By Antony Jordan
This Wednesday evening sees the second half of the first round of the Champions League and it arguably promises a better group of matches and we’re previewing the pick of the bunch with online sportsbook Sports Interaction.
The biggest games see North London EPL side Tottenham kick off their European campaign against French league leaders Monaco at Wembley, reigning champions Real Madrid welcome Portuguese Liga leaders Sporting Lisbon to the Bernabeu and debutants Leicester travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge. We preview this trio of highly anticipated matches to provide our best Champions League picks.
It has been five years since Tottenham last graced the top European club football competition when they netted a massive 18 goals in the group stage and eliminated AC Milan on the way to the Quarter Finals in their only campaign in the Champions League. Many things have changed at the club since that run and the biggest is arguably their temporary home for European football this season as, due to a reduced capacity at White Hart Lane as they are building a new stadium, they will take on Monaco, CSKA Moscow and Bayer Leverkusen at Wembley.
The home side has already sold out this 80,000 seater stadium for this opening match and after winning two and drawing two of their four EPL matches to sit fifth and be unbeaten in the table they will approach this game full of confidence. They are missing Danny Rose in defence but that did not stop them at the weekend as they cruised past Stoke 4-0 while the 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane against Monaco in the Europa League last season will also help Mauricio Pochettino’s men approach this match.
However, Monaco will not be short on confidence either as they sit top of the French league having won three and drawn one of their four matches, including scoring seven as they defeated PSG and Lille in their last two games. However, these two matches have seen them fail to keep a clean sheet and with them conceding four to Tottenham last season and this match promising to be most intimidating for the visiting side we can see match going the way of the home side as they take advantage of the massive fanatical crowd and we’re backing a repeat of last season’s result.
The reigning Champions League holders kick off the defence of their title with their first meeting with the Portuguese side since 2000 when the teams met at the group stage with a 2-2 draw in Portugal before Real triumphed 4-0 on home soil. They’ll be desperate to replicate that victory in their first match as holders since 2014 and with them having netted 15 goals in their four matches since winning the UEFA Super Cup against fellow Spaniards Sevilla they’ll be confident about living up to the heavy favourites billing for this clash.
Sporting do not do the best away from home in the Champions League as last triumphed on their travels in 2008, losing three and drawing four of their seven games in this time, and with Real having won 18 of their last 20 home games in this competition the omens look good for the hosts. Real did not concede a goal in any of their six home games in this competition last time around and have nine clean sheets in 11 on home soil in Europe, while Sporting Lisbon’s only away game this season saw them score a single goal.
The home side and champions will have far too much for Sporting Lisbon in this clash, just as Barcelona had far too much for Celtic as they won 7-0 last night, and we see them cruising to an easy win in this one.
Our best Real Madrid v Sporting bet is back Real to win and Over 3.5 goals to be scored at odds of 1.98.
Last season saw Leicester shock the football world by winning the Premier League title and now they get to reap the rewards of this by embarking on their debut Champions League campaign as they travel to Belgium to take on a Club Brugge side that has qualified for the group stage for the first time since 2005. They will need to pick themselves up quickly if they are to perform well in this game as they suffered a heavy 4-1 loss at Liverpool last weekend as they have started the season slowly with just a single win in five matches (losing the Community Shield as well as four EPL clashes) so far. Will this match be the kick start Leicester need to defend their EPL title and perhaps upset the odds once again in this European campaign?
Leicester have taken just four points from four league games and Brugge are slightly better off with seven points in six games, but neither have gotten going yet and this will make it a tough match for both sides, especially considering the fact that with FC Copenhagen and Porto in the group both will feel that they can make the knockout stage. Both sides have a few injury issues that will leave them in a slightly weakened state, but we see this being a match in which both teams go all out to win and, as a result, we feel that there will be goals at the Jan Breydelstadion in Bruges.