Benfica v Ajax | Wednesday 7th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Three matchdays down and few would have envisaged Ajax sitting top of Champions League Group E. An impressive draw at Bayern Munich has raised eyebrows, alongside decent wins over AEK Athens and Benfica.
The Dutch giants travel to Lisbon in pursuit of qualification; win here and the famous Amsterdam club make the knockout stages for the first time in 12 years. Their strong defence has been a major difference this season and it gives them a great base to work from.
De Godenzonen have kept their sheets clean in 15 of their 19 games in all competitions this season, a phenomenal effort. It’s no secret that scouts at major European clubs are looking at 19-year-old Matias De Ligt who’s been a regular feature for a while now. They also boast Argentinian and Dutch internationals Nicolas Tagliafico and Daley Blind.
Hosts Benfica, on the other hand, are having a torrid time by their standards. They sit fifth in the Primeira Liga and have lost their last two against lesser lights Belenenses and Moreirense. Head coach Rui Vitoria will most likely see this as a must win if they have any aspirations of reaching the Last 16.
Going forward Benfica are lacking in-form strikers. Jonas has been reliable in years gone by but he’s not featured as much this term. Swiss international Haris Seferovic has been leading the line although he’s hardly prolific.
Ajax could appeal with a +0.25 start on the Asian Handicap here but with the home side needing the win more, I’m happy to swerve that market. Instead I’m hoping for a low-scoring encounter and we can back Under 2.5 Hoals at odds-against quotes of 101/100 with Marathon.
Erik Ten Hag’s visitors can be trusted at the back on this season’s form and I think they’ll go here and take a point to edge them closer to qualification. Benfica lack the firepower to threaten the good teams and they’ll struggle to get much change out of this Dutch defence.
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid | Wednesday 7th November 2018, 20:00 | BT Sport
Interim boss and former Real Madrid player Santiago Solari takes charge of his first ever Champions League match and many will see it as a manageable one coming up against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen.
Plzen have shown promising signs in their Champions League campaign thus far. Sure, their demolition at the hands of Roma wasn’t their finest work but they’ve registered a deserved draw over CSKA Moscow and went to the Bernabeu and gave Madrid a stern test in this reverse fixture a fortnight ago.
Martin Krmencik is out for the hosts, which is a big blow for the Bohemian outfit. He’s bagged seven this season and is a big part of their offensive game – Jakub Reznicek is his likely replacement. Even so, I think Plzen can threaten the reigning champions here; they have little pressure on them and nothing to lose.
Los Blancos have been far from convincing this season. That 5-1 hammering by Barcelona in El Clasico was the final nail in Julen Lopetegui’s coffin, but I think the players have a lot to answer for.
This weekend saw Madrid triumph 2-0 at home to Valladolid but that doesn’t tell the full story. The visitors struck the woodwork twice and recorded an xG for figure north of one. It’s become commonplace for the capital club to give up plentiful chances for their opponents and that should give Plzen hope.
Madrid are the most likely winners here but 1/4 quotes on them are hugely unappealing. Instead I’m wanting to get with goals, however Over 2.5 Goals is as short as 2/5 in some places. Both Teams To Score is an even-money shot (Betfred) though and I think that’s worth a poke.
BTTS landed in the reverse fixture and with home advantage I’d expect the Czechs to put up another strong fight. There have been Over 2.5 Goals in 25 of Madrid’s last 27 fixtures in this competition, it’s also been the case in Plzen’s last six European games.
With goals highly likely, I’m willing to take the attractively priced even-money on both teams notching.