Champions League: Tempers to flare in winner-takes-all tie

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THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE returns on Tuesday night. We asked Tom Love (@TomLove_18) to source the best bets from matches not involving Premier League interest.

Inter Milan v Barcelona | Tuesday 10th December 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport

Seldom do you every see Barcelona available at bigger than 4/1 to win a match, however, that is the case here. Admittedly, the Blaugrana have already secured top spot and that has to come into your thinking when looking for a bet in this match.

Ernesto Valverde has a big game in the Clasico against Real Madrid on the horizon and with nothing but pride on the line he may well rotate his squad with the likes of Lionel Messi staying at home to rest for the big one.

Inter have it all to play for though, they will go through if they win, or as long as they match Dortmund's result due to their superior head-to-head goal difference. With Dortmund hosting Slavia Prague, you’d expect the Germans to triumph so the onus is very much on the Nerazzurri to take top honours.

Under the pragmatic Antonio Conte, Inter have been predictably sturdy at the back but have the individual quality going forward in order to be a serious threat. It would be a shot in the arm for Conte if his side make the knockout stages, he’s very much a league-focused manager and his record in Europe isn’t the best. The fact they have opponents with little to play for has to be of benefit but it also ramps up the pressure.

Ultimately though, Inter should win this. There’s not a huge amount in terms of quality between the pair and Inter were a match for Barca at the Nou Camp, only narrowly losing 2-1. The 4/6 quotes do look a touch skinny though so I’ll boost that to odds-against (11/10 Coral) by throwing Under 4.5 Goals into the mix.

Under Valverde, Barca are much more pragmatic but often to their detriment. Away from home in this competition they do struggle, and Inter on the flip side are generally involved in low-scoring encounters; 13 of the Nerazzurri 14 wins this season have seen fewer than five goals and if they take the lead I don’t think they’ll go all out to get lots of goals when the balance is this fine.

 Ajax v Valencia | Tuesday 10th December 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport

Group H promises to have an epic finale too as three teams still have the chance to qualify. Here, Valencia simply need to at least finish level on points with Chelsea due to their superior head-to-head record against the Blues. But with Chelsea hosting already eliminated Lille, you’d think Valencia would have to go for it or at least keep themselves in the game.

Ajax, on the other hand, only need a draw to go through and I’m very surprised that they’re as short as 4/7 here given the fact they don’t need to win. I’ve been impressed with the individual quality of the Dutch side going forward but I think they’ve been extremely lucky to be in the position they find themselves in.

Just looking from the eye test, if you can bypass Ajax’s high press there is so much room for attackers to run in to. Chelsea got that time and again in Amsterdam and if it wasn’t for poor decision making the Blues would’ve had a much more comfortable victory.

Wonder goals have been scored by De Godenzonen this campaign and when looking at their underlying Expected Goals (xG) figures it makes for remarkable reading. Despite being top of the group they actually have an xG ratio that is worse than rock bottom Lille by -7.6, incredible.

I don’t want to do Ajax too much of a disservice because the quality of Hakim Ziyech and Quincy Promes has got them some unbelievable goals but ultimately that is unsustainable.

I do think Valencia look too big here at 4/1 but an alternative approach is my play here. With a lot on the line for both teams this could be a card-filled encounter. Interestingly, Ajax are the dirtiest side in the whole of the Champions League in terms of Booking Points, with 11 yellows and two. Valencia have seen 10 yellows and one red too, which means both sides are averaging over 2.00 cards per-game.

We can back both teams to collect Over 1.5 Cards at 4/5 (BetVictor) and I think given those card stats and what’s on the line for these two it could be worth a shot.

Napoli v Genk | Tuesday 10th December 2019, 17:55 | BT Sport

I am extremely surprised at the high goal line that has been set in this game – I can’t quite get my head around it. Napoli know that a draw would suffice for them here and therefore don’t necessarily have to go hammer and tongues for goals, or a big success.

Remarkably the Partenopei have failed to win in their last nine games in all competitions and even more remarkably seven of those have been draws. The ‘ritiro’ that was ordered by eccentric owner Aurelio de Laurentiis has only had a damaging effect on this team; it looks like he’s shot himself in the foot.

Serie A form has toiled and they currently reside in seventh place, a whole eight points off Cagliari in fourth and so Napoli will hope to secure knockout stage progression for a little respite.

Napoli are usually well-known for their attacking flair and ability to score plenty of goals but the Amalfi coast club have struggled with that of late. Carlo Ancelotti has seen his side fail to score more than a single goal in each of their last seven. Six of their past nine have seen fewer than three goals and eight of those produced Under 3.5 Goals, so should a repeat be priced up 19/20 (Marathon)? I think not.

I can easily see a scenario where Napoli get a lead and sit back on it, monopolising possession and see the game out. You’ve got to give a lot of attention to the dynamics of the group when looking at bets at this stage of the competition. Teams will not be pointlessly ambitious going forward when they don’t have to and to get almost even-money on three or fewer goals being scored here has to be a play.

Best Bets

Inter Milan v Barcelona – Inter Milan to win and Under 4.5 Goals (11/10 Coral)

Ajax v Valencia – Both Teams Over 1.5 Cards (4/5 BetVictor)

Napoli v Genk – Under 3.5 Goals (19/20 Marathon)

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