Champions League: Back Ukrainian giants to cause Hoffe problems


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.

Bayern Munich v Benfica | Tuesday 27th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport

Can we have too much faith in Bayern Munich right now? For a little while now they have been anything but their best.

What in previous seasons has become routine and second nature is no longer the case. Bayern have conceded six goals in their last two Bundesliga games, and whilst three were against in-form Borussia Dortmund, since when would we have ever believed Fortuna Dusseldorf could travel to the Allianz Arena and score three. Well they did on Saturday!

Clearly things at the club could be going a little better. For all that the board came out and publicly supported their head coach Niko Kovac, he himself must be a little worried.

Yet we say all this and Bayern have only lost once in their last seven in all competitions. Hardly a crisis, but they are nine points off the top in the Bundesliga. We still wouldn’t be that surprised to see them win the title this season, eh?

First things first, it is Champions League action and matters here are at least looking more positive for the German side. They top the group and know victory versus Benfica, who themselves need a win to stand any chance of making the next stage, will see them safely through.

The two sides have already met on matchday one, when Bayern ran out 2-0 winners in Portugal. Bayern would then win only once in five after that. Even their victories in recent times haven’t been too impressive. Keeping a clean sheet has become a bit of a concern for them.

However, they may relish the chance to get back into Champions League action and get the world talking positive about this great club once again.

We fancy them to get the job done in front of their own supporters against a Benfica side who aren’t in their best of moments either. They’ve won their last two, but went four without victory prior to that.

Although this is a game Benfica have to win, they won’t go all-out to begin with. Their best hope is to keep things tight for a half and then try to break away later on. Bayern will certainly go all-out for the win, and the longer it stays 0-0 the more it should suit Rui Vitoria’s men.

Saying this is one thing, but doing it is never easy, regardless of Bayern’s form. They are still vastly experienced and a tough nut to crack in European competition, especially in the opening group stage.

The one period of the game where Bayern have scored more than any other is between the 16-30 minute mark. Benfica have also conceded over half of their goals in the first half.

Tactically this will be quite intriguing and that is why we are picking the selection we are – Bayern Munich to lead 1-0 at half-time, available at 49/20 (Bet Stars).

As mentioned, Benfica aren’t likely to take too many risks early on and could invite some pressure. Bayern themselves might have to be a little patient, but we’ll back them to edge ahead with a solitary goal before half time. The hosts have been ahead at half time in 67% of their league matches.

Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk | Tuesday 27th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport

This is probably one of the games which won’t catch the eye in many respects on Tuesday night. We’ve got the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United all in action, although I’d urge any neutral supporter to check out Hoffenheim versus Shakhtar Donetsk.

Without wanting to put the kiss of death on this contest, this really shouldn’t be a 0-0!

Goals, goals and goals are likely to be the order of the day here. The record of these two suggests that will be the case – when they met on matchday one in Ukraine, it finished 2-2 but the net should have bulged more than the four times it did.

Second spot remains a possibility in this group as Lyon are positioned there currently on six points, but do face the might of Manchester City on Tuesday. The reality is that this is a must-win encounter for both Hoffenheim and Shakhtar, with the loser then looking towards making the Europa League by finishing third.

It is perhaps harsh to judge Shakhtar too much on their meetings with Man City over the last two matchdays. Losing 6-0 and 3-0 suggests they were outplayed, and that was certainly the case on each occasion. However, Man City are going to do that to teams this season.

Shakhtar play in a league where they turn up and win, and attempting that against a Pep Guardiola side is just simply not possible. However, one thing Hoffenheim will concede is chances.

For all that up-and-coming boss Julian Nagelsmann has achieved with the club in recent times, one thing he has been unable to do is make them secure at the back this season. That is in relation to keeping clean sheets. It is just the one clean sheet in all competitions for the Germans, and that came when defeating Stuttgart 4-0, who had a man sent off relatively early on.

Both Teams To Score in this encounter is unsurprisingly priced at skinny odds and offers no appeal. Even if we try to add Over 2.5 Goals into the equation, we’re still looking at odds-on quotes.

One thing we therefore may look to do is put a bit of faith into Shakhtar. They aren’t a bad team, Manchester City are just simply a lot better than they are, which is no disgrace.

The Ukrainians drew 2-2 in their other group games in the home tie to Hoffenheim and then away in Lyon in a match played behind-closed-doors. They netted a goal in both halves on each occasion.

It is hard to take Shakhtar's domestic form too literally, considering it is vastly weaker than this level, but in 75% of their away league matches have they scored in each halve. They’ve only managed to do that in 12% of their home games, which suggests they prefer it on the road where they have more space and aren’t facing up to opponents ‘parking the bus’.

With that being the case, and with this likely to be OK as both will push to win, we’ll invest some faith in Shakhtar to score in both halves at a nice price of 45/17 (188Bet).

Best Bets

Bayern Munich v Benfica – Bayern Munich 1-0 Benfica half-time correct score (49/20 Bet Stars)

Hoffenheim v Shakhtar Donetsk – Shakhtar Donetsk to score in both halves (45/17 188BET)

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