THE Champions League returns on Wednesday as Sevilla welcome Manchester United in Spain. Dan McCulloch (@danmcc84) shares his best bet.
Sevilla v Manchester United | Wednesday 21st February 2018, 19:45 | BT Sport
Sevilla welcome Manchester United to Andalusia on Wednesday night and I believe that the build up to the game will be more interesting than the match itself.
The two clubs have been embroiled in a ticket row, with United initially extremely annoyed that their fans are being charged £89 to attend the game, £35 more than Liverpool supporters had to pay for their group stage clash. The consequence is that both clubs are subsidising their own fans costs and the tete-a-tete between the two has added extra spice to this clash.
When researching this game, I had a look at Jose Mourinho’s record away from home in the knockout stages of European competition. It is no secret that the Portuguese is the master of small margins, as he proved in last season’s Europa League, winning three of their five knockout stage ties by a solitary goal over two legs.
Their away scorelines during this period read: 1-0, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0. Those results were crucial in securing United’s qualification to the Champions League this season and I don’t think Mourinho will alter his tactics from last term.
Few goals fancied
Going back to the 2002-2003 UEFA Cup, a tournament that Mourinho won with Porto, the current United manager’s attitude to knockout competition has not deviated: he has always looked to keep it tight away to the better sides and his record suggests he has been quite successful.
Across the UEFA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League, he has played 35 knockout matches away from home. His sides have conceded more than one goal on just nine occasions and 24 of those matches have seen two goals or fewer scored.
When the first leg was away from home, nine of the 14 games saw under 2.5 goal backers emerge victorious. Such stats suggest that the 77/100 Marathon are offering on Under 2.5 Goals is too big and I don’t believe that such a price will be available come Wednesday.
Perhaps surprisingly there were just two 0-0 draws in that 35 game sample, which puts me off backing a scoreless game. Ten of these matches finished 1-1, however, so I am definitely tempted to back a draw here, especially when seven of the 14 games his sides have been away from home first have finished with this exact score.
Overall 14 of the 35 games finished with the honours even.
Since returning to England for a second spell, Mourinho has adopted a defensive attitude to games away to the top-six. Fifteen of the 21 games he has been involved in at Chelsea and Manchester United have seen two goals or fewer scored and 10 of these matches have finished either 0-0 or 1-1.
Combining the two sets of data means looking at 24 draws from 56 encounters and suggests that a price of 7/5 would be of value. The fact that William Hill are offering 12/5 is therefore too good to turn down.
Three of Sevilla’s group stage games finished in a stalemate and their home games in La Liga average just 2.45 goals per-game. Seven of these 11 games have seen Under 2.5 Goals scored so there is nothing from a home side perspective to put me off either of these positions.
This is essentially a Mourinho bet and I think we all know the Portuguese well enough to say that this is unlikely to be a classic!
Sevilla v Manchester United – Under 2.5 Goals (77/100 Marathon)
Sevilla v Manchester United – Draw (12/5 William Hill)
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