It’s getting to that crunch point in the Champions League, with this middle set of ‘reverse’ fixtures offering home and away opportunities to build some real momentum heading into the final throes of the group stage.
That’s good news for three of the four English clubs in participation. Tottenham have a tricky double-header with Bayer Leverkusen, but if they can get something positive in Germany then the ‘home’ leg, at Wembley Stadium, should have less riding on it. Leicester can book their place in the last 16 with four points against FC Copenhagen, while Arsenal will accept nothing but maximum points against Ludogorets.
For Manchester City….well, back-to-back matches against Barcelona is hardly anybody’s idea of fun, but if they can get through them unscathed then they should be able to usurp Borussia M’gladbach and Celtic for a qualification place.
Here’s the pick of the Champions League betting tips for the Brit pack this week:
Bayer Leverkusen vs Tottenham
If there’s one thing that Tottenham are capable of, it’s getting a result. A week after his side saw off Manchester City 2-0, Mauricio Pochettino decided to rest a few of his stars – most notably Son Heung-Min – for the fixture with WBA with this trip to Germany in mind.
They scraped a 1-1 draw, which they deserved in truth for their dominance of the game, and but for an injury to Toby Alderweireld it was a pretty good day for the Lilywhites.
It’s not been such plain sailing for Bayer Leverkusen though, who have now lost two of their last four Bundesliga matches after succumbing to Werder Bremen at the weekend. Factor in their two-game winless streak in the Champions League, and the hosts here really need to pull their collective finger out.
The good news for Spurs is that if they can take a point back to London here then they are in the driving seat in Group E. They have two home games in the second half of the group stage to come, and would be confident of their chances of qualifying for the last 16.
The loss of Alderweireld is a huge blow of course, but Eric Dier can step into the breach and Pochettino’s side are not all that worse off. We were surprised to see the Tottenham Double Chance (7/10) and Draw No Bet (13/10) available at such sultry prices then; choose your poison.
Leicester City v FC Copenhagen
Claudio Ranieri’s decision to rest Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani for the trip to Stamford Bridge backfired spectacularly Saturday lunchtime, and the only redemption available to the Italian gaffer is if his fresh Algerian dup combine to fire the Foxes to the brink of the last 16 of the Champions League.
They are certainly well placed to do so: Leicester haven’t lost at home this season as yet, and with a pair of victories to their name in this competition a third here would all but seal their progression to the knockout phase.
FC Copenhagen will prove to be no pushovers however, no matter what are preconceptions tell us. They hammered Club Brugge and took a creditable point against Porto, so they’ll have their own dreams of reaching the last 16 of the continent’s premier competition.
Led by price rather than intuition, the Premier League champions are available at 20/21 here and that looks outstanding value. They will surely prove too hot to handle for the Danes.
Arsenal vs Ludogorets
Arsenal continue to march on with six wins on the bounce, and once again they should have too much for a workmanlike but limited Ludogorets outfit.
The Gunners were at their best to dispatch Basel 2-0 in their last outing in this competition, and they will be looking to dole out even more severe punishment on Wednesday night.
Ludogorets, for their part, haven’t been pushed aside as yet – earning a respectable point in Basel before giving PSG a game before succumbing 1-3.
But Arsenal look red hot at the minute, and their passion for goals – they’ve scored in every game played since August – offers them an excellent opportunity to boost their goal difference; perhaps that will be important in deciding who tops Group A when all is said and done.
In the recent past Ludogorets have lost 0-4 to Real Madrid and Basel on their travels in this competition, and that looks reflective of this match too. The 11/10 available on Arsenal -2 whets our appetite.
Barcelona vs Manchester City
This is an exciting, terrifying fixture for Manchester City fans. They get to strut their stuff against one of the world’s finest sides, and yet there must be that voice in the back of their heads that says ‘ we’ve kept one clean sheet in ten games this season, how are we going to shackle Suarez, Neymar and co?’ It is a fair question.
But then again this is also a Barcelona outfit that conceded four against Celta Vigo a fortnight ago and has shipped at least one goal in five of their last seven outings. Are they vulnerable? That might be pushing it, but if the De Bruyne-Aguero axis of evil is in full flight then the Citizens can surely register at least once.
If they do, then the handicap in their favour will be very difficult for Barca to overcome. As such, be fearless and take City with a +1.25 Asian handicap at 4/5.