By Antony Jordan
This Tuesday evening sees us close on the halfway point of the Champions League group phase as the third round of action takes place and there are some of the biggest names in Europe playing. The two EPL sides of Tottenham and Leicester both have their group campaigns going the right way so far this season and will be out for another three points away at Bayer Leverkusen and home to FC Copenhagen respectively. Can they secure victory?
We preview both of these games, along with the match that sees Real Madrid welcome Legia Warsaw to the Bernabeu, with online sportsbook Bet365.com to bring our best Champions League picks.
Group E is finely poised coming into the third round of matches with Monaco, Tottenham, Bayer and CSKA having collected four, three, two and one points respectively from their opening pair of clashes, now this match at the BayArena – the first meeting between the sides in a decade – can see one of Bayer Leverkusen and Tottenham push for towards qualification for the knockout stage of Europe’s top football competition. It was the Londoners who triumphed on this ground ten years ago, but can they bounce back after drawing 1-1 at West Brom at the weekend to triumph?
Since their last Champions League where they drew 1-1 away at Monaco things have been up and down for Leverkusen as they recorded an excellent 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund before losing 2-1 at Werder Bremen to leave them mid-table in the Bundesliga. They are unbeaten on home soil this season with two wins and two draws, with the victory over Dortmund the highlight, but they have blown leads in both of their Champions League games so far this season.
Tottenham showed that they have the will for a fight as they came back in the EPL at the weekend and their opening day loss in this competition at Wembley against Monaco is their only loss in any competition, home or away, this season. They rested players in this match and while Leverkusen are strong at the BayArena Tottenham certainly deserve to be closer in the odds. There is value on goals in this match at odds of 1.80 for the ball to hit the net at least three times, but we fancy the away side to get something from this match and this is our pick from Germany.
The top two sides from Group G of the Champions League clash for the first time in their histories at The King Power Stadium this Tuesday evening. EPL champions Leicester lead the way in the group having claimed back to back victories over Brugge in Belgium and Porto on this ground, now they can move even further clear to all but secure their passage to the knockout stages with wins over each of their groupmates. However, they have shown that all is not well in the Midlands as they have won just one of five in all competitions, are 13th in the Premier League and were beaten 3-0 at Chelsea over the weekend. Can they return to their home ground and show the kind of form that made them champions last season?
It is the away form of Leicester that is most troubling this season as they have drawn with Arsenal, Southampton and Chelsea (losing this game in extra time) as well as beating Swansea, Burnley and Porto in front of their own fans so they will certainly be confident of victory this midweek. Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani were both rested at the weekend too and their return will surely see them live up to their billing for a third Champions League win in a row, just as the Bet365.com odds suggest.
Copenhagen will still not be an easy target for Leicester as they are top of the Danish Superliga by six points after 13 matches and drew 1-1 in Porto before thumping Club Brugge 4-0 last time around to leave them within striking distance of their hosts on game night three. Despite the positivity coming from the Danish side in recent times, Leicester have focused on this European campaign this season and we feel that they’ll continue to play their best football in this competition, so we’re backing the home win.
The final match of the evening we’re looking at may not be the clash of the two biggest sides, but we are expecting a thrilling game of football at The Bernabeu this Tuesday night. The reason for this is that Real Madrid, while not at their scintillating best in recent times, did bag six goals at the weekend and have netted four goals in two matches against Sporting Lisbon and Borussia Dortmund in Group F of this competition. They face a Polish side sitting 13th in the Ekstraklasa and bottom of this Champions League group having failed to find the net and having conceded eight goals. The odds suggest a straight forward win, but will that be the case?
Real’s 6-1 win at Betis at the weekend was their first win in five games having drawn the previous four matches and they come into this match with Casemiro, Luka Modric, and Sergio Ramos all unavailable and James Rodriguez a major doubt. However, with Legia having won just one of their last seven games in all competitions and conceded seven in their last four matches we fear for their defence when attacked for 90 minutes by Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema. We are going with the odds in this one and we expect the home side to rain down shots on the Polish goal to cruise to a comfortable victory in this one.