By Antony Jordan
The penultimate round of Champions League group matches concludes this Wednesday night and the main focus of the evening’s games is Group C. The reason for this is that Barcelona and Manchester City are battling for top spot in the group, while Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic are separated by just two points at the bottom of the table and all four know that they cannot afford to lose their final two games if they’ll to secure passage to the knockout stages or even avoid an early exit to their European campaign.
We preview the Celtic v Barcelona and Monchengladbach v Man City games from Group C, along with the battle for top spot in Group A between Arsenal and PSG, with online sportsbook Bet365.com to bring our best Wednesday night Champions League picks.
As the odds for this clash in Glasgow suggest, the first meeting of these two sides in Champions League action saw a comfortable, if not always straightforward, victory for the Spaniards at the Camp Nou in September. Barcelona did run out 7-0 winners against the Scottish league leaders in this first meeting of the sides, but with the match at 1-0 to the home side Celtic had the perfect chance to get back into the match as they had a penalty but this was missed and they collapsed after this. However, their last two home clashes with their guests this week have seen a 2-1 win and a narrow 1-0 defeat where they played the last 30 minutes with ten men so they have shown that they can battle against the biggest and best that Europe has to offer at Celtic Park. Will they be able to gain revenge for the heavy defeat suffered two months ago?
While Celtic are ten points clear at the top of the Scottish league coming into this game and have won all of their five home games in the league this season, they have failed to win any of their four matches in the group stage of the Champions League so far. They have conceded 13 goals in the process, including five in their two home clashes with Man City and Monchengladbach, but will still fancy their chances against Barcelona. The reason for this is that the Spaniards have conceded four goals in their two away games in this competition as they defeated the Germans 2-1 and were beaten 3-1 in Manchester.
In fact, Barcelona have kept just two clean sheets in 12 away Champions League games since 2014 and with Celtic knowing that they must get something from this match if they’re to catch the Bundesliga side who host Man City in this fifth round of group games to remain in Europe we can see goals from the Scots in this one. However, with Barcelona needing to win to stay ahead of Man City they will also be going all out to win this one and we can see them finding the net too.
Our best Celtic v Barcelona bet is back Over 2.5 goals to be scored AND Both Teams to Score – Yes at odds of 2.10
This second clash from Group C is a must win for the home team if they’re to upset the odds and send the Premier League side crashing out of the Champions League. City approach this match with a three point advantage over the Germans and with just one clash left in the group after this game they know that a draw will suffice to see them into the last 16 of Europe’s top club football competition following a 4-0 with at The Etihad in September. This match will be the fourth meeting of these teams over the last year and City have won all three previous clashes, including triumphing 2-1 on this ground last year (although they did need an injury time penalty to secure all three points!), so can they continue their impressive run of form against the Germans?
After going six matches without victory between the end of September and the end of October, City have rediscovered some in the last few weeks as they bring three wins, including a 3-1 beating of Barcelona, and one draw in four matches to Germany this Wednesday evening. However, they have managed just one clean sheet in these four games and this shutout is the only time they have managed to do this in 12 matches in all competitions. Monchengladbach are without a win in four games before this match and are not in the best of home form with just one win in six in front of their fans, although three of those games have been draws, and we can see this lack of form costing them, especially as they were so easily brushed aside in Manchester two months back.
While both Arsenal and PSG have already secured their passage to the knockout stage of this competition with three wins after their 1-1 draw in Paris in the middle of September on game week one, they will both still be looking to secure passage to the last 16 round top of the group to secure an easier opponent in their first two legged match. It is The Gunners who are home this week, favoured to win and top of the group coming into this penultimate match thanks to a slightly better number of goals scored, but will they be able to record an 18th match unbeaten this Wednesday night?
Their chances are improved as former Manchester United playmaker Angel di Maria is unlikely to make this game thanks to leaving the field injured last Friday night as PSG defeated Nantes in Paris to them bring their unbeaten record to nine games – and eight of these have been wins! Even better for the French side is that they conceded just three goals in these nine games, but Arsenal will note that all three have come on their travels and the Londoners will be looking to take advantage. They themselves have kept five clean sheets in their last seven games at The Emirates and will fancy their chances in this one.
We, however, agree with the match odds from Bet365 who believe that it’ll be a close game that could end in any of the three ways. We believe that both sides would be satisfied with a draw in this one, but even if it does end this way we can see there being goals like when they met earlier in the season.