This week brings an end to the first leg of all games in the Champions League. There are yet more interesting ties, with a couple which have expected results, and others which could go either way. We start with Tuesday, which has two games that could go either way:
Arsenal vs Barcelona
We all know what could happen here. Arsenal often step up to the place when people least expect it and provide a shock result in these sort of games. They gave Bayern an almightly scare at the same stage last season, and with a better keeper and possibly a better team this season, they have a chance against Barcelona, who are looking great at the moment.
Arsenal have been in good form, but have endured a couple of draws against the likes of Hull and Southampton of late. If they can’t break down those teams, they will struggle with Barcelona. Up top, they are looking light on goals. Giroud is his usual ‘hit and miss’ while Sanchez has just returned from injury and is playing on the wings, rather than as a striker. Walcott could be a factor off the bench, while the assist king Mesut Ozil should feature. Cech is the real difference this season, the first Arsenal keeper in a long time that doesn’t gift a goal or two every couple of games. If Per Mertersacker plays it might be a long night, but for their sake hopefully it’s Gabriel who has grown into his role recently – however the Brazilian is not fully fit so the big German could start, unfortunately.
Barcelona are fully fit, bar Rafinha – who suffered a cruciate ligament injury in September. Messi, Suarez and Neymar should all start, while Pique and Rakitic among others were rested for the Las Palmas victory. Suarez A/T @ 1/1 is the value – he is in great form of late, scoring in his last 7 consecutive games!
My tip however is Barcelona -1 Goal Asian Handicap @ 6/5. With their front three, and the likely terrorism of Arsenal’s often shakey back four – I think they will bag a couple in a comfortable win. With their keep-ball tactics, I don’t see Arsenal getting enough of it to do anything meaningful or threatening – and with Ter Stegen in goal they might have a tough time ruffling his feathers.
Juventus vs Bayern Munich
This should be the tie of the week. On paper, you don’t see many goals. but delve deeper and you see Bayern have huge issues with all three of their centre backs injured.
Badstuber, Boateng and Martinez all missing. Ribery makes his return, and to give it an extra edge, ex Juve duo Kingsley Coman and Arturo Vidal could both play a part. On the Juventus side of things, Mario Mandzukic shouldn’t be fit enough to start, and the extra interesting thing is Chiellini and Alex Sandro both are injured, according to reports. This means a defence boasting 9 clean sheets in a row is missing two vital components.
Juventus had just come off a run of 15 straight league wins, with a draw to Bologna (which typically was the first time I’d backed them). Bayern equally are in great form, and are top of the Bundesliga, as Juventus are top of Serie A. So, in short, both have injury issues at the back, and both are in great form in general. Bayern have failed to win their last 5 away games in the competition, so that could be a factor too.
All in all, I think it will be close, but a cracker. 1-1 is my prediction, so the main tip is BTTS @ 1/1
PSV vs Atletico Madrid
The first of Wednesday’s games is between Phillip Cocu’s PSV and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid – two legends of the game!
Atletico have kept 11 clean sheets in their last 15 CL games, and have reached a final in recent years. They are missing Carrasco and Tiago in what is otherwise a fully fit squad. Antoine Griezmann and Angel Correa are two huge threats for the away side, in what I think will be a close but one sided affair.
PSV are missing striker and captain Luuk de Jong, but Maxime Lestienne is fit to play, and has played a part in 4 of their 8 goals in the Group stages. If there is one man that will make a difference for the home side, it’s him. Bar that, again a pretty much fully fit team.
I don’t think handicaps will come into play here. Atletico concede few but away from home often have issues scoring, so usually win 1-0. For this reason, I’m backing Atletico Win @ 17/20
Dynamo Kyiv vs Man City
The final group game involves the Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kyiv and English side Manchester City. One key element in this game is that Man City rested many key players in Sunday’s 5-1 humiliation by Chelsea and have lost 3 in a row, while Dynamo have not played competitively in months due to the Ukrainian winter break.
The most interesting thing about this game is it is was supposed to be played behind closed doors, as Kyiv fans attacked and abused Chelsea fans in the Group stages. The 2 game ban was cut to one, so it has been deemed ‘served’ against Tel Aviv in December, leaving many City fans too little time to book it.
On the playing side, City rested the likes of Sterling, Silva, Kompany and Aguero for the Chelsea game, which should give them a greater chance. Bar De Bruyne, Delph, Nasri and Navas, they are nearly at full strength, and interestingly Manu Garcia and Brandon Barker have been taken after impressing recently. Mangala and Sagna are now fit, giving City a fully fully fit set of defenders.
Dynamo have a team full of class internationals. Gonzalez, Dragovic and Yarmolenko three in particular, while Ukrainian talents like Rybalka feature in their side. Yarmoleno is doubtful, but due to the magnitude of the game I can see him being risked, as it is their biggest game of the season. Their attack is potent, and if AY starts, City’s right back will be in for a torrid time. Moraes is also a very good striker, so let’s hope for City’s sake Martin Demichelis isn’t on the pitch…
For me, I think City will have too much with the attacking strength of Aguero, Toure, Silva and Sterling, while with Kompany in the team they are a lot more sturdy at the back. Man City Win @ 5/4
If you take all of the four tips into account – you get the following accumulator:
- Barecelona -1 Asian Handicap @ 6/5
- Juventus-Barca BTTS @ 1/1
- Atletico Madrid Win @ 17/20
- Man City Win @ 5/4
Totalling an 18/1 bet.
Best of luck