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For the first time in many years English clubs are absolutely flying in the Champions League, and this week they have another opportunity to stamp their authority on the competition.
Football odds expert Adrian Clarke gives his take on what to expect on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings…
Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur | 21 November 19:45
In the wake of a humbling defeat in the North London Derby, this looks a beastly fixture for a downcast Spurs side, but I’m not so sure it will be as tough as it looks.
Peter Bosz’s struggling team are very much ‘Dortmund Light’ this term.
It’s just not happening for BVB. They lie fifth in the Bundesliga, and remain winless after four frustrating group games in Europe. Sitting on just two points, they are now realistically scrapping it out with APOEL for a shot at redemption in the Europa League.
All eyes will be on star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was dropped for the last domestic contest because he’d partaken in some unauthorized filming with a football freestyler.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 20, 2017
Not exactly the crime of the century, and his side fell to a loss at Stuttgart without him.
Unsurprisingly the 10-goal frontman has been welcomed back into the fold for Tottenham’s visit, and with such a clear narrative in place, he’s only rated a 10/3 shot to score the opening goal at the Westfalenstadion.
The 28-year-old’s less heralded strike partner Max Philipp, who has six goals this season, is 47/20 to score anytime incidentally.
Much will depend on how bothered Spurs are by finishing top of the group. If it’s high on their list of priorities (and why wouldn’t it be?) then we should expect a positive reaction to Saturday’s defeat at Arsenal.
Mauricio Pochettino does not want a ‘crisis’ to develop, so he’ll be demanding a repeat of his side’s professional performance at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Dele Alli and Harry Kane didn’t look 100 per cent fit at the weekend, which will worry some Spurs fans, but I still believe they are good enough to beat a Bundesliga giant that’s enduring a torrid spell.
With a flea in their ears from the gaffer, I am expecting a bounce-back performance.
Manchester City v Feyenoord | 21 November 19:45
Rated 14/1 outsiders in a two-horse race, it is unimaginable that Feyenoord will spring a surprise at the Etihad on Tuesday.
No Dirk Kuyt, no party. That’s how it feels anyway for the defending Eredivisie champions, who have been plain awful in defence of their crown. Their now-retired talismanic forward is sorely missed.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 19, 2017
In a dozen domestic contests the Rotterdam club have amassed just 19 points, and in the Champions League they arrive with four defeats from four – one of which was a 4-0 drubbing by City on home turf.
It feels like the Dutchmen are lambs being sent to slaughter in Manchester.
The one glimmer of hope is striker Nicolai Jorgensen, who’s scored in his last three appearances, but at 3/1 to score anytime, you wouldn’t be overconfident he will influence proceedings.
I suspect Pep Guardiola will rest and rotate a little.
This is a match his on-fire side should triumph in at a canter so the stage could be set for Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Sergio Aguero, who all sat on the bench last weekend.
FC Basel v Manchester United | 22 November 19:45
Basel have re-laid their pitch since it became a mud bath in Northern Ireland’s brave goalless draw during the World Cup play-offs, so don’t expect a true playing surface in Switzerland.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 19, 2017
New pitches are rarely conducive to pretty football, and no doubt Jose Mourinho has already got his excuses at the ready.
This is a strange match for Manchester United to get motivated for.
They are already qualified and need just one point to confirm their status as group winners, so quite how pumped up they are remains to be seen.
I imagine Mourinho will rest several key names, while also giving welcome game time to returning heroes Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Surely the Swede will be handed a start.
For Basel, this is a crunch contest. Thanks to a couple of impressive displays against Benfica and CSKA Moscow, they are now in a straight shootout with the Russians for second spot in the group. It’s a match that matters.
This Champions League campaign is fast becoming a surprise success, which is timely as for once they are not having things all their own way in the Swiss League.
With disjointedness almost guaranteed from United, and the pitch not the best, I think the draw (5/2) could be a smart bet here. It’s a result both managers would probably take ahead of kick off.
You can back Ibrahimovic to score in a draw, at a healthy price of 21/2.