Basel has started the season brilliantly and it rates as the best bet on the UEFA Champions League card as the first legs of the play-off ties take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Active in three competitions already, Basel has won each of its eight matches, including winning 3-2 at Swiss Super League title rival Grasshopper and beating Lech Poznan in both legs of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie. Basel is scoring goals for fun, netting at least two goals in seven of its eight games and notching 22 goals in total. And, in recent UEFA Champions League tournaments, Basel has posted 1-0 home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, plus made Real Madrid work hard for its 1-0 away victory.
Basel is familiar with Maccabi Tel Aviv because the teams have met in UEFA competitions in each of the last two years, with the Swiss side winning its home matches and drawing its away games. In the UEFA Champions League preliminaries two seasons ago, Basel beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 in Switzerland and led 3-0 in Israel inside 33 minutes before allowing its opponent to score three of the five goals that it required. Last year Basel drew 0-0 with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel before recording a 3-0 victory in Switzerland to progress through to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
Whereas Basel is match fit having played eight competitive games this season, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s domestic league has yet to kick off so it has played a total of four matches versus Hibernians and Viktoria Plzen. Maccabi Tel Aviv’s away numbers in UEFA tournaments is insufficiently good for one to pick anything other than a Basel win on Wednesday, with several bookmakers, including Bet365 and WilliamHill, offering odds of -189 about that option.
Manchester United returns to the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday when it hosts Club Brugge at Old Trafford in what one thinks will be a home win to nil for the Red Devils.
It would be fair to say that Manchester United has been a tad underwhelming in each of its two English Premier League wins but the Red Devils have kept two clean sheets and the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea would kill for their record. Old Trafford is a daunting place to visit and Club Brugge’s away numbers suggest that it is likely to come up short at the so-called Theatre of Dreams. Club Brugge has won only one of its last 10 road games across all competitions and its UEFA Champions League away data is almost as poor.
Club Brugge sold its star goalkeeper, Mat Ryan, during the summer and it lost 1-2 at Panathinaikos in the previous UEFA Champions League round. The current Manchester United side is a far way off its UEFA Champions League-winning teams but the Red Devils are a notch or two above Panathinaikos so odds of +105 with BetVictor and William Hill about them winning and keeping a clean sheet are quite attractive.
Finally, one cannot see a Roger Schmidt-coached team doing anything other than looking for an away goal or two so odds of -110 about both Leverkusen and its host, Lazio, scoring in their UEFA Champions League play-offs first leg in Italy complete one’s punting portfolio.
Leverkusen is deeper into its schedule than Lazio because the German Bundesliga kicked off last weekend and Italian Serie A does not start until next weekend so one could make a case for backing the visiting side. However, bookmakers have posted Leverkusen as the UEFA Champions League play-offs first-leg favourite and that does not sit well with one – it is difficult to win away from home in Europe and Schmidt’s team are not the most solid defensively.
Lazio v Leverkusen BTTS
18th August 19:45 GMT