Football | Champions League Preview | Wednesday Hotpicks

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Football | Champions League Preview | Wednesday Hotpicks

Celtic, Chelsea, and Manchester United all had mixed fortunes last night in the Champions League and now it's the turn of Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham to shine. City and Spurs top their groups, but can Liverpool put Spartak Moscow to the sword and get the win that guarantees top spot?  We're TOP PRICE GUARANTEED on all three British clubs playing tonight. Forget Brexit, if the Brits win in Europe, so do you!

Real Madrid face Borussia Dortmund, who'll want to go out with their heads held high, whilst Feyenoord face Napoli. With so much to chew over, join us as we imagine what will be served up and try to dish out a few winning tips in our Champions League - Wednesday's Hotpicks, below:      

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LIVERPOOL V SPARTAK MOSCOW

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If there was a team who epitomised perfectly the topsy-turvy helter-skelter world of the Premier league, it’s Liverpool. On their day, they are virtually unplayable; an exhilarating blend of pace, precision, skill and verve, seemingly scoring for fun as wave after wave of red befuddles and bamboozles any opposition. On another, they crumble quicker than a house of cards built on the Mersey ferry. However, despite a rollercoaster Champions League campaign they find themselves top of their group with just one game to play. Avoid defeat and they qualify, lose and Sevilla win and they drop down to the Europa League. Talk about doing it the hard way!

Still, Anfield was built for nights like these. A packed Kop will roar on what is sure to be a full-strength team as Klopp sets out to secure qualification: "It is a proper final, all or nothing…It is Champions League.... It is exciting. All or nothing means you can either win or you lose. We know we can draw but this information is only useful after the game. We cannot play for that and we do not want to." 

In their last two games Liverpool have beaten Stoke and Brighton, 3-0 and 5-1 respectively, and come into the game in good fettle. They drew the reverse fixture in Moscow, but in truth could and perhaps should have buried their hosts that night. Expect Klopp to throw the sink at the Russian side tonight.

Spartak, however, will fight fire with fire. They, too, need a result tonight and will come at Liverpool with everything they have. What is concerning for manager Massimo Carrera is the fact they are yet to keep a clean sheet in this year’s CL campaign. Surely that won’t change tonight?!

For the Reds, Joe Gomez is a doubt after catching a dose of the flu, whilst Joel Matip, Nathaniel Clyne, and Adam Bogdan are all injured. Midfielders Artem Timofeev, Jano Ananidze, and Dmitri Kombarov will all sit this one out through injury, as will left-back Georgi Tigiev.     

What We Sayin’?

Liverpool have the slight edge in head-to-head games between the two, winning twice and drawing once. In a match dubbed ‘The People’s Final’ (Spartak’s nickname is ‘The People’s Team’) it’s perhaps fitting that we take man-of-the-moment Mo Salah to net first (14/5). With both teams likely to pour forward BTTS seems nailed on at 9/10, as does BTTS and over 2.5 goals at EVS. BTTS and Liverpool win is 7/5. Finally, Liverpool to win 3-1 is 9/1.*    


SHAKTAR DONETSK V MAN CITY

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With top spot and qualification guaranteed many managers might rest a few players for this match, especially with the demands of an arduous Premier League to contend with. Throw into the mix that it’s the Manchester derby on Sunday then it’s a virtual certainty that City’s team might be ‘experimental’. That said, given their riches they could field at least two possibly three teams capable of mounting a serious PL campaign. The come into the game unbeaten in 28 competitive games winning the last thirteen in a row, and will be desperate to keep that run going. That they’re fighting tooth and nail for that record is evident in their results:  For the fourth consecutive match, City scored a late winner, Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva netting in the second half after the Citizens feel behind.

The Dombass Arena is a tough place to go. Shaktar need only a point to ensure qualification and their Portugese manager, Paulo Fonseca, has already called upon the home fans to make the atmosphere as intimidating as possible for their visitors. They have won nine and drawn one of their last eleven home matches and come into this one on the back of a 2-0 home win themselves. Sit back, or go for broke? An interesting dilemma for Fonseca.

Shaktar are missing their captain, Croatian International Darijo Srna, who sits this one out through suspension. Right-back Bohdan Butko faces a late fitness test, whilst Maksym Malyshev and Sergey Krivstov remain long-term absentees. For City, in-form Kevin De Bruyne misses this one through suspension as well. John Stones and Benjamin Mendy face long-term layoffs. In their stead Danilo, Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala could all make a rare start against their former manager, whilst Fernandinho is expected to be drafted in to face his former club.

What we sayin'?

Okay. Confession time. We originally thought City would sweep aside Shaktar. However, he more we think about it… A cold night in the Ukraine. The hosts need a point. Roared on when countering… 1-1 sounds fair to us (5/1). We’re even going to stick our neck out and say Shaktar could nick this one late on: 2-1 pays 10/1.*        


TOTTENHAM V APOEL

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Spurs. Having topped the ‘group of death’ come into this one with the luxury of being able to rest some players, and in all honesty, some of their stars look like they could do with the break. Some observers believe the Lilywhiltes have punched above their weight in the last few seasons and the toll it has taken on their young tyros is starting to tell. Kane, Alli, and Eriksen have looked off the boil and this is the perfect opportunity for Pochettino to blood some fringe players. Expect Son to start, possibly alongside Llorente.     

Apoel come into the game sensing blood! They pushed Spurs hard in Cyprus in the corresponding game and will relish playing at Wembley. This Spurs side are a shadow of the team who played both Real Madrid and Liverpool off the Wembley turf and Apoel know it! They sit level with Dortmund on two points and must better the German’s result in Madrid to advance.   

Spurs will have to make do without Erik Lamela. The Argentine international has been in good form for Spurs but wasn’t registered for the CL group stages. Exciting prospects Kazaiah Sterling, Luke Amos and Anthony Georgiou have all been drafted into the squad. Apoel’s captain and talisman, Carlao, was injured at the weekend and is expected to join Boy Waterman on the sidelines.      

What We Sayin’?

If ever there was a Spurs team ripe for the picking it’s this one. However, as much an incentive it may be for Apoel to play, it will be for the Spurs’ youngsters, wo could see this as a springboard to bigger and better things. True, the Cypriots have more to play for, but Spurs won’t make it easy. A 1-1 draw calls (17/2), but in our heart of hearts (and this hurts being a Spur) we can see the visitors nicking a late winner. 1-2 pays 25/1.    


StanJames' Saucy Scorecast Special!

If you fancy it, £10 on three of our correct score predictions, Liverpool 3-1, Shaktar 2-1, and Apoel 1-2 currently returns a staggering £28,600! Stranger things have happened...!  


*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.

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