With 50% of the Champions League group phase now over, clearly we have a greater understanding as to who will qualify for the last 16 at a canter, who has plenty of work to do and who is staring down the barrel of premature elimination or – worse still – a Europa League place.
It hasn’t been easy so far for the quartet of English entries into the tournament, and perhaps surprisingly of all it is Leicester City who have enjoyed the smoothest passage thus far. Arsenal are all but guaranteed of joining them in the second phase of the tournament – whether as group winners or runners up remains to be seen, while Manchester City and Tottenham have it all to do if they are to complete the full set of English participants progressing to the next stage.
So where does the best of the betting value lie?
The Gunners should romp past Ludogorets in Tuesday’s round of matches – they defeated the Bulgarians 6-0 in the reverse fixture after all, and with the -1 Handicap in their favour available at 5/6 that appears to be an outstanding bet.
Arsene Wenger’s men will then have home advantage in what will be an all-or-nothing match against PSG later in November, and the key there will be that a draw should be enough to see the Londoners through as Group A winners given their better goal difference.
So, backing them to win Group A at the 10/11 makes sense.
When the Champions League draw was announced, the vast majority of Leicester fans were over the moon. Some lovely away trips to beautiful Copenhagen, the stunning Bruges and the perennial warm Porto were very welcome, but perhaps more so was the very real prospect of their side qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament for the first time in the club’s history.
And so it has proven so far….three games, three wins and a perfect nine points earned. A win in Copenhagen on Wednesday would guarantee qualification with two games to spare, while a point in Denmark – quite possibly the most likely outcome – would keep them at least three points clear of nearest rivals Porto.
With the safety net of a home match with hapless Brugge to come, Leicester should really qualify as group winners from such an excellent position.
Predicting the runner-up is a lot trickier, but we have to say that this Copenhagen looked very impressive at times against Leicester, and knowing the Danes have home advantage against Porto in the next set of fixtures surely gives them the edge. The Leicester-Copenhagen Forecast at 2/1 is well worthy of investment.
Pep Guardiola’s men should be comfortable enough in navigating their way through Group C, although a 0-4 tonking at the hands of Barcelona last time out certainly wasn’t in the script.
City host the Catalonians again on Tuesday night, and they will be desperate to avoid a repeat dose; especially as Borussia M’gladbach, in third, should have a comfortable night’s work at home against Celtic.
How badly will the two points dropped in Glasgow come back to haunt City? They shouldn’t too badly, although a trip to Monchengladbach at the end of November could prove problematic. But they have that trump card of playing Celtic at home in their last match, and so second place is well within their grasp.
A tough few weeks await Spurs in their quest for last 16 qualification. We remain unconvinced that the temporary move to Wembley Stadium is of any advantage to them – perhaps proven by their opening defeat to Monaco, and so welcoming Leverkusen to London on Wednesday is by no guarantee three points in the bag.
Spurs are one point behind Monaco, one ahead of Leverkusen and two ahead of CSKA, so clearly grabbing a win on Wednesday is of significant importance. Monaco will expect to beat the Russians on home soil, and in a tight group like this a three point swing can be huge.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will then face matches against Monaco (away) and CSKA (home), so it is not beyond the pale that they will grab a qualification place, but in terms of betting value we have to take the French outfit as group winners at 13/8.