The latest round of UEFA Champions League action is set to get underway on October 19 and this time around there’s not an easy game in sight (unless you’re Arsenal). While it’s fair to say there aren’t many easy games in the Champions League, this week’s selection of showdowns looks particularly tough for the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Celtic.
Arsenal vs. Ludogorets
With so many tough games to pick through, let’s start with opponents that shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Gunners: Ludogorets. The Bulgarian champions are far from the biggest names in the competition, but that’s not to say they’ll just come in and roll over for Arsenal. Indeed, an early goal against Paris St Germain almost caused an upset, while a point away at Basel will go down as one of the club’s standout performances of the last decade.
On top of Ludogorets’ propensity to make it difficult for teams, Arsenal have been known to squander “easy” points in the competition before. In fact, you only have to cast your minds back to last season’s home defeat to Olympiacos and you’ll remember the anguish on Arsene Wenger’s face when his side almost failed to make it out of the group stages.
This time around, however, Arsenal should secure a home win before taking a further three points on their trip to Bulgaria. A quick look at Sun Bets’ odds sees the home side enter the match as the overwhelming betting favourites at 1/8. On the other side of the coin, Ludogorets are the proverbial underdogs at 18/1. If you do fancy hedging your bets and believe the Bulgarians can replicate their result against Basel, 15/2 on the draw is a bet you certainly shouldn’t dismiss outright.
Barcelona vs. Manchester City
While Arsenal should be enjoying a gentle Champions League stroll on Wednesday October 19, Barcelona and Manchester City will be engaged in what promises to be another high octane showdown. Despite City’s issues with UEFA in recent years, Pep Guardiola is a man on a mission in the Champions League this season.
City’s 4-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach last month was just the tonic the club needed, and has since inspired the players to even greater things in the Premier League. However, Monchengladbach and Barcelona are two different beasts and no one will know that more acutely than Guardiola. Having taken Barcelona to Champions League success in 2008/2009, the Spaniard not only knows what it’s like to win the competition, but what makes Barcelona tick.
Unfortunately, as if a group stage match against Barcelona wasn’t enough, City will have to travel to the fabled Nou Camp on Wednesday night. To compound that fact, a three-game winless run means the pressure will be on when the tackles start to fly. For analysts and fans alike, the current problem with City seems to be a lack of tactical consistency.
Guardiola doesn’t seem to have found a groove he likes, and despite sitting atop of the Premier League, there’s still work to do if he’s going to mount a serious challenge in the Champions League. In contrast, Barcelona aren’t short of goals at the moment and a 4-0 win over Deportivo last Saturday just goes to prove that (as does September’s 7-0 hammering of Celtic).
Although there have been some bumps in the road of late (i.e. a 2-1 loss to Alaves on September 10), the Spanish side will enjoy a slight advantage heading into the game. Of course, if you’re not quite sure how the land lies before the kickoff, there’s always the option of making an in-play bet. At bet365 this week you can earn a free in-play bet for the Barcelona vs. City game by making a pre-match wager.
As advertised, you can get a free in-play bet by: “placing a bet before kick-off then, once the game starts, place another bet on any In-Play market. If your FIRST In-Play bet loses we will refund this stake, up to the same value as your largest pre-match bet (max refund £50*)”.
As it stands, Barcelona are 8/15 for the win, while City will start the game as the 5/1 underdogs. A draw with bet365 will return you 15/4 on your money and if you want the latest live odds you’ll have to check out the site during the game for the best prices.
Bayern Munich vs. PSV Eindhoven
The other standout fixture in the Champions League this week is Bayern Munich vs. PSV Eindhoven. Two veterans of the competition, the odds would suggest that Munich will come away with a comfortable win, but they certainly can’t take things for granted. PSV haven’t lost in five matches, and while those results have been mainly draws, Phillip Cocu’s side have shown they have a certain amount of resilience on the pitch.
In fact, when you look at Munich’s last five results there’s not much more to get excited about. A 3-0 win against Hertha back in September was then followed by a 1-0 win over Hamburger SV before a loss to Atletico Madrid. Despite a less than stellar string of performances, Munich are currently commanding odds of 2/9 at Ladbrokes while PSV are the 12/1 outsiders. However, if you’re looking for a value bet based on recent form, 11/2 on the draw is more than worth a look. Although Munich are undoubtedly the better side, nothing is ever guaranteed in the Champions League; especially when the opponents are as experienced as PSV.
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