The UEFA Champions League is two rounds away from the group stage and, of the 30 teams playing in first legs of ties on Tuesday and Wednesday, the most appealing from a punting perspective is Danish title holder Midtjylland.
Midtjylland’s Danish Superligaen championship defence is up and running and Jess Thorup’s team has posted back-to-back league wins to sit alongside OB at the top of the ladder – FCM knocked the winds out of promoted Viborg’s sails first up with a 2-0 home victory and it won 2-1 at SonderjyskE to move on to six points. One thinks that it is a major plus for Midtjylland that its domestic competition is under way, whereas the Cypriot 1. Division tournament of its UEFA Champions League third qualifying round opponent, APOEL, will not kick off for another three weeks.
One could say that Midtjylland made hard work of overcoming Lincoln in the previous UEFA Champions League round but it won 3-0 on aggregate and dominated both legs. And, besides, there was not much to like about APOEL’s vanquishing of Vardar – Domingos Paciencia’s side went through on away goals after the tie ended 1-1. Yes, APOEL deserved to go through on the balance of play but Midtjylland would not have been quaking in its book after watching those games.
According to one’s research, APEOL’s friendly results have been unimpressive, including consecutive losses to Polish teams Lechia Gdansk, Arka Gdynia and Lech Poznan. It would appear that Midtjylland has won five matches on the spin – four of them competitive in status – and FCM boasts home advantage for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg. Midtjylland has won most of its meaningful home games over the last 12 months – at one stage it had won 15 Danish Superligaen home matches in a row.
Bwin, Coral and Unibet are offering odds of 11/102.10+1101.101.10-0.91 that the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg ends in a Midtjylland victory. APOEL has failed to win any of its last 13 UEFA Champions League away games and last season it drew 1-1 at AaB and 2-2 at HJK – Midtjylland finished last term’s Danish Superligaen 23 points ahead of AaB, while HJK hails from the lower quality Finnish Veikkausliiga. One is confident that Midtjylland is superior to both AaB and HJK so, in theory, the best for which APOEL can hope is a draw. Backing Midtjylland either draw no bet or plus 0.5 goals is an option is one is willing to take shorter than evens.
HJK is one’s idea of this week’s second best UEFA Champions League bet as it hosts Astana in Helsinki on Wednesday. HJK is trading at odds of 31/202.55+1551.551.55-0.65 with BetVictor and, having seen Astana scrape past Maribor in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, one is keen to oppose the visitor.
One was pleased that Astana beat Maribor in Kazakhstan but the 3-1 score was not a fair reflection of the match – its second goal was a fluke and its opponent missed an open goal that would have put it ahead in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie. The truth is that neither Astana nor Maribor played well but one of them had to go through and that side with the Kazakh Premier League one.
Astana will not have a fitness edge over HJK – both teams are more than 20 games into their respective domestic championships – and the Finnish Veikkausliiga side has rested some of its key players from recent local matches with a view to making UEFA Champions League progress.
HJK merit favouritism for its UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg on home soil and Astana will be without its Colombian midfielder Roger Canas, who was sent off for two unnecessary yellow cards versus Maribor.
Finally, one likes Greek teams playing in Greece against foreign opposition so Panathinaikos makes the cut for its UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg versus Club Brugge on Tuesday in light of Bwin and Ladbrokes listing the home side at odds of 29/202.45+1451.451.45-0.69.
Incredibly, Panathinaikos faced Club Brugge in a friendly on Dutch soil three weeks ago. Panathinaikos lost 1-2 but it was behind Club Brugge in its preparations and, while the game statistics were against it and the result was a fair one, it opening the scoring. Club Brugge has lost some of its best players during the close season, including star goalkeeper Mat Ryan to Valencia. Betting is odds sensitive and one is willing to gamble on Panathinaikos at 29/202.45+1451.451.45-0.69
Midtjylland to beat APOEL
28th July 18:00 GMT
Where to Bet: Bwin, Coral,Unibet
HJK to beat Astana
29th July 17:00 GMT
Where to Bet: BetVictor
Panathinaikos to beat Club Brugge
28th July 18:00 GMT
Where to Bet: Bwin, Ladbrokes
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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