PSG v Club Brugge | Tuesday 7th December 2021, 17:45
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are guaranteed second spot in Group A regardless of the outcome here in Paris so there is a chance we could see some rotation however off the back of two disappointing Ligue 1 draws and with a kind run of fixtures ahead of their winter break we should see a strong enough selection to make it five successive home group stage victories against a Club Brugge side that have found the going tough after an encouraging start to this campaign.
The Belgian champions went toe to toe with PSG in the reverse fixture on MD1, coming away with a well-deserved draw, which they followed up with a win in Leipzig – however it has been downhill ever since, losing the next three group fixtures, conceding 14 goals in the process – with only Group H whipping boys Malmo having a worse goal difference than their -11.
Philippe Clement’s side can secure third place and Europa League football for the New Year though simply by bettering managerless Leipzig’s result against Manchester City, which should provide plenty of motivation, potentially even if they are trailing heavily at the Parc des Princes.
With that carrot of more European football being dangled before them I can see Brugge, who have only failed to score once during the group stage, being able to find the net against a PSG side that have only kept one clean sheet and with the home side keen to get back to winning ways especially in front of their own fans, both teams to score and over 2.5 goals holds plenty of appeal – especially at odds of 10/11 with Boyle Sports.
The Blauw-Zwart's goal at the raucous Breydel Stadium came via a cracking strike from skipper Hans Vanaken who has since added goals against both other group rivals and his run of at least one shot on target in each UCL game this season finally came to an end last time out in the home defeat to Leipzig.
However, Brugge have bounced back in style since then hitting 10 goals in three successive wins with the 29-year-old getting the ball rolling by opening the scoring in the first of those games, his eighth goal for his club this season.
I like the look of the 10/11 odds with Betfair that he has at least as shot on target in this crucial clash for his side.
Ajax v Sporting | Tuesday 7th December 2021, 20:00
Group C has become the ultimate dead rubber group with all four places already confirmed.
Having been sensational from MD1, Ajax deservedly will top the section, one of only three sides along with Bayern Munich and Liverpool to go in to the sixth match day with a 100% record to their name, only Bavarians and Manchester City have scored more than their 16 goals whist holders Chelsea are the only team to have conceded fewer than the Dutch sides three goals.
That opening match saw Erik ten Hag’s side destroy Sporting 5-1 in Lisbon but the Portuguese side have subsequently gone on to win 14 of the following 15 fixtures – with the one defeat coming against group rivals Dortmund in this competition.
With the pressure off and both sides in great form – Ajax beat Willem II 5-0 on Friday night to extend their unbeaten run in to double figures and consolidate their place at the head of the Eredivisie table – this one reeks of goals with Sporting scoring 11 in their last three UCL games and with revenge as a strong motivator so therefore I am putting forward another game to feature both teams scoring with over 2.5 total goals at a best priced 19/20 with Bet 365.
With my go to UCL dynamic duo of Sebastien Haller and Steven Berghuis at risk of rotation for the hosts I’m taking a chance a player who has been in fine form for the visitors in this competition.
Paulinho has found the net in three of Leões five UCL group games including his sides consolation goal in the reverse fixture and if selected comes in to this one in good heart having scored in each of his last two outings including a fantastic finish in the big domestic clash, the Derby de Lisboa, where he also had a goal ruled out for offside and picked up a first minute yellow card!
Odds of 3/1 with Paddy Power are certainly big enough to tempt me in!
Dortmund v Besiktas | Tuesday 7th November 2021, 20:00
The remaining half of Group C meets in Dortmund, with the third placed, Europa League bound home side hosting a Besiktas side aiming to avoid becoming the first side since AEK Athens in 2018, to exit the competition pointless.
It’s not looking promising for the Black Eagles though who have not only been shocking in the UCL, losing all five group games so far to extend their run of defeats in the competition to eight, conceding at least twice in all of them, but haven’t won in any competition since October, a sequence of seven fixtures, at least ending a six-game losing stretch with a draw at Kasimpasa on Friday.
BVB had a disappointing result of their own at the weekend, going down 3-2 to Bundesliga title rivals Bayern Munich despite taking an early lead and therefore suffering a fourth loss in the last six competitive fixtures.
That poor run of form should ensure Marco Rose will want to keep the pressure off and also get some form back in to his team ahead of back-to-back league meetings against newly promoted sides.
Besiktas have been losing four of their five group games at half-time including in the reverse fixture and with Dortmund leading at half time on route to their only other group win I am taking the home side to make a statement here and come out of the blocks quickly – the 4/5 with Betfair for the HalfTime/FullTime win is just about big enough.
Despite making an earlier than expected return from injury there is unlikely to be any risks taken with Erling Haaland in this dead rubber tie, along with the absence of at least five other members of the Dortmund squad the door should be open for some of the fringe players to state their case.
One such player is Donyell Malen who scored in his last three starts including on MD5 in the costly defeat to Sporting, the Dutch international was unfortunate to be dropped to the bench to accommodate the returning Haaland but will be in the starting XI here according to his manager and as such looks a good price at 11/10 with Betfair to get his name on the scoresheet again.
Porto v Atletico Madrid | Tuesday 7th November 2021, 20:00
With all three teams still able to qualify behind Group B winners Liverpool, it is Porto that control their own destiny.
Currently holding second placed, the Dragões are one point clear of both AC Milan in third and their opponents here Atletico Madrid, so know they need to simply better the Italian sides result at the San Siro to guarantee their passage through to the knockout stages of the competition.
The concern for Sérgio Conceição is that with top spot already confirmed for Liverpool they will field a rotated side against AC Milan and therefore the Portuguese may need to claim all three points at Estádio do Dragão to progress.
With this in mind the draw no bet looks an interesting play at odds of 10/11 with William Hill.
Atletico have only managed to score in two of their five group games so far and have only three wins from 10 games in all competitions and come in to this off the back of a shock home defeat to Mallorca – given their position they will of course have to go for it at some stage during this contest.
Porto’s home record of nine wins from 10 in all competitions show their form in their own stadium and the 0-0 result at Wanda Metropolitano on MD1 also illustrated that they were capable of frustrating Diego Simeone’s side – even having a late effort to claim all three points ruled out by VAR.
Having the refund on our side if the game peters out to a draw is an added bonus with odds only a shade under even money.
With all outcomes possible through the course of the night this game has the perfect ingredients for becoming a tight and feisty affair with emotions ready to boil over at any given moment, especially as news from Italy starts to filter through and game management potentially coming in to play.
Neither of these two sides are strangers to getting on the wrong side of referees with the reverse fixture seeing nine yellows and a straight red – with Porto responsible for six of those cautions as well as the sending off of Chancel Mbemba following a poor challenge.
Given the group situation I am going to take the 10/11 on offer from Sky Bet for Porto to pick up 30+ booking points (10 points for a yellow, 25 for a red) something Atletico Madrid’s opponents have done in four of their five group games so far.
The referee here, Clément Turpin, also took charge of Porto’s clash with AC Milan in Italy and showed four yellow cards to the Portuguese side.
Real Madrid v Inter | Wednesday 24th November 2021, 20:00
Although this isn’t a dead rubber – both sides have qualified for the Round of 16 and with a two-point cushion at the top of Group D, hosts Real Madrid know a point will be enough to progress with seeded status.
These European giants come in to this clash with near identical recent form with both undefeated in the last 11 and although they share winning their last three games in this competition Los Blancos just edge the overall stats with victories in their last eight fixtures compared to Inter winning their last five – all very impressive stuff though!
This game comes in the middle of two huge domestic fixtures for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, having secured a fantastic 2-0 win away at La Liga title rivals Real Sociedad on Saturday, up next is the small matter of El Derbi, a chance to get one over on current Spanish champions, out of form cross city rivals Atleti.
As a result, I feel we may see something of a stalemate here with Real happy to take the point they need and move on and although the Italian champions have fine recent domestic and European form, they have struggled against their Spanish opponents in recent clashes – losing the reverse on MD1 and both meetings last season – they may get something.
I’m taking Madrid to pocket the draw they need at a best price of 13/5 with Bet 365.
Another key element in my thinking there is the absence of Karim Benzema, who was forced to leave the field with a hamstring injury after just 16 minutes of the weekend’s top of the table clash.
Although the likes of Luka Jović and Vinícius Jr combined well to secure victory over La Real and are able deputies – top scorer Benzema's boots are huge ones to fill, especially in his current form.
Simone Inzaghi also has headaches in forward areas too with Lautaro Martinez a doubt and Joaquin Correa reportedly out with a pulled flexor muscle in the left thigh not ideal when facing a side that has conceded just once in their last four games and not conceded twice in any of their last 11.
For their part the Nerazzurri have kept four successive shut outs and so my eyes were drawn towards the under goals market – even more so when I saw we could play under 2.75 (Under 2.5, 3.0) at even money with Bet 365 – meaning we pocket a win if there are 0, 1 or 2 goals, receive half our stake back if there are 3 and only lose a full stake if there are 4 or more.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff Tiraspol | Tuesday 7th December 2021, 20:00
These two sides meet in Ukraine with their respective fate already sealed – for Shakhtar Donetsk that’s the Group D wooden spoon and only pride to play for as they go in search of their first win of the stage to conclude what was a wholly disappointing campaign.
In contrast Sheriff Tiraspol surprised all those outside of Moldova by claiming third place ahead of their hosts and securing Europa League football for the New Year adding the prized scalp of Real Madrid while they were at it.
Rotation is a possibility here as both sides focus on their domestic duties, Shakhtar remain top of the Ukrainian Premier League by goal difference, helped by a 6-1 win over Lviv on Friday, whilst Sheriff trail Moldovan top flight leaders Petrocub by a point following a 0-0 draw between the two sides on Thursday, leaving Tiraspol in pole position given their three games in hand, although the small matter of €3m for a win at this stage of the competition would not go amiss for either club.
With this in mind my focus will not be on the outcome but instead on goals, especially when a distinct trend caught my eye in a market I have had plenty of recent success in.
Thirteen of Shakhtar’s last 16 European goals have been scored in the second half, with a total of four first half strikes their five group matches so far and eight coming after the interval.
It’s a similar theme for Sheriff, who have seen five goals scored in the opening 45 minutes of their Group D fixtures, with 11 coming in the second half.
Although there was a goal in each half in the reverse fixture, I feel the home side will win this one and given their record for goals in the second 45 I’m happy to take the even money on offer with Betfair for the second half to see more goals than the first.
One eye watering stat that stuck in my mind from the reverse fixture on MD1 was the corner count – which ended 17-5 in favour of Roberto Di Zerbi’s side.
Despite putting up a decent fight in all their UCL games so far, Sheriff have taken fewer flag kicks than their opponents in all five games “losing” by 12, 13, 9, 3 and 2.
Bet 365 have set their Asian Handicap at a very attractive looking -2, meaning we need Shakhtar to take at least three more corners than their Moldovan visitors to win the bet, although we would get our stake back if they only took two more – given the figures outlined above where four games would be clear wins with one resulting in a refund the odds of 4/5 look a great bet.
PSG v Club Brugge: Over 2.5 goals and both teams to score (10/11 Boyle Sports)
PSG v Club Brugge: Hans Venaken to have 1 or more shots on target (10/11 Betfair)
Ajax v Sporting: Over 2.5 Goals and Both Teams to Score (19/20 Bet 365)
Ajax v Sporting: Paulinho Anytime Goalscorer (3/1 Paddy Power)
Dortmund v Besiktas: Half Time/ Full Time = Dortmund/Dortmund (4/5 Betfair)
Dortmund v Besiktas: Donyell Malen Anytime Goalscorer (11/10 Betfair)
Porto v Atletico Madrid: Porto Draw No Bet (10/11 William Hill)
Porto v Atletico Madrid: 30+ Porto Booking Points (10/11 Sky Bet)
Real Madrid v Inter: Full Time Result – Draw (13/5 Bet 365)
Real Madrid v Inter: Under 2.5, 3.0 Goal Line (1/1 Bet 365)
Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff Tiraspol: Half with Most Goals – Second Half (1/1 Betfair)
Shakhtar Donetsk v Sheriff Tiraspol: Asian Handicap Corners – Shakhtar Donetsk –2 (4/5 Bet 365)