Champions League

Champions League Preview : March 27th

27 Mar
March 27, 2012

Benfica vs. Chelsea

Benfica were particularly impressive when they played at Old Trafford before Christmas. They literally looked like that they would score on every occasion that they attacked. With a couple of seasoned internationals added to their team, Benfica would look like very serious contenders for Europe’s premier competition. The age profile of the team is excellent. They look ready for the here and now and play with great energy. There is plenty of confidence that when the ball makes it forward into the danger zone that the likes of Cardozo will produce an end product. Their recent form has been more than passable. Considering all that has been said and written, Chelsea’s age profile isn’t as aged as people would assume. They remain an outfit packed with current internationals but their recent form has been patchy. All the evidence suggest that both sides are about equally likely to play to their form and with this in mind Benfica are unlikely to be beaten at home. They have only suffered one defeat on their home patch all season.

Recommended bet: Back Benfica, draw no bet.

Champions League Preview : February 21st

21 Feb
February 21, 2012

Napoli vs. Chelsea

Naples would be a tough place to go and get a result at anytime but if you are on a run like Chelsea’s at the moment, now would not be a good time. The Blues would be nearly a 25-1 shot to have only won one of their last six fixtures in all competitions. Clearly things are amiss and statistically verified as such.

Chelsea are obviously suffering defensive mainly due to the absences of stalwart defenders, Terry and Cole. Cole is certain to be absent and even if Terry does play it’s hard to make a case for backing the London side such is the lack of cohesion higher up the pitch. Drogba has been excellent in the Champion’s League this season and it would be surprising if he doesn’t get the nod upfront with Sturridge. Torres continues to misfire and there would be little joy for him up against Napoli’s packed defence.

The Azzurri set themselves up most usually in the formation of an away side with a deep lying defence. They have won remarkably few offsides in Serie A this season, mainly due to the fact there is little space behind their backline. Cavani is the main source of goals assisted chiefly by Hamsik, who incidently has excellent ball retention numbers. Napoli will be ready to exploit any weakness on Chelsea’s left flank with the aid of Maggio who has contributed well on the assist front throughout the league program. This is in addition to Lavezzi who finds himself as the side’s primary playmaker.

The Italian representatives have had significant amount of their games ending as draws and if neither side are willing to commit men forward, we could be in for a cagey start to the game. Even so, Napoli will be looking for some kind of lead to head to Stamford Bridge with. In the interim between the two legs, Cole could well become serviceable again. With all this in mind backing Napoli to win the first leg, draw no bet is the preferred option.

Recommended bet: Back Napoli, draw no bet at 4/6.

Champions League Preview : February 15th

15 Feb
February 15, 2012

AC Milan vs. Arsenal

These are two sides which rely heavily on their own talismanic front men: Van Persie and Ibrahimovic. Premier League followers need no further introduction to Van Persie but it is worth highlighting the value of Ibrahimovic to Milan. He does much of the shooting and dribbling for his side with Cassano providing a great deal of the assists. Only Nocerino has contributed to the goal tally as efficiently but then has less than half the scores the Swede has amassed. Even so this Milan side does not looked blessed with abundant pace going forward. Robinho is a tidy player as his high pass completion rate suggests but he wouldn’t be as explosive as Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott. Henry could yet play a cameo role and clearly still has an eye for goal. Vermaelen has been missed at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and his return is of great benefit. I would expect him to play plenty of triangular passes with the likes of Arteta and Rosicky to ensure Arsenal retain possession. It is unlikely that Milan will press as hard as Madrid, Barcelona or even Man. Utd so the Arsenal midfield is bound to have time to pick its passes. In contrast the Gunners will be more adept at harrying Milan in the centre of the field and it has to be wondered whether Mexes and Tiago can quieten Van Persie. The recently re-laying of the San Siro surface is a little concern as it adds an unknown variable to the equation but bearing in mind Arsenal’s excellent record at home in European competition, I can see Arsenal progressing to the next round and don’t believe they should be the outsiders in this tie.

Recommended bet: back Arsenal to qualify for the next round.

Champions League Preview : February 14th

14 Feb
February 14, 2012

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Barcelona

Barcelona are close to fielding a full side with only Villa and Busquets being the significant absentees. The Catalan side has been far from convincing on the road and this has to be worrying for their longer term prospects of silverware for this season. The absentees from Sunday’s league defeat have been well reported and another Champion’s League victory is now the number one priority. Michael Ballack is an obvious absentee for Leverkusen but his contribution to the team has probably been of a more inspiration quality rather than in terms of output. Sidney Sam on the other hand is a massive loss. He has been highly productive offensively and impressively efficient in doing so. He has a close on 86 % pass completion rate in the Bundesliga and is one of side’s main ball carriers. Derdiyok also misses the game and while he has not been as protective of the ball in possession, he scores with a sixth of his efforts at goal.

The ‘over’ goal markets have taken into account that there will be around 24 attempts at goal over the ninety minutes. The best prices available for each of the ‘over’ markets are consistent until we reach the over 3.5 goals quote. 6-4 is a desperately poor offer and even the 7-4 available is poor value where 2.9 is the realistic price. Both teams are likely to stutter into action and going low on goals looks the way forward.

Recommended bet: Back under 3.5 goals at 1.56

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