CSKA (10) v Bayern (1/3)
Bayern Munich look to have found more fluency of late following a stuttering start to the season with 4 wins in their last 6 games – including a deserved late winner over Manchester City on matchday 1 – and they should prove far too good for CSKA Moscow behind closed doors. The Russians were all at sea against Roma on matchday 1 and lost 3-1 in this corresponding fixture last season. Bayern can cover a 1 goal handicap here as they did in both meetings last year, although consider the win to nil option with Pep’s side likely to dominate so much of possession.
Advice: 3 pts Bayern -1 (10/11 general)
APOEL (2) v Ajax (6/4)
Neither team makes a huge amount of appeal. Ajax were gifted a point by wasteful PSG finish on matchday one and have won none of their last 7 trips in this competition, while Apoel were held by AEL on Saturday in a goalless draw. The Cypriots defended well against Barcelona but they were playing a much changed side on cruise control so it would be unwise to read too much into that result; This could be a lowscoring encounter though, however, and unders makes appeal – 5 of APOEL’s last 6 games have gone under.
Advice: 1 pt Under 2.5 goals (31/40 Bet Victor)
BATE (13/5) V Bilbao (17/20)
Neither side makes appeal here. BATE are known to be quite obdurate but defended as if they were barely 5 a side footballers in matchday 1, and have not won in two games since; Bilbao have not won in 5, and failed to score in 4. Unders would be considered, but the quality of defending from the home side is too rickety to make a strong judgement.
Manchester City (7/10) v Roma (9/2)
A pivotal game in these two clubs’ European campaigns. Manchester City are improving year on year, and looking to make a sustained bid in this comption for the first time since their Abu Dhabi takeover, while Roma are back in the Champions League for their first season since 2010-11 and looking to take something from trips to here and Bayern, two games that will go a long way to deciding the group.
The Italians come here in fantastic form, having utilised their slick, high intensity football to make it 5 wins from 5 in Serie A so far, while they returned to the big time in style with a 5-1 success against CSKA Moscow. Notable about all those wins was the style of football and the pace they played it with, as Gervinho especially has thrived under Garcia – like at Lille before Arsenal – in a high speed system that gives width trough a combination of the Ivorian and Radja Naingolan; On the right hand side Mirlem Pjanic may team up with Juan Manuel Itrube, who would be a huge boost if playing.
Manchester City’s forward power is undeniable – Sergio Aguero’s careful management has seen him grow back to peak fitness while Edin Dzeko scored twice at the weekend – and the midfield battle will be one area they hope to shade at least with Daniele De Rossi absent. That loss is a huge one as Fernandihio and Yaya Toure will hope to have the driving advantage over Seydou Keita, who is in form but 34 and not obviously supported.
City’s defensive play has also improved – Elaquim Manala in particular was superb against Chelsea – but even allowing for an off day against Hull, when the Tigers attacked at pace they were vulnerable and it has been the case on more than one occasion this season. Roma are a tempting price but they did lose to Juventus twice last season so the 9/2 with doubts over such key players is swerved, while 7/10 feels about on City’s chances. The draw at 3’s would be the pick, although consider the score draw and both teams to score more closely. City have been breached in 5 of their last 6, but have the firepower to score against Roma.
Advice: 2 pts Both teams to score (3/4 888Sport)
PSG (16/5) v Barcelona (19/20)
Barcelona can pass their biggest test of the season. Luis Enrique’s side had a blip against Malaga in midweek but will face a side that, under even more pressure for results after a Matchday 1 draw against Ajax, will have to take the game to their counterparts and there should be enough space for the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar to thrive in this evening. PSG have failed to reach their usual high standards, with 4 draws in their last 6 games, and Barcelona will be immeasurably boosted by the absence of Zlatan Ibrahomivc and Ezquizel Lavezzi, along with centreback Thiago Silva. Barcelona are yet to condcde a goal, so the attacking absences are huge, while Silva is the undisputed leader of their defence. Ivan Raktic – who has slotted in seamlessly following his move from Sevilla can work with Andres Iniesta to build a base for success and they look worth backing.
Advice: 2 pts Barcelona (19/20 general)
Schalke (1/3) v Maribor (11)
Schalke have begun to hit some form following a dreadful start to the season, and “should” be too good for Maribor, who were lucky to draw with Sporting; were forced in to making 39 clearances and 10 blocks against Sporting Lisbon on MD1; more than any other side in the competition (Opta). Schalke fought well against Chelsea – even accounting for the chances they missed – and were deserved winners against Hamburg and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. If there were a market to get involved in, it may be total goals, but 3/5 is short enough for over 2.5 and this can be best left.
Advice: No bet.
Shakhtar Donetsk (8/5) v Porto (2/1)
A vital game in one of the tightest groups of the tournament and likely to be a tense one. Shakhtar have made a fantastic start to the season considering their obvious turmoil – Ukraine’s chaos means that they are playing their ‘home’ games 620 miles away – and the community effort to ensure tonight’s game is a sellout has to be commended – Shahktar will play infront of 32,000 in Lviv as the Champions League comes for the first time. However, they were held by Bilbao on the scoresheet and 4 of their last 6 games have ended goalless, including a 1-0 defeat the weekend to mid table Zorya. Porto, meanwhile, have drawn their last three domestic games, and profligacy infront of goal is fast becoming a problem despite their 6-0 win over BATE. Unders looks generous at 4/5.
Advice: 2 pts Under 2.5 goals (4/5 Skybet)
Sporting (17/4) v Chelsea (4/5)
Sporting’s fine home record in Europe – they are unbeaten in their last 16 at home in Europe – and their great home record against English clubs – demands respect but Chelsea may be a different beast for them to handle and have drawn 4 of their last 6, albeit with two coming against Porto and Benfica. This could be a similar result but Chelsea, with or without Diego Costa, have the tools to be much better than their 1-1 draw on the opening weekend and they are worth chancing to win by just 1.
Advice: 1 pt Chelsea to win by 1 goal (5/2 general)