Dan Roebuck, football odds expert, tells us what to expect in this week’s Champion’s League duels…
Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte might be two of the most expressive and forthright managers in England, but you can imagine that they were both left slumped and speechless in their favourite armchair on Sunday when Manchester City registered yet another last-minute win.
After overseeing hard-fought victories with their own teams on Saturday, there will be no finger jabbing at the coaches of Manchester United and Chelsea accusing them of not trying, but whatever they do, Pep Guardiola and his side seem to be able to respond.
It’s with some relief, you suspect, that both men can turn their attention to European football for a few days, and while the feeling of seeing their team head the pack domestically is eluding them, they do have the chance of achieving the feat on the continent – even if it might just be for the group stages.
Chelsea v Atlético Madrid | 5th December 19:45
Los Rojiblancos to Raid the Bridge
Antonio Conte’s team have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, but know a win over Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge will ensure they head into the round of 16 as group winners – and are quoted at 7/10 to do so.
When the draw was made, this fixture looked as if it might decide who tops the section, but while it is the case for Chelsea, it is anything but for Diego Simeone’s men.
To qualify, Atleti need to win in London and hope Roma fail to beat Qarabag in the Italian capital, with the bookmakers offering 20/1 the Spanish side deny the Rossoneri (who are 11/10 to win the group).
Expected Goals is the most talked about statistic at the moment and, as we like to think of ourselves as up with the zeitgeist here at Grosvenor Casinos, it would be remiss of us not to point out to punters that it is arguably the most revealing statistic ahead of this fixture.
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) December 3, 2017
Atleti have scored just four goals in the group stages but their xG is 10.6 – making the Madrid club the most underperforming team in the Champions League this term.
It’s also worth mentioning that they have lost only one game in all competition this season – against Chelsea in the reverse fixture in September.
The Blues have won eight of their last 10 games, but I don’t see them winning here, back Atleti or the draw in the double chance market at 10/13, while Antoine Griezmann, who has either scored or assisted all four his team’s goals in the Champions League this campaign, and has netted four times in his last three outings, is taken to grab the opener.
Manchester United v CSKA Moscow | 5 December 19:45
Pogba to Lead Late United Charge
Much was made of the fact that Manchester United’s defeat in Basel last time meant they failed to make the round of 16 with a game to spare.
However, given they could lose by six goals to CSKA Moscow at home and still qualify, it’s a rather moot point as to whether they will be next week’s draw or not (so much so, in fact, that the layers aren’t even offering odds about United going through).
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 3, 2017
A bigger quandary for punters when it comes to the match at Old Trafford is how much emphasis Jose Mourinho will put on the weekend fixture at home to Premier League leaders Manchester City.
One player certain to start is Paul Pogba, as he is suspended for Sunday’s trip across town, and you get the feeling he could take his frustration of missing the derby clash out on the Muscovites.
Brilliant against Arsenal last Saturday before his red card, the French midfielder must be backed to score. Viktor Goncharenko’s side are 9/2 to qualify and need to better Basel’s result away at Benfica to progress.
United have lost only two of their last 48 UCL group games at Old Trafford and, even with a mix and match side, should have enough to deny the visitors.
Depending on the scoreline in Lisbon, CSKA might have to throw caution to the wind late on and, as 82 per cent of their goals in this competition this season have come in the second half (for United it is 60 per cent), it could be worth backing three or more goals to be scored after the break at 7/2.