AC Milan v Porto | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 17:45
Looking at the bare stats and AC Milan’s UCL campaign so far appears a train wreck, with three defeats in the opening three games seeing the seven-time European champions anchored to the foot of Group B, however, they have been in front in games against both Liverpool and Atletico Madrid who they defended a 1-0 lead with 10 men for an hour before conceding goals in the 84th and 97th minute.
The Rossoneri couldn’t be experiencing more contrasting fortunes in domestic action though with ten wins and a draw from their opening 11 fixtures seeing them only kept off the top of the table on goal difference and they will know it is that form they will need to show here in a must win game if they have aspirations of progress to the knock out stages.
However, in Porto they have an opponent who are also unbeaten in domestic league action, sitting at the top of the Primeira Liga on goal difference, largely due to firing 25 goals in their opening ten games in the Portuguese top flight.
The 1-0 win over Milan in their Estádio Dragão on MD3 means Sérgio Conceição takes his side in to this clash level on points with second placed Atletico while also knowing a win over their hosts would guarantee them at least a UEFA Europa League preliminary knockout round place via a third-place finish.
Other than the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of a ruthless Liverpool side, the Dragões have kept clean sheets in their other two match days in a group they were expected to struggle in – they will certainly take heart from the goalless draw in the Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid.
Frustrating Diego Simeone’s side, allowing them possession but limiting them to xG of 0.3, before looking to hit them on the counter, only the woodwork and VAR deprived them of an away smash and grab on MD1 – a template I am sure they will look to replicate here at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Further signs Porto have the tools at their disposal to gain a positive result here is how they restricted Milan to xG of just 0.1 when they met a fortnight ago – although they would love a win, I’m sure the visitors would sign for a draw now and we can get both those results on side at an attractive 93/100 for +0.5 on the Asian handicap with Betway.
One player I always have a look out for when his side feature in big games is Sergio Oliveira, who can have an impact at both ends of the pitch, equally likely to get on the scoresheet or grab an assist as he is to find his way in to the book – or as we gained from in one of these previews last season – both!
I’m not going to be greedy today – and my focus is on his defensive duties, excelling in the reverse fixture with four successful tackles, and with just one foul I feel those stats could be reversed in Milan.
Referee Clément Turpin is not the most card happy of officials but we only need him to pull out his notebook once – as long as it is for Oliveira who was booked four times in eight UCL appearances last season and has one in three this – he's 9/4 with Sporting Index to match up those ratios by collecting another here.
Real Madrid v Shakhtar | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 17:45
Real Madrid briefly returned to the top of La Liga at the weekend after inflicting Elche’s first home league defeat in seven and although Sociedad went back above them with a draw, Los Blancos have a game in hand to take advantage of.
Carlo Ancelotti’s outfit also occupy second place in this league too – behind shock leaders Sheriff Tiraspol on goal difference and there will be a massive amount of redemption in the Madrid air for the visit of a Shakhtar side who defeated them 12 months ago at the 6,000-capacity Alfredo di Stéfano.
With fans allowed back in of course, action returns to the usual surroundings of the Santiago Bernabéu, where Real have not had things their own way.
Hosting Sheriff here on MD2, Real were stunned, along with the rest of the footballing world, when the Moldovan visitors repeated the trick of Shakhtar by returning home with all three points and following a goalless league draws with Villarreal and Osasuna either side of that shock result the 13 times European champions have not won any of their last three competitive home games.
Only winning five of their last 13 UCL home games is hardly the form that should get us rushing to back Madrid at a best priced 1/4 but I really can’t see past a home win here – especially how they swept aside Roberto De Zerbi’s men in the reverse fixture.
We must also remember the visitors failed to find the net in any of their opening three fixtures in Group D and must travel here fearing the worst following such a resounding home defeat (0-5) to the same opposition on MD3.
I really expect the home side to put on a show for their supporters and know a win could well see them end this round of games at the top of the group – so therefore a two-goal margin should be well within reach so brings the -1.75 Asian handicap in to play which we can back at odds of 17/20 with Novibet.
Go-to goal getter Karim Benzema is a doubt here after missing out on the weekend win over Elche, a game which saw Rodrygo limp off after just 18 minutes, so it would be a big surprise to see him feature here, as is the case with the likes of Isco, Dani Ceballos, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale.
Which all leads us naturally to Vinicius Junior who warmed up for this clash by firing both goals in the weekend win and this coming after a brace and an assist in the reverse fixture in Ukraine, the 21-Year-Old Forward who has nine goals from a combined 14 La Liga and UCL appearances this season.
I like the 8/5 with SBK that he adds to that tally here.
Dortmund v Ajax | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 20:00
While a host of managers get linked with some big (and not so big) vacancies across Europe I still get to experience one of my favourite pastimes, the joy of watching an Erik ten Hag led Ajax side.
It’s three wins from three in Group C for de Godenzonen but it has been the nature of how they have gone about their work as much as the end result which has seen them blast 11 goals past their helpless opponents whilst conceding just once – including four goals without reply in the recent reverse fixture on MD3.
The Dutch champions can actually secure their passage to the knockout stages by bettering Sporting’s result but I am sure will scent blood here against a side they not only recently thumped but is shorn of several key players.
No player is more important to Dortmund than Erling Haaland of course who was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a hip injury, but Bild has reported that his recovery might take a little longer, and could rule him out until the new year, although this is yet to be confirmed by the club.
I can’t overlook, given recent form and likely team news, that we can back Ajax draw no bet at odds of 28/29 with Bet Victor, even after the disappointing 0-0 draw with Heracles at the weekend, for a side that has scored 30 and conceded just once in the last nine competitive games.
What a move to the Eredivisie it has been for Sebastien Haller, scoring seven times in 11 appearances, but it has been his form in this competition that has really caught the eye.
Arguably the player of the tournament so far in the Champions League, Haller has six goals in the first three matches and has looked totally unstoppable, including a goal and two assists in the reverse fixture at the Amsterdam Arena.
Given his performance against this opposition two weeks ago and the confidence with which the 6 ft 3 in hitman is operating with at the moment I have to take the 32/21 with SBK about him scoring again here at Signal Iduna Park.
RB Leipzig v PSG | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 20:00
Three games, three defeats, not the start Jesse Marsch had dreamt of for this UCL campaign and with his side faltering in eighth in the Bundesliga the pressure is on to get a positive result here at the Red Bull Arena against a PSG who edged the reverse fixture by the odd goal of a five-goal thriller.
Defeat is likely to mean failure to qualify for any form of European football when it returns in the New Year so we should see an open expansive game here – can either side really play any other way?
Die Roten Bullen need to turn around a run of form which has seen them lose all of their last five UCL fixtures and they have conceded at least two goals in each of their last seven which always makes it hard to pick up points – infact they have only won four of their last 12 in all competitions.
However, I am not going to predict the result here instead focus on those incredible goal stats which have seen Leipzig’s three games in this competition so far yield a massive 17 goals at an average of 5.67 per game, making PSG’s average of exactly three seem pretty uninspiring – but that is the exact line I am playing here.
Bet 365 offer 10/11 for the 3.0 Asian goal line – meaning if there is exactly three, we get our money back.
Despite Lionel Messi, scorer of two goals in the reverse fixture, being officially ruled out by the Parisians due to left hamstring and knee pain after a knock against Lille at the weekend, there will be more than enough talent on display who are capable of single handedly hitting that line.
One such player is Kylian Mbappe who missed the LOSC victory due to an infection but is back to full fitness so should come in to this clash fresh, he will be looking to add to his total of 28 UCL goal involvements, with no player having more in the same period of time.
However, it is a former PSG player that will be my second selection for this game in the form of Christopher Nkunku who has four goals in the group stage, including a hat-trick against Manchester City, proving he can mix it with the best.
The reverse fixture was the first game in the competition this season where he did not get on the scoresheet but for a player who has started the season in such sparkling form, 12 goal contributions in 15 competitive matches this season, I’m sure he will want to put that right against his former employers.
The 3/1 with Betfair looks a great price for a player who looked dangerous when I have seen him this season.
Sheriff v Inter | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 20:00
Story of the tournament so far has to be without doubt Sheriff Tiraspol, who incredibly top Group D after winning their first two games which was surprise enough when overcoming Shakhtar, but then went off the scale when defeating the mighty Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.
Yuriy Vernydub’s side lost 3-1 at the San Siro on MD3 but still had enough about them to make Inter work for the win, not giving up once going a goal down and even equalising through Sebastien Thill who was also responsible for the last-minute winner over Los Blancos.
Simone Inzaghi will do well to ensure there is no complacency amongst his ranks as they head for Moldova to do battle against a side that have won 11 home games in a row in all competitions, with the last eight in that run being wins ‘to nil’.
Included in that sequence was the famous first ever UCL group stage 2-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk, who in turn held Inter to a goalless draw in Ukraine which should illustrate to the hosts it by no means impossible for them to add to their points total.
Although the handicap markets don’t appeal, I think the Moldovan champions have proven they have enough about them to cause problems to any side – especially in their own stadium.
Given Sheriff have scored in all three games so far and twice in two of them to prove it was no fluke – I was more than a little surprised to be able to back “both teams to score” here at odds against with Sporting Index offering 27/25 – especially as the Nerazzurri have conceded in seven of their last ten competitive fixtures.
Given I have put forward for the home side to score I may as well go fully committed and also select their top scorer in the competition to find the net again – as already mentioned Sébastien Thill not only found the net in the San Siro, but in the Bernabéu, some double that.
The 27-Year-Old Midfielder also opened the scoring back in domestic league action at the weekend in the 2-0 victory over Petrocub, one of only two sides above Sheriff in the Moldovan Divizia Nationala.
With six goals in 22 appearances for his club this season the 9/1 with Bet 365 looks a very nice price for the Luxembourg international who is clearly enjoying himself at this level.
Sporting v Besiktas | Wednesday 3rd November 2021, 20:00
Sporting couldn’t have asked for better form to come in to this crucial UCL tie – off the back of six consecutive wins, scoring 14 while conceding just three and to top that off a large portion of those goals came in the 4-1 thrashing in the reverse fixture in Istanbul.
The opposite can be said of Besiktas who have lost five of their last seven in all competitions, their last six in this competition, conceding at least two goals in all of them and have been trailing at half time in each of those too – missing key men like Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi and Miralem Pjanic won’t help.
We should expect to see the Lions fly out of the blocks here at the José Alvalade Stadium, a win will keep them right in the hunt for progression, but effectively guarantee at least Europa League football – they have also seen nine of the twelve UCL goals scored in their games this campaign arrives before the half-time whistle.
Of the five goals they have scored in this year’s tournament four came in the first half, with three of those occurring in the reverse fixture and up against a side here who seem ripe for the taking, I am going to suggest another Half-Time/Full-Time defeat for the visitors – best odds are 11/10 with BetFred which looks a good price when you consider Sporting are around 2/5 for the win outright.
With the referee announced as Sergey Karasev I hoping I would be able to find an angle on cards, bit was expecting prices to be too short – however I think we do have a route in, but taking in to account this could turn out to be a one-sided contest.
Taking 10 points for a yellow card, 25 for a straight red and 35 for two yellows to the same player the Russian official averages 46.67 booking points for his 12 games in 2021 – showing 46 yellow cards and four red.
In their three UCL games so far Besiktas have picked up nine cautions (90 points), with two (20) against Ajax, three (30) in the opener at home to Dortmund, then four (40) in the reverse fixture with Sporting where despite being 3-1 down at half-time still managed to see three cards come their way after the interval, including one in the 94th minute with the game lost – a good sign if this does go the same way.
It is easy to see a Besiktas side getting frustrated and with a referee with a low tolerance level the 10/11 on offer with Paddy Power for the visitors to collect over 2.5 cards looks a tasty price.
AC Milan v Porto: Porto +0.5 Asian handicap (93/100 Betway)
AC Milan v Porto: Sergio Oliveira to be carded (9/4 Sporting Index)
Real Madrid v Shakhtar: Real Madrid -1.75 Asian handicap (17/20 Novibet)
Real Madrid v Shakhtar: Vinicius Junior to score (8/5 SBK)
Dortmund v Ajax: Ajax draw no bet (28/29 with Bet Victor)
Dortmund v Ajax: Sebastien Haller to score (32/21 SBK)
RB Leipzig v PSG: Over 3.0 Asian goal line (10/11 Bet 365)
RB Leipzig v PSG: Christopher Nkunku to score (3/1 Betfair)
Sheriff v Inter: Both teams to score (27/25 Sporting Index)
Sheriff v Inter: Sebastien Thill to score (9/1 Bet 365)
Sporting v Besiktas: Sporting/Sporting Half-Time/Full-Time (11/10 with BetFred)
Sporting v Besiktas: Besiktas over 2.5 cards (10/11 Paddy Power)