The Champions League returns tonight, and it's 'squeaky bum time' for a few of Europes's elite as qualification is not assured. On the home front, Manchester United, Celtic and Chelsea all do battle - don't forget, we're TOP PRICE GUARANTEED on all three British clubs playing tonight - but can they all emerge victoriously?
Elsewhere, Olympiacos host Juventus and Bayern Munich face Paris SG in what is the glamour tie of the night. Both teams should make it through to the knockout stages, but Paris SG sit atop the table, having smashed the record for most goals in a group stage, taking their tally to 24 at an average of 4.8 per game – and they still have one to go! Can the German giants do what the others haven't and keep them quiet tonight?
Join us, then, as we run the rule over our choice of games in our Champions League - Tuesday's Hotpicks, below:
We're offering Money Back as cash up to £100 on losing First Goalscorer bets if your selection scores the second goal instead in any Champions League match involving any BRITISH team this week.
MANCHESTER UNITED v CSKA MOSCOW
Jose will be ruing the fact that his side were unable to finish the job last time out against Basel. The defeat to the Swiss champions means that although United top their group with 12 points they are not yet certain of qualification. Okay, a draw will see them through as group leaders, but defeat and a Basel victory would see them involved in a three-way head-to-head… most unseemly for a club with loftier aims than mere qualification. However it isn’t just tonight’s game that will give Jose nightmares, with the weekend’s derby against runaway Premier league leaders city coming up at the weekend, this is one game the Portugese maestro would have like to have rested players for. With Pogba suffering a domestic ban following his red card in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal at the weekend, United are starting to look a little lightweight, especially given the injuries to Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini. On a brighter note, they do have de Gea, fit and read for action! The Spanish star made a Premier League record-equaling 14 saves against the Gunners, some of them worldies at that!
CSKA will fancy themselves in this one, despite United’s home form. Moscow come into this one in good form, having won five and drawn one of their last six matches in all competitions, beating FC Tosno 6-0 at home on Friday. Viktor Goncharenko’s side can be hard to break down, and have pace on the counter. Whilst it’s true that that their ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev, a one-time United target, only kept his first clean sheet in 44 CL games in the last game round, the Russians are developing into a more defensive side. Something Jose will have to be wary of when deciding how to set United up for this one.
Zlatan will probably start this one, having been rested against Arsenal at the weekend. Defensively, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly remain sidelined, whilst under-fire Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored in the reverse victory, a 4-1 United win, could get a rare start. CSKA arrive without Alexei Berezutski and Georgi Milanov, who both broke their legs last month. Schennikov s out with a broken ankle, whilst Bibras Natcho is suspended. CSKA’s biggest loss will be Pontus Wernbloom, who is also suspended. With five goals in his last six matches, they’ll miss his goal threat.
What We Sayin’?
Given the fact that Jose will rotate his side for this one, United have too much quality in-depth. Martial scored in the reverse fixture and looks a tasty option at 100/30 to open the scoring. This could be tight, we fancy United to score in both halves (7/5). Finally, we’ll take United to win 2-0: 21/4.
CELTIC v ANDERLECHT
Celtic come into this one with the lumps and bumps of Champions League reality fading. Absolutely spanked by Paris SG, the bruises are fading and Rodgers’ men know that if they can avoid defeat at home against Anderlecht then they will secure lucrative Europa league football. It’s all about levels, as Anthony Joshua once famously said, and for a team unbeaten at home in the SPL for 65 matches the Europa League is probably their level. We’re not saying this mockingly, but when you go up against Paris SG, who spent a gazillion pounds on their front line alone, then it’s rather like a middleweight trying to KO a heavyweight: it can happen, but usually doesn’t!
The Hoops arrive on the back of three consecutive matches against Motherwell. They beat them in the League Cup Final before drawing 1-1 in the SPL, and then bashed them up at Celtic Park winning 5-1 in the process. Given their home form, and the fact that Celtic beat them 3-0 in the reverse fixture, Rodgers will be confident his men can go the distance and get the result this time out.
Anderlecht arrive currently third in the Belgian top-flight, with only three wins in their last seven games. However, that does include a narrow 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich, which many thought they were unlucky not to come away with a least a point from. Encouraging signs, but for a team yet to pick up a solitary point in the CL this year, it may be a case of too little, too late.
Anthony Ralston and winger Patrick Roberts are missing for the hoys, whilst right backs Andy Najar and Emmanuel Sowah Adjei are absent for the visitors.
What we sayin'?
Given Celtic’s current form at Paradise it’s hard to see Anderlecht getting anything from this one. As Anderlecht are devoid of right backs, we’ll have a punt on Scott Sinclair scoring the opener at 17/4. Celtic to win to nil is 12/5. Lastly, if Celtic get into an early lead Anderlecht, with nothing to play for, could crumble. Celtic 5-0 and 6-0 is 50/1 and 125/1 respectively - an outside bet, for sure, but whilst we're on the boxing theme, does nobody remember Buster Douglas shocking the world?*
CHELSEA V ATLETICO MADRID
Chelsea come into this with a draw and five wins in their last six games. They come into this game knowing that anything but defeat will see them top what is a VERY tough Champions League group. Their resilience in bouncing back to defeat Atletico away is an aspect of play this Chelsea tea are developing. That will to dig in and fight. The Blues showed this again at the weekend, when they went 1-0 to Newcastle before battling back and securing a 3-1 win. Eden Hazard, perhaps the diamond in their jewel-encrusted ensemble, popped-up again with another match-winning performance, and a brace of goals to boot! With five goals in his last five games, he’ll certainly be one to watch tonight!
Atletico come into this one in good form as well. They too came from behind to win at the weekend, a 2-1 victory against Real Sociedad, and also have five wins and a draw in their last six games. Indeed, that reversal against Chelsea was their last defeat, a result the Spanish outfit will be keen to redress. The fact that they NEED to win to keep their hopes of qualification alive will see Simeone ditch their defensive mindset in favour of goals. They have scored in nine of their last ten competitive games, whilst Chelsea have struggled keeping cleans sheets in the CL… should make for a lively affair!
Conte will have to make do without David Luiz, Charly Musonda, and Kenedy, whilst Atletico arrive minus full-back Juanfran.
What We Sayin’?
There is enough firepower on show to ensure world peace ten times over. Everywhere you look there's a goal threat. Chelsea have scored in 83% of their home games this season but only kept a clean sheet in 41% of them. Atletico Madrid have scored in 90% of their last ten competitive games... BTTS then? 5/6 to you, squire! Chelsea to score in both halves is 23/10, Atletico 19/5. Lastly, we'll take a punt on 2-2: 12/1.*
StanJames' Saucy Scorecast Special!
If you fancy it, £10 on three of our correct score predictions, United to win 2-, Celtic win 5-0 and 2-2 in the Chelsea v Anderlecht match currently returns a staggering £63,180! Stranger things have happened...!
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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