita was missing from that Monaco match but will take his place here as the Red Bulls go searching for their first-ever success in Europe. German teams boast a W5-D3-L0 record away to Turkish sides and the market certainly seems to think the visitors at the value at the Vodafone Park.
Still, Leipzig have recorded a solitary clean sheet this season and with BTTS banking in 11 of Besiktas’s 12 European matches last term, I’ll keep things simple by supporting goals at both ends here.