The UEFA Champions League group stage resumes on Tuesday but all the best bets pertain to games on Wednesday, with the pick of them being Atletico Madrid to defeat Olympiacos.
Atletico Madrid is top of UEFA Champions League Group A after four matchdays – UEFA speak for rounds – and a home win over its Greek Super League opponent would guarantee a place in the knockout stage for the Spanish Primera Division champion. However, if Atletico fails to beat Olympiacos at the Vicente Calderon then UEFA Champions League Group A could get very tricky for the Mattressers, especially if Juventus justifies favouritism against Malmo in Sweden.
The bottom line is that Atletico Madrid’s UEFA Champions League Group A position is not as secure as it looks at first glance and it is important that it gets the better of Olympiacos in Spain and qualifies for the last 16 without requiring anything from its trip to Juventus next month.
Atletico Madrid has taken maximum UEFA Champions League Group A points – and not conceded a goal – since losing 2-3 at Olympiacos on the first matchday. Atletico dominated the match statistics – 56 per cent possession to 44, 21 attempts to eight, eight corner kicks to one and so on – but it was Olympiacos that led 2-0 and 3-1 before Antoine Griezmann gave a glimmer of hope to the Mattressers late on. Football is a cruel game at times and Atletico really did not deserve to lose at Olympiacos. Home advantage shapes as being key when the two sides meet again at the Vicente Calderon.
Unbeaten in its last 19 home matches across all competitions – 15 wins and four draws – since losing 0-2 to Real Madrid in a Spanish Copa del Rey tie in February, Atletico Madrid hosts an Olympiacos team that has appalling away numbers, irrespective of tournament. Olympiacos has won only once away from home in its last 10 trips and that was thanks to its stoppage-time goal versus Greek Super League struggler Ergotelis that meant that it posted a 3-2 road success.
Similarly to Atletico Madrid, Leverkusen was unlucky to lose its first UEFA Champions League group assignment. Leverkusen bossed its UEFA Champions League Group C opener at Monaco only for the home side to make its guest pay for its profligacy in missing numerous first-half chances.
Like Atletico Madrid, Leverkusen has registered three UEFA Champions League wins in a row since its loss on the first matchday and it will qualify for the last 16 if its avenges its defeat at Monaco with at least a draw on German soil.
Leverkusen does not know how to play for a draw – it goes everything in which its coach, Roger Schmidt, believes – so one is tipping that the German Bundesliga side will do what it usually does and try to tear its opponent to shreds.
Eighth in French Ligue 1, Monaco is without a win in four games and its last seven UEFA Champions League road trips have resulted in one win, one goalless draw and five losses to nil. It is difficult to make a case for any other outcome than a home win for the German Bundesliga’s fourth-placed team. Leverkusen has not lost at home since losing 2-3 to Hoffenheim in March, posting eight wins and five draws.
The state of UEFA Champions League Group B means that both Ludogorets and Liverpool will be gunning for three points because, while a draw may be sufficient to keep both teams in the hunt for a berth in the knockout stage, the reality is that anything less than a win will make it difficult for them to edge out Basel for the second qualifying spot.
One is expecting a no-holds-barred contest in Bulgaria and, while Liverpool’s English Premier League quality entitles it to favouritism, the Reds are not playing like a side worthy of odds-on quotes away to a handy opponent. One expected to see shorter odds listed about both teams to score.
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