Another great night of Champions League's football as Arsene Wenger's Arsenal travel to Germany to meet giants Bayern Munich, whilst Real Madrid welcome Napoli to the Spanish capital.
Both games leave any football fans drooling, so our man with the handkerchief runs the rule over all combatants and suggests a couple of tips that could leave us all cleaning up!
Don't forget, 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 this week.
(Match kick-offs 7.45pm, unless stated)
Arsenal to star in the home of FC Hollywood?
One of the most iconic grounds in European football, the Allianz Arena welcomes Arsenal for one of the tastiest-looking fixtures of this round. It will be noisy, it will loud, but will it be a straightforward home win for the German champions, who start the game as odds-on (1/2) favourites? Our latest Twitter poll seems to show the majority of you agree, but will it be so?
Well, Bayern have had a most un-Bayern like season, bouncing all over the place! That they qualified second in their Champions League group, three points behind Atletico Madrid after losing to both the Spaniards and Rostov is one thing, but they have also spent most of the season trailing RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga. Safe to say, then, that the heat was on Carlo Ancelotti earlier in the season, but the wily Italian seems to have steadied the ship, with their last defeat coming back in November (the 3-2 loss to Rostov, in fact!) Since then they have won 11 and drawn one of their last twelve games in all comps and the confidence courses through FC Hollywood, who will relish their return to the Champions League spotlight.
Bayern have history with Arsenal, having won five, drawn two and lost three of their ten previous clashes, with Arsenal having only won once in their last five visits. That said, Ancelotti's team will have to do without Jerome Boateng and Franck Ribery whilst Xabi Alonso picked up a knock and will undergo a late fitness test.
If Bayern's season has been erratic, then the same can be said of Arsenal, who flatter to deceive once again. Unplayable on their day, they have conceded far too many goals this term and seem to be 'not quite at it' (to use the vernacular of the day) in most of their matches this author has watched this season.
The Gunners reached the knockout stages by winning their last game 4-1 and topped their group. However, they remain fourth in the Premier League and despite winning 2-0 at home against Hull at the weekend, recent defeats to Chelsea and Watford showed how lacklustre their game can become. They haven't fared well on the road either, with three defeats in their last seven away matches.
Arsene Wenger will be looking for big displays from his key men. Sanchez has been driving this team forward, while Mesut Ozil really needs to turn up and be counted. Both are world-class players on their day, but Arsenal will need to approach this game with a collective belief and win their battles across the park. Wenger might consider springing a surprise and starting with Giroud. The big Frenchman is a handful, especially in the air, and could keep the Bayern backline occupied. After all, if the north Londoners can take anything from this trip, then they might fancy their chances at the Emirates, which means they could even qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010
Other than tactical changes, it's much of the same for Arsenal. Ramsey remains sidelined, as does the creative Santi Cazorla. Expect a recall for Nacho Monreal, who was rested at the weekend.
Possible Starting Teams:
Bayern Munich XI: Neuer, Lahm, Martinez, Hummels, Alaba, Alonso, Vidal, Thiago, Muller, Robben, Lewandowski
Arsenal XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Coquelin, Walcott, Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez
So, what are we saying?
The last time the two met, in November 2015, Bayern trounced Arsenal 5-1 at the Allianz. We don't expect the same score again, but seeing as the Bavarians have failed to keep a clean sheet in four of their last six matches, we'll nibble at the BTTS market at 4/5. Along that vein, Arsenal could sit back and have the pace on the break, especially is Welbeck starts. This could be a goal fest, and 2-2 appeals, at 16/1.
On the same theme, a lot will rest on how Arsenal start and just what mentality they are in. Any doubts will be exposed and if that's the case, the IN-PLAY markets will be buzzing! Arsenal freeze and we can see Bayern winning comfortably, but Arsenal taking something back to fight for. So, BTTS and over 2.5 goals at 11/10 appeals, as does Bayern to win 3-1 at 10/1.
Lastly, it shouldn't be forgotten that StanJames are offering money back, up to £100 as cash, if your first GS selection nets second. With this n mind, we'll cover our bases with Robert Lewandowski and Alexis Sanchez, at 5/2 and 7/1 respectively.*
Also, Bayern have won their last 15 home Champions League games, which shows the task Arsenal have on Wednesday evening!
You might have other ideas, so check out all prices here.
The Vikings to plunder riches from Napoli?
Los Blancos welcome in-form Napoli to the Santiago Bernabeu in great stead. A record-setting unbeaten run was ended rather abruptly by Celta Vigo and Sevilla but they currently sit at the top of their domestic league, a point ahead of Barcelona with two games in hand. On beating Osasuna 3-1 at the weekend, they also edged closer to Barcelona's record of finding the net in 44 consecutive games, and with their attacking prowess, the Vikings look in no particular mood to stop their plundering ways. With at least two goals in 22 of their last 25 games, it is easy to see where Real's dominance lies. It's at the other end that they struggle, with a defence that can be attacked and breached.
Real have won 11 of their last 13 home games, scoring at least three goals in nine of these 13 games. CR7, the phenom himself is enjoying another stellar year, with 16 goals in 22 game in La Liga and the Champions League. Scary stuff for anyone but Napoli will take heart from the fact that Real have lost to Italian teams in seven of their last eight encounters, Roma last season being the exception.
Zidane has a full complement of players to call upon, save Gareth Bale, who remains injured.
Napoli themselves have been exceptional going forward as well. In Dries Mertens, they have a player in just as good form as Ronaldo, with 20 goals in 28 appearances. He's scored ten on the road as well, which is reflected in Napoli's stance away from home, where they have scored a staggering 21 goals in their last six away games.
Retaining a fit squad has been one of the key's to Napoli's success this season, with Lorenzo Tonelli their only injury for this game. That consistency has seen Maurizio Sarri's Little Donkeys prove as stubborn as their nickname, with their 2-0 defeat of Genoa their 18th game unbeaten. Indeed, their last defeat was back in October against Juventus and since topping their group their confidence is sky high.
Suprisingly, this is the first time the teams have met, so both will want to open their accounts with a win. Buckle up, this one could be electric!
Possible Starting Teams:
Real Madrid XI: Navas; Marcelo, Varane, Ramos, Carvajal; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Ronaldo, Benzema, Vazquez
Napoli XI: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
So, what are we saying?
Both teams have goals in them and this could be a high-scoring game. Neither can keep a clean sheet, so BTTS (4/6) looks as good a bet as our first date with naughty Nancy! Given the prolific nature of both teams, BTTS and over 2.5 goals at EVS also appeals.
We also expect both Ronaldo and Mertens to arrive with their scoring boots on. CR7 is 11/4 to score first and 8/11 to score at anytime. He's 17/2 to grab a hat-trick. Mertens is 8/1, 11/4 and 66/1 to do the same.
Who'll win? Mmmmmm, toughy! Given our shout above, we'll take the 2-2 scoreline, which is a tasty >> 12/1 However, Ronaldo to score first and Real to win 3-2 is 60/1... could be a naughty night to remember, eh, Nancy?!
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE OFFERS
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 this week.
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
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