Ajax vs Atalanta | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport
What a game this promises to be with anything other than a win for Ajax meaning a New Year date with the Europa League, but visitors Atalanta are aware that if they were to slip up here in Amsterdam then their hosts would leapfrog them and take the runners up spot in Group D and with it a place in the UCL round of 16.
Erik ten Hag’s side had a rare slip up at the weekend, falling to a 2-1 home defeat to Twente while La Dea were able to unexpectedly put their feet up after a waterlogged pitch at Udinese’s Stadio Friuli made their game unplayable.
That could prove crucial with squads currently being tested to the max with the congested nature of the fixture list this season and with Ajax having to go for the win – I believe this game is set up for the Italians to take advantage.
As Liverpool recently found out, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are a tough nut to crack on their travels and their win at Anfield was a fourth successive away win in the UCL.
Odds of 21/20 with Novibet look appealing to me for Atalanta to end Ajax’s seven game unbeaten run in this competition against sides from Serie A.
Atalanta will be without Robin Gosens and Aleksay Miranchuk who have both tested positive for COVID-19, with the absence of the left wing-back Gosens being a particular blow.
An example of his adventurous playing style indicated by his close-range finish for the second goal last week, which means further expectation to deliver from the opposite side of the pitch and Hans Hateboer.
The 26-year-old has created six chances in his last three appearances culminating in two assists, both of which being in this competition, which means for me the 9/1 on offer with Paddy Power for Hateboer to provide another here, looks a little on the large side.
Bayern Munich vs Lokomotiv Moscow | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Qualification and top spot have long since been Bayern’s and they complete their group stage obligations here with the visit of a Lokamotiv side that need to spring a shock win to have any hope of claiming a place in the Europa League.
Bayern are in crisis – they have only won two of their last five games…although remain unbeaten in 15 – I’ll take my tongue out of my cheek now!
We should expect to see a heavily rotated and experimental side named by Hansi Flick with exciting young talent, such as weekend goalscorer Jamal Musiala and 20-year-old American defender Chris Richards, expected to be given more game time to impress.
Even so anything other than a defeat for the visitors, who have won just two of their last 11 competitive matches, would still be a massive shock, although there is a glimmer of hope in the Bavarians concession of goals.
Bayern haven’t kept a clean sheet since these two met in the reverse fixture, a run of nine games and Manuel Neuer shipped three more goals in the weekend draw with RB Leipzig, so I have taken a look at who could possibly keep that run going here.
Anton Miranchuk has scored in each of his last two games, the weekend win over Kazan following on from his consolation strike in defeat to Salzburg last week – he now has struck three times in his last four starts and is responsible for all of his sides last three UCL goals.
Betfair are offering 9/2 for Lokomotiv’s main threat and penalty taker to add to his tally in the Allianz Arena.
Despite the expected rotation of the home side, we should still expect them to test a side that have only won two of their last 19 away games in Europe and with just one of Bayern’s previous 33 competitive matches producing a goalless first half I am prepared to take a chance on that run continuing.
With the security of a refund for two goals I am going to use the Asian first half goal line available with Unibet to play over 2 at odds of 9/5.
Inter Milan vs Shakhtar | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Group B is wide open, and both these sides have the ability to clinch qualification to the round of 16 or finish fourth and have no European football to look forward to in the New Year.
This is tricky as I expect Inter to find a way to win here but are not a team you would want to be backing at 1/4 and most of the markets with a home win or goals are equally prohibitive.
Luis Castro’s side on their day are also a dangerous opponent – just ask Zinedine Zidane, who has seen his team beaten twice by the Ukrainian Champions, including in a five-goal thriller in Madrid on MD1. On the flip side Borussia Monchengladbach scored 10 unanswered goals against them over their two group games, so determining which Shakhtar we get here will go some way to answering the question of which side will progress.
One constant in this conundrum however is Inter’s leading scorer Romelu Lukaku who continues to find the back of the net with incredible regularity.
His two goals in last week’s 3-2 victory in Germany kept his sides UCL hopes alive and was the third time in four games the Belgian international had bagged a brace for club and country.
The opening strike in the weekend victory over Bologna kept the former Manchester United man’s tally ticking over and was his eighth strike in nine Serie A appearances this season, to go with four UCL goals in four games.
With Shakhtar coming into this game with a minus seven goal difference having shipped 12 goals the prolific 27-year-old must really fancy his chances of finding a way to goal again – and so do I!
With odds to score at anytime as short as 1/2 and Lukaku having a tendency to strike late I am going to avoid the first goalscorer market and instead play odds of 14/5 with Betway that he fires another brace.
All four of Lukaku’s goals in this year’s competition have come in the second half and of Shakhtar’s last 10 final UCL group games seven have seen a goalless first 45 minutes so I am also going to put forward that Inter will score over 1.5 goals in the second half at odds of 11/10 with Betway.
Olympiacos vs Porto | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Olympiacos will be gutted not to have sealed third place last week after defeat to Marseille has left the door ajar for the French club – however their fate is still in their own hands and they know a victory over an already qualified Porto, for whom this is a dead rubber, will seal the deal.
As Pedro Martins prepares to take on the side for which he is a former assistant manager he knows his current team have a formidable home record.
The Greek champions have nine wins from their last 10 competitive games at their Georgios Karaiskakis stadium with the only blot coming last week as Group C winners Manchester City escaped with a 1-0 victory and all three points, although normal service was resumed at the weekend with a 4-1 come from behind hammering of Volos.
Those two goals are the only goals conceded by Olympiacos in nine home games while Porto haven’t conceded in this competition since MD1 so we probably shouldn’t expect a goal fest here.
It’s expected Sergio Conceicao will rotate his team here and I was tempted to play the home win but given there is a possibility if Marseille are being heavily beaten in Manchester that a draw will be good enough, the game could peter out.
So instead, given that superb home record is built on a watertight defence, I will opt for backing Olympiacos to keep a clean sheet at odds of 6/5 with Boyle Sports.
If the home side are in need of a goal, then the man we should look to first is Youseff El Arabi who helped himself to a second half hat-trick in the aforementioned win at the weekend – his eighth goal in eight Greek Super League appearances this season and we can back him to find the back of the net in this one at 6/4 with Paddy Power.
Real Madrid vs Borussia Monchengladbach | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
What a group this is! A win for Real Madrid would likely see them top the group…a defeat and the unthinkable they will likely finish bottom and their interest in European tournaments of any nature will have ended.
If the latter were to happen then surely that would bring a dismal end to Zinedine Zidane’s second spell in charge of Los Blancos.
As you would expect Madrid are favourites for this do or die clash but with home defeats this season to Alaves, Cadiz and Shakhtar still fresh in the memory and welcoming a side in Gladbach who have scored at least twice in each of their last six away games I wouldn’t be rushing to back the home side at odds on.
Only Bayern and Barcelona can match the 3.2 goals per group stage game average of Marco Rose’s side with Marcus Thuram who scored a double in the reverse fixture fresh and ready to return after being rested at the weekend, alongside Alassane Plea with five goals to his name this campaign.
One massive boost for Zidane is the return of his leader, talisman, penalty taking, goal scoring, red card collecting, pantomime villain (or hero) Sergio Ramos.
Calling the result of this final game in a madness of a group is not for me – there looks like being excitement, thrills, spills and goals – when, where, and with what end outcome I’m not so sure but I’m going to focus on two of those aforementioned players for my selections in this one.
As well as his five goals Plea has managed at least two shots on target in each of his last three UCL starts including in the reverse fixture, so I am happy to take the odds-on offer at Ladbrokes of 7/4 for at least another two strikes on target here.
If one man can single handedly drag Madrid over the line, then it is Ramos – be it from a corner or 12 yards he is always a threat in the opposition box averaging 2.1 shots per game across all competitions for club and country this season.
Prior to his hamstring injury which has kept him out for five matches Ramos had five shots on target in five games – I’m taking him to have at least one more on his return and with him being back on penalty duty the odds of 21/20 with William Hill look good to me.
Salzburg vs Atletico Madrid | Wednesday 9th December 2020, 20:00 | BT Sport
Attack v Defence? Maybe.
Salzburg have caught public attention after a courageous display in Munich which saw them force Manuel Neuer in to 11 saves from a total of 20 attempts at goal and despite defeat there a win in Moscow last week has left them with a chance of qualifying out of Group A by virtue of beating their La Liga leading visitors.
Jesse Marsch has some exciting attacking talent at his disposal with highly rated Patson Daka now back fit and available but has to dislodge Mergim Berisha who has four UCL goals to his name from as many starts, added to set piece specialist Dominik Szoboszlai there are plenty of reasons to give Diego Simeone headaches.
The Argentinian will be looking to play party pooper here and stop a remarkable run of all seven Salzburg games, including qualifiers, seeing three or more goals and both teams scoring.
Atleti are back to their solid best with just two goals conceded in 10 La Liga games and are on a 10-game unbeaten run – a run which started after defeat to Bayern in this competition.
Although not quite transferring domestic form to the European competition with the three draws in that run all coming in the UCL, Los Rojiblancos will feel they have the tools necessary to get the job done at the Red Bull Arena.
That’s not going to stop the Austrians trying though as was the case in both games against Bayern amassing a total of 39 shots with 22 on target – so a line as low as 4.5 for their shots on target has to be played especially at 1/1 with Paddy Power.
Add massed defence + bodies in the box + plenty of goal bound shots + VAR and what do you have!? I high chance of a penalty award that’s what! Put referee Anthony Taylor in charge and what have you got -steady – an even greater chance of a penalty award!
As many of us probably know the English official can’t seem to stop awarding spot kicks this season – eight penalty awards in eight EPL games and two in two UCL appearances is a phenomenal return and I will have to keep playing that angle until he dries up. Best odds at time of writing 8/5 with Boyle Sports.
Ajax vs Atalanta – Atalanta to win (2/1 Novibet)
Ajax vs Atalanta – Hans Hateboer to make an assist (9/1 Paddy Power)
Bayern Munich vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Over 2.0 First-Half Asian Goal Line (9/5 Unibet)
Bayern Munich vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Anton Miranchuk to score (9/2 Betfair)
Inter Milan vs Shakhtar – Romelu Lukaku to score a brace (14/5 Betway)
Inter Milan vs Shakhtar – Inter to score Over 1.5 Second-Half Goals (11/10 Betway)
Olympiacos vs Porto – Olympiacos clean sheet (6/5 Boylesports)
Olympiacos vs Porto – Youseff El Arabi to score (6/4 Paddy Power)
Real Madrid vs Borussia Monchengladbach – Alassane Plea to have 2 or more Shots-on-Target (7/4 Ladbrokes)
Real Madrid vs Borussia Monchengladbach – Sergio Ramos to have at least 1 Shot-on-Target (21/20 William Hill)
Salzburg vs Atletico Madrid – Salzburg 5 or more Shots-on-Target (1/1 Paddy Power)
Salzburg vs Atletico Madrid – A penalty awarded (8/5 Boylesports)