THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE continues on Wednesday night. Here Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his verdict on the early kick-off between Qarabag and Atletico Madrid.
Qarabag v Atletico Madrid | Wednesday 18th October 2017, 17:00 | BT Sport
Qarabag have been laughed out of town following their first two games in the Champions League group phase. The Azerbaijani outfit produced a desperately poor white flag-waving exercise at Chelsea in their opener before torrid start saw the Horsemen fall two goals behind in Baku against Roma last month.
However, Gurban Gurbanov’s troops reacted well to the situation and put the Serie A side under pressure over the final hour of that encounter. Qarabag grabbed a goal back and came close to pinching a famous point in their first-ever appearance at the national stadium at this stage of European competition.
Qarabag unfairly written off
It’s probably a little harsh to see the market offering the underdogs at 20/1 (Bet365) to beat Atletico Madrid in the early kick-off on Wednesday night but it’s perhaps understandable. Even so, I’m not convinced the Horsemen will be put to the sword by the Spaniards.
Only twice in seven years have Qarabag lost by a margin of two goals or more in Baku and although Spurs, Roma, Dnipro and Fiorentina have all won here in recent seasons, all arrived by the slimmest of margins.
Qarabag have seen Baku outings against St Etienne, Inter Milan, Monaco and Spurs feature no more than a solitary strike with 12/21 (57%) home European outings over the past three produce Under 2.5 Goals winners. Meanwhile, when Fiorentina won here last term, the first goal arrived after the hour mark.
I’m anticipating another defensively-organised performance from the Azerbaijani outfit. These players are well adept at frustrating more illustrious opposition but ultimately, the hosts are likely to lose out in what’s a very important match for Atletico.
Atletico can squeeze out a narrow success
Defeat at the Wanda Metropolitano to Chelsea and failure to make their dominance count at Roma has left Diego Simeone’s side with a solitary point from their first two tussles, their joint-worst ever start to a Champions League campaign.
The Mattress Makers’ only goal arrived via the penalty spot despite the La Liga club racking up 4.02 xG across those two matches. But with a W8-D3-L3 return on the continental stage, plus nine clean sheets in their past 12 group games, Atleti should be capable of squeezing out a narrow success.
The visitors competed very well for large swathes of Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona but with Antoine Griezmann a doubt (fever) and Koke requiring a rest having played every minute of every match this season, the Mattress Makers may not have enough firepower available to put Qarabag away with comfort.
Back the Spaniards to seal maximum points in a game featuring Under 3.5 Goals at 17/20 (Ladbrokes).
Qarabag v Atletico Madrid – Atletico Madrid to win and Under 3.5 Goals (17/20 Ladbrokes)