MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) highlights the best bets available for Juventus’ Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.
Juventus v Bayern Munich | Tuesday 19.45 | BT Sport 2
I’d like to write a letter of complaint to UEFA. Of course I’m bubbling with anticipation for Arsenal’s clash with Barcelona but to schedule Juventus’ contest with Bayern Munich on the same night? Get out of here, you fools.
For me, this is the tie of the round. All the British attention will be on the Emirates – and rightly so – but if you’re after two genuine pound-for-pound heavyweight competition contenders slugging it out, Turin is the place to be.
It’s the beginning of a truly decisive couple of months for Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich. The Catalan boss, rightly dubbed the best and most innovative head coach on the planet, is under serious scrutiny to deliver Champions League success in his final campaign in Bavaria following two failed attempts.
However, for the third successive season, Bayern head into the knockout stages with significant injuries – a twist that’s often forgotten when judging Pep’s continental achievements with the Bavarians.
On Tuesday night, the German giants head to Turin with a central defensive crisis. There’s no Jerome Boateng, no Javier Martinez and no Holger Badstuber. Mehdi Benatia is far from 100% and January’s loan signing Serdar Tasci fluffed his audition at the weekend.
It means FC Hollywood could well line-up with young midfielder-by-trade Joshua Kimmich partnered by David Alaba in the heart of their defence here. It also means the defenders available to Pep have an average height of 5ft 7in and so set-piece situations and balls into the box could prove extremely hazardous for the visitors.
As a result of their backline issues, Bayern are not nearly as confident as they were immediately after the draw was made. And the local media have begun picking holes in the side’s recent performances too – despite returning W3-D1-L0 since news of Pep’s impending departure was made public, supporters and reporters have been critical of their domestic displays.
But arguably more alluring for punters is the runaway Bundesliga champions’ less than average away record, especially in this competition. The visitors are winless in five knockout Champions League ties on their travels (W0-D2-L3) and have now lost five of their most recent 11 away days on the continent, firing blanks in three of their last six.
The Bavarians have dropped points in three of their most recent seven Bundesliga fixtures outside of their Allianz Arena home and surprisingly, boast a very mediocre record in the opening leg of knockout matches under Pep (W1-D2-L3).
So despite reaching the semi-final stage in five of their last six campaigns, when there’s evidence and reasoning to oppose the five-times European champions, you do. 888 Sport have chalked up Juventus at 17/11 in the Draw No Bet market – that’s a smidgen over 6/4 – and that’s just too big to turn down.
The Old Lady’s pedigree in this competition deserves serious recognition and more appreciation by the layers too. The Bianconeri have W22-D10-L2 in their previous 34 home Champions League fixtures and have suffered just two defeats in 47 European matches in Turin dating back to 2004/05.
Admittedly, both of those beatings were against Bayern but their guests were in much ruder health coming into those matches. And having overcome Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid en route to last year’s final, plus Europa League holders Sevilla and Manchester City this term, Juve’s strength as hosts is clear to see.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team notched just six goals in this season's group stages – the lowest total among the last-16 qualifiers – but I expect to see former Bayern forward Mario Mandzukic deployed here. The Croatian is an excellent option for the likely aerial bombardment, is well adept at holding the ball up, works superbly alongside Paolo Dybala and also has a point to prove against the Germans having fallen out with Pep in his stint in Munich.
Whatever happens this midweek, I’m not anticipating an away win and I wouldn’t want to be with goals either. Juve saw five of their six group-games feature two goals or fewer so it’s no surprise to see Under 2.5 Goals quoted at miniscule odds. A better bet might be to back a goalless first-half at 8/5 with Coral.
Bayern’s reshuffled rearguard may force Pep into curbing his offensive instincts and with the German giants seeing a scoreless opening 45 minutes in their group-games at Arsenal, Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb, a repeat scenario seems plausible against a watertight Bianconeri backline.
The Old Lady are yet to concede a goal on home soil in the Champions League this season and have shutout five of their last seven European guests. Since the turn of the year, the hosts have leaked just once in nine matches and with Giorgio Chiellini possibly returning to the fold, stopping Bayern from scoring is far from unquestionable.
With that in mind, I can’t resist a third and final wager. Betfair are offering Juventus to win and Under 3.5 Goals at a bulbous 29/10 and that’s a price that’s just too big to turn down.
Cautious optimism has taken hold in Turin thanks to the Bianconeri’s run of 18 wins from their previous 20 outings, including 11 on the spin in front of their home supporters, and this selection covers the Juve victory with correct scores of 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 at a handsome price.
Juventus v Bayern Munich – Juventus draw no bet (17/11 888 Sport)
Juventus v Bayern Munich – 0-0 half-time correct score (8/5 Coral)
Juventus v Bayern Munich – Juventus to win and Under 3.5 Goals (29/10 Betfair)
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