Champions League: A bumpy ride for PSG in Belgrade

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THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE returns on Tuesday evening. Bang in-form James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his best bets in games not involving Premier League teams.

Club Brugge v Atletico Madrid | Tuesday 11th December 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport

Going into the final matchday, Group A is pretty clear. We know that Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are progressing into the next round, and Club Brugge shall enter the Europa League, with Monaco picking up the wooden spoon. The only debate is who indeed will win the group, and it is very much Diego Simeone’s side in the box seat in that respective battle.

Atletico travel over to Belgium to take on Brugge, who are actually unbeaten in their last three in this competition. Four points over Monaco over two meetings, plus a fine defensive job to draw 0-0 in Dortmund ensured that they’ll remain in Europe into the New Year.

However, the reality is that it is very much job done forBrugge, and this encounter holds no real literal importance, other than of course wanting to get one over a top side at this level.

Even if this game held on real significant for Atleti, I think we’re all in agreement that Simeone is not really one to take any game too lightly. It is simply not in the DNA of himself and the club that he has built.

Forgetting that, they still need a win here to ensure they win the group, which is certainly important. There is every chance Dortmund shall defeat Monaco in the other group match, and Dortmund have a stronger head-to-head in terms of goal difference over Atletico. Therefore, a win will ensure Madrid get the job done no matter what.

Brugge might be unbeaten in three in this competition, but in all competitions their record reads just one victory in the last five. They endured a rather embarrassing league defeat to lowly Waasland-Beveren on Friday night, which is hardly great preparation for this encounter. It isn’t certainly that the Belgians would field a weakened side, but there is of course the temptation to do so.

Atletico certainly won’t be doing that. For all that the visitors have had something of a defensive crisis in recent times; struggling for fit centre-backs and having to field creative midfielder Saul at left back, they continue to be hard to beat.

The Spaniards kept a clean sheet against a solid Alaves side at the weekend when despatching them 3-0 at home. They’ve only lost once since September, that being the heavy defeat in Dortmund.

Interestingly, Atletico have not had too many away games in recent times, so that could enhance their form a little. Their away record is a little bit concerning this season, winning just the three in all competitions. One of those was at least in Monaco in the Champions League.

Knowing a win will see Madrid over the line, there is every chance that this could turn into a bit of a Simeone masterclass in these type of situations. Only 7% of their league games has beaten the 3.5 goal line this season. Only 20% has featured over 2.5, so they continue to use defence as their best form of attack.

The Belgian league is a little different, and it is simply a ‘goals league’. Almost half of Club Brugge’s league encounters has beaten the 3.5 goal line, but they won’t have faced a side like Atletico in that division.

Just the one Atletico away match this season has ended over 3.5, which was the 4-0 loss in Dortmund. That was clearly a bit of a freak result as Simeone’s side just don’t get beat in that fashion.

We fancy them to get the job done on Tuesday, and do so in Simeone style – Atletico Madrid to win and Under 3.5 Goals is priced at 27/20 (Coral).

Red Star Belgrade v PSG | Tuesday 11th December 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport

Group C very much has everything still to play for going into Tuesday’s final meetings. The only certainty is that Red Star Belgrade won’t be going into the knockout rounds, but there is still the possibility of reaching the Europa League. That would require them to beat PSG at home and Liverpool to lose to Napoli at Anfield. Unlikely, but not impossible.

It is a little bit clearer for Thomas Tuchel and his Parisians. They travel to Serbia knowing that returning home with three points ensures their progression into the next stage. Failure to do that, and they would still progress should Napoli take at least a draw from their clash with Liverpool.

I think we are all in agreement that PSG are vastly the stronger of these two teams, and there is no point in trying to build a case to state otherwise. PSG would have started this competition with an intention of trying to win the entire thing, whilst Red Star are very much enjoying the ride.

However, the home win over Liverpool for Red Star made many across Europe stand up and take more notice of them, so they certainly won’t fear this talented French line-up. An intimidating atmosphere awaits, one which Liverpool failed to handle, and they of course held Napoli at home earlier in the group.

Whilst Red Star have been very limp away from home, losing 6-1, 4-0 and 3-1 to PSG, Liverpool and Napoli respectively, they are very much a different proposition on home soil. Keeping clean sheets against sides of that nature is good going, but an even bigger effort is required to make that a third over a star-studded PSG.

One positive for Tuchel is that his side, and most of the French teams, have had a weekend off after their match was postponed. Various fan protests led to several Ligue 1 encounters being called off. It remains to be see if this is enough time to allow superstar Neymar to return from injury, but the medical staff will be looking to patch him up in time to get him on the plane. They cannot afford to take any risks with regards to team selection, and Tuchel should try to go at full tilt here.

Nevertheless, for all that we can laud PSG and the talent at their disposal, we cannot so easily overlook Red Star and see the sort of damage they can do. Only in the home match against Napoli and the away clash in Liverpool have they failed to score in this group of death. As mentioned, they’re especially tough to beat at home.

PSG have to win, so they’ll play their usual game and expect to get the job done. However, we feel as though the Serbs will give them a scare along the way.

Red Star are absolute dominating their domestic league and have done for some time. Taking that form too literally is never easy when they’re coming up against the likes of PSG now, who are so obviously superior to anything in that division. Nevertheless, they are clearly in confident mood.

PSG have not been their scintillating best for a little while now. They head into this following back-to-back away draws to Bordeaux and Strasbourg, which ended their 100% start to the campaign. Wins over Toulouse and Liverpool before that were only by a one-goal margin, and PSG always expect to score plenty of goals.

PSG have scored in every single game they have played this season, and we expect that continue, even if Neymar isn’t fit. Red Star are used to scoring goals themselves, and PSG aren’t keeping that many clean sheets in recent times, just three in the last nine in all competitions.

Both Teams To Score is worth a nibble at 27/20 (Coral).

Best Bets

Club Brugge v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid to win and Under 3.5 Goals (27/20 Coral)

Red Star Belgrade v PSG – Both Teams To Score (27/20 Coral)

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