FOOTBALL analyst Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to Wednesday night's Champions League qualifiers, picking out his favourite fancies.
Red Bull Salzburg v Red Star Belgrade | Wednesday 29th August 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Red Bull Salzburg boast a formidable home record, beating the likes of Marseille, Lazio and Real Sociedad on home turf last campaign, as well as drawing with Dortmund. However, they were held by both Rijeka and Konyaspor in the Europa League.
Wednesday’s opponents Red Star Belgrade are still in the tie after drawing 0-0 back in Serbia. They’ve been pretty good at restricting chances, conceding less than the single Expected Goal in six of seven qualifiers, keeping clean sheets in five of those – including this reverse fixture.
They’ve made a positive start domestically, too. Like Salzburg, Belgrade have won all five games so far this campaign.
Red Star progressed through the groups in last season’s Europa League, losing just 1-0 over two legs to CSKA Moscow in the knockout phase. In the group stage, Belgrade kept four clean sheets in six games, including away at the Emirates.
Salzburg are the most likely winners by a distance, but I can’t help but feel Red Star Belgrade are underrated. They’re a robust outfit and were more than competitive in the first leg. They’re given just a 14% chance with the draw taken out of the occasion, and for me that’s too low.
They have some decent players going forwards. Jonathan Cafu was part of a Ludogorets side who caused some problems in the Champions League a few years ago, while Nemanja Radonjic has been linked with some Europe’s top leagues and has scored four times in seven games in the Champions League this season.
I’m happy to have a small stake at the 59/10 (Marathon) about the guests in the Draw No Bet market.
PAOK v Benfica | Wednesday 29th August , 20:00 | BT Sport
If you’re after entertainment, then PAOK Salokina could be the place to be this Wednesday.
PAOK’s qualifiers have been notoriously high-scoring. They served up a 3-2 thriller when hosting Spartak Moscow in the last round and prior to that beat Basel 3-0 and 2-1 in each of the two legs.
In Portugal last week, PAOK managed to earn a 1-1 draw away at Benfica, which gives them the advantage.
Benfica were held 1-1 by Sporting Lisbon at the weekend, despite dominating the game.
This is likely to be a tense encounter, and with Felix Brych in charge, cards could be a plenty.
Last season the German refereed a Champions League qualification play-off game and showed 10 cards. The year prior he took charge of a game at this stage and showed seven cards. On both of those occasions he brandished red.
Brych is clearly card-friendly – he averaged five cards per-game in Europe last season and over the last six seasons he’s officiated six European qualifiers, and shown four or more cards in all bar one.
A red card to be shown is 16/5 (Unibet) and is also worth a half-stake.
PSV v BATE Borisov | Wednesday 29th August 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
PSV have made a flying start under Mark Van Bommel, winning four on the bounce, scoring at least two goals in each of those.
PSV won 3-2 against BATE Borisov last week and they could have scored more. They produced 3.6 Expected Goals and had 15 attempts on-target.
BATE conceded 10 in two games against Arsenal last season and conceded five away at Koln. Defensive frailties have been an issue for a long time and I see no reason for that to change here.
PSV -1 is available at 21/20 (Coral) and that'll be my main bet of the day.
Should PSV take the lead, then the visitors will have to come out and so the hosts could kill the game off on the counter.
Hirving Lozano created two goals for Luuk De Jong at the weekend and it’s no surprise to see that duo top the goalscoring markets.
Lozano has made a flying start to the season scoring four in four. He shone at the World Cup and scored a brace in PSV’s last home match. He scored away in Belarus and I like the 13/10 (Unibet) about him netting in a PSV victory this Wednesday.