By Antony Jordan
The final round of games from the Champions League group stages plays this Tuesday evening around the continent with the eight matches from groups A to D. Group B is the focal point of the action this week as the top three sides are separated by just a point and the top two sides in Benfica and Napoli meet in Portugal in a must win match if they’re to ensure they progress and are not sent to the Europa League by Besiktas.
We preview this vital Champions League clash from Group B as well as the Basel v Arsenal and Bayern Munich v Atlético Madrid matches from Groups A and D with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our best Champions League picks from this Tuesday night’s action.
After five matches in Group B of the Champions League these two sides come into this final match sitting level on points having collected eight points from two wins, two draws and one loss so far. Both sides have netted nine goals and it is Napoli who top the group coming into this decider thanks to having conceded one fewer goal so far, but with Turkish side Besiktas having taken just one fewer point than both of these sides they both know that any mistakes in Lisbon this Tuesday night could be the difference between the Champions League knockout stages and the Europa League. Who’ll keep their nerve?
The first meeting of these sides this season, which was the first time they clashed in a competitive fixture in eight years, saw the Italians take all three points with 4-2 victory and with the home side this week having taken six of their eight points against Dynamo Kiev, who have taken just two points so far, and having scored just two goals at home Napoli will fancy their chances of securing passage to the last 16 of Europe’s top football competition this week.
They have taken four of their eight points on the road so far as they came from behind against both Dynamo and Besiktas to win 2-1 and draw 1-1 while keeping up a three year record of away games in the Champions League that has seen both sides score. With four of the last six home games for Benfica having seen the same statistic, as did the first meeting of these sides this season, and both sides knowing that they must win this match to ensure their progress, we are favouring this type of result this Tuesday night in Portugal.
Although these two sides are in very difference places in the Champions League this season with Arsenal already through to the last 16 of the Champions League but needing to win this match incase PSG slip up against Ludogorets to snatch top spot in the group, while Basel need to get something if PSG take all three points against the Bulgarians to secure their passage to the Europa League and avoid having their European adventures ended so early in the season.
The first meeting between these sides saw Theo Walcott score two goals in the first 26 minutes as The Gunners triumphed 2-0 in North London and with the Swiss side, who currently top their domestic Super League, having failed to win a single match in the group stages so far they will believe that all three points will return to The Emirates with them. However, with the chance of them taking top spot in the group looking very slim and, unlike the majority of European leagues, the Premier League having no winter break Arsene Wenger may look to rest players for this match with games coming up on Saturday and Tuesday against Stoke and Everton.
Should he do this then it will make things harder for them to secure all three points, but it can still be done as Basel do not come into the game in good form as they played a full strength side at the weekend and were beaten 3-1 at Young Boys. They may have lost at home only to PSG this season, but we see even a rested Arsenal side pushing them all the way despite having a number of injured and doubtful players all over the pitch. We believe that if either of these sides is to take all three points it will be the EPL side but both will push the other with plenty to play for respectively and, as such, we see goals as the value play at St. Jakob Park.
The clash of the biggest names this Tuesday night is ultimately a dead rubber match as the Spanish visitors to the Allianz Arena have already claimed victory in Group D with five wins from their five games to see them six points ahead of their hosts this week. Bayern are five points ahead of Rostov in third place so they’ve progressed to the knockout stages also, but while there is nothing on the line for both sides they will want to secure all three points none the less.
This clash will be the fourth meeting of these sides this year as Atlético reached the final last May with a 1-0 home win before losing 2-1 on this ground to progress to the decider on away goals and the first group stage meeting of these sides this season saw another 1-0 win for the Spaniards as Yannick Carrasco netted the winner after 35 minutes. Atlético have kept four clean sheets in a row since losing to Real Madrid in the middle of November, scoring 11 goals as they won three and drew one, while Bayern have only bounced back from two losses to Borussia Dortmund and Rostov, but are they on the road to recovery from this wobble or are they struggling since Pep Guardiola moved to Man City?
They have conceded in all of their last eight matches coming into this clash with a side that has conceded just one goal in five Champions League group games and has none conceded in four in all competitions. We see the away side the away side scoring in this match and with their excellent defence we can see them keeping their hosts out too, so we’re backing them to get something in Germany this Tuesday evening.