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Astana was the moral victor of its UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg against HJK and one rates it as the best bet on this week’s program of second legs.
HJK could not find a way through Astana’s defence in their UEFA Champions League clash last week and, according to the objective people who collate statistics, the Kazakhstan team had the slight edge over the Finnish side in Helsinki. Given Astana’s home results versus team below Europe’s top rung it would appear that the Kazakhstan team is very well placed to make it through to the next phase of the major tournament.
Astana managed 10 attempts to HJK’s seven in Helsinki and the Kazakhstan side lined up without one of its regular midfielders, Roger Canas, who was serving a one-match ban for being sent off against Maribor. Astana has won each of its last four home games across all competitions and, since losing 0-3 to Spanish team Villarreal 12 months ago, it has recorded 13 wins, six draws and zero losses at its Astana Arena. Villarreal is the only side to have beaten Astana at home since May 2014 so HJK has every reason to be worried.
HJK’s domestic results have been somewhat disappointing in recent weeks, with it registering just one win from its last five Finnish Veikkausliiga matches and that was courtesy of a stoppage-time penalty at home to second-last KTP. HJK has won only two of its nine Finnish Veikkausliiga away games, scoring 10 road goals versus teams inferior to Astana.
WilliamHill is offering odds of -149 about Astana getting the normal-time win that it needs on Wednesday to guarantee that it gets through to the next round of the UEFA Champions League, which is when some of the big boys enter the fray.
The first leg of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie between Monaco and Young Boys means that the Swiss side has no alternative other than to throw caution to the wind in France on Tuesday and, as one witnessed on several occasions last season, there are few teams better equipped to exploit such situations than the Monte Carlo-based side.
Most famously, Monaco capitalised on Arsenal’s adventure in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie last term, posting a 3-1 win in England. Young Boys trails Monaco 3-1 after the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie and, unlike Arsenal, one cannot see the Swiss team putting the frighteners on the French side in the return fixture. Young Boys has failed to win any of its four competitive matches this season so it is asking an awful lot of it to break its duck at Monaco.
SkyBet is listing Monaco at odds of -227 to cruise into the next phase of the UEFA Champions League with a home victory over Young Boys and that seems like a reasonable wager.
Finally, one cannot have Salzburg at such short odds to get the better of Malmo in their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg given what happened last year.
Salzburg and Malmo faced each other in last term’s UEFA Champions League play-offs and the Swedish team won 3-0 in Scandinavia to qualify for the group stage 4-2 on aggregate.
Malmo was second best in Austria last week but one believes that Salzburg is not as good as it was 12 months ago – it has lost some of its star players to cashed-up Asian sides and it has tasted defeat in each of its first two Austrian Bundesliga games. Malmo’s failure to score an away goal may prove its undoing in terms of making the next phase but, at odds of +220 with several bookmakers, including 888Sport, Bet365 and Unibet, one cannot help thinking that the Swedish team is over the odds. Winner are offering odds of -154 about Malmo not losing to Salzburg and that is the most attractive bet relating to Wednesday’s match.
Astana to beat HJK
5th August 15:00 GMT
Where to Bet: WilliamHill
Monaco to beat Young Boys
4th August 19:45 GMT
Where to Bet: SkyBet
Malmo to avoid defeat v Salzburg
5th August 19:30 GMT
Where to Bet: Winner
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