Champions League Tips – 23rd & 24th November
We are back with the Champions League this week as we reach Matchday 5 of the competition and for some teams, it is an opportunity to kick back and bask in having already qualified for the knockout phase, while for others it is a chance to clinch qualification, or at least put themselves in with a chance of reaching the next phase on Matchday 6 in December.
So far we know that all four teams with a 100% record in their four games so far, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Ajax Amsterdam and Liverpool have confirmed their spot in the next phase. Liverpool have also confirmed top spot in their group. Not bad going in a group that contains Atletico Madrid, FC Porto and AC Milan also.
Depending on results, a number of other teams can join the quartet in the next phase of the competition this week either with a win, a draw, or of the result in the other game in their group goes a certain way.
What is tricky at this stage of the competition is guessing the team selections for the four sides that have already qualified for the next phase of the tournament. Many do opt to rest players ahead of the busy winter period and that can produce some unexpected results.
So I may well be steering away from the games involving those four teams this week and instead focusing on matches where both teams will be at full strength and there is something important on the line.
Here’s my tips for this week’s Matchday 5 Champions League games and remember to come back on Thursday morning for my Europa League tips!
Champions League Tips: Tuesday Tuesday 23rd November
The consensus of opinion here is that after the weekend’s humiliation at Watford, there is going to be a reaction from Manchester United here. There has to be given how dreadful they were against the Hornets at the weekend when going down to a 4-1 defeat away from home.
Given that if they were to lose here, then they could drop to third in the group behind Atalanta (if the Italians beat Young Boys) and that would leave United needing a win in their final game, plus Villarreal to get a win or draw with Atalanta in Italy, in order to progress.
When United have had tough times of late, it has generally been their away performances that have got them back on track and wins in this competition, notably against Paris St Germain, have played a prominent part in that.
So, despite how awful they were at the weekend, I am backing United to get back to winning ways here against a Villarreal side that have struggled for victories in La Liga this season and who I think could be susceptible to United’s quicker players on the counterattack and against a team that will be galvanised after seeing their manager sacked on Sunday.
The two teams played out a narrow 1-0 win for Juventus in Turin on Matchday 2, and it is that victory which separates the two teams in the group, both having won all their other games played so far. As such, this game on Tuesday night will likely be the one that decides who comes top of the group out of the two.
It likely won’t impact the qualification of either team as it looks extremely likely Chelsea will join Juventus in the next round as they need just one point from their final two games of the Group Stage in order to progress and I think that the Londoners, who are in great form and top of the Premier League table, will get that here.
While they have been excellent in Europe, Juventus have had a few issues in Serie A this season, notably in the early weeks of the season and while their form has improved, they still lie 7th in the table having lost four times already this season.
As such, I think Chelsea can take advantage of that here and I am expecting them to land a victory to take themselves into contention for top spot in the group, even with a tough game away to Zenit St Petersburg to come on the final day of action.
UCL Tips: Wednesday 24th November
When this group came out of the hat, many felt that it would be a group of death with all of the four teams likely to be in a battle to the finish, but it hasn’t worked out that way with Liverpool winning all four of their games very comfortably so far and qualifying already as group winners.
So this game is about the battle for second place in the group and that is compounded by the fact that FC Porto could face a below-strength Liverpool at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp will likely rest key men in that game. That gives Porto a chance of an upset win or draw, which makes this game even more crucial.
A win for Milan is the only result that can give them any chance of finishing second and if Porto win that will not happen anyway. More likely, if Atletico land the win, then regardless of how FC Porto do at Anfield, it will be the game in Portugal between Porto and Atletico that decides who finishes second in the group.
Of all the scenarios that could play out in Group B, I think that is the most likely here and I feel Atletico will go into that game with everything still to play for having earned a solid victory here, which eliminates Milan from contention.
Paris St Germain earned a big win over Manchester City on matchday 2 of the Champions League to move top of this group, but since then they have dropped points against Red Bull Leipzig, which has seen City snatch back top spot after back to back wins over Club Brugge.
There’s no danger of City or PSG missing out on qualifying from this group, it is simply a question of when that happens and if Club Brugge lose to Leipzig this week, then both will be through regardless of the result here, but both teams will want to top this group to claim that seeding in the Knockout Phase.
As such, I expect both teams to name strong teams for this game and I would expect Manchester City to have the lions share of the possession. They have home advantage and they will want to avenge that loss in Paris on matchday 2.
PSG have had some sticky games in recent times, losing to Rennes, drawing with Leipzig and drawing away to Marseille. They are beatable and I think after a tight first half, Manchester City will come out on top and land the win.
*Tips are exactly that tips (predictions) and do not guarantee success.