Shakhtar prepares for lengthy siege when Bayern comes visiting

Bayern won another game in impressive manner by crushing Hamburg in the domestic championship by eight goals to none. The more they play, the more obvious it becomes that they have no real contender in the Bundesliga this is only a training for the Champions League. Even here, they start as overwhelming favorites regardless of where the game is played and the same happens tonight when they travel to Ukraine. Shakhtar will be the ones opposing them but they don’t have reasons to be

At least on paper, Shakhtar has home pitch advantage but the game is actually played in Lviv so the fans won’t be that numerous and the atmosphere less than impressive. Ukraine is troubled by conflict these days, with football being far less important for the inhabitants and this will be obvious in this fixture. The home side will still do its best to score goals and the former champions, but they don’t have the squad to do it and not playing in Donestk doesn’t help either.

In fact, Lucescu is expected to field a single striker because he needs five defenders and a strong midfield to maintain ball possession. Even so, the visitors will probably take the initiative and pass the ball around as they see fit, given the fact that Guardiola has practiced this strategy over and over again. Less than one week after scoring eight goals at home, the offensive is entitled to be cheerful and aim for a similar results, even if you were goals are scored.

Sorting qualification in the first leg is not that difficult and by scoring twice in Ukraine, the Germans will be more or less assured that they will be playing in the quarterfinals. They have no injured or suspended players, after resting those who were doubtful over the weekend and it is very likely for some of them to be pulled out in the second half. It all depends on the result at half time, but past performance suggest that they have what it takes to score an early goal.

The host will need to counter Bayern with direct attacks, because on the flanks they are outgunned and outplayed, so it will all come down to how the only striker performs. Shakhtar is under no impression that it could cause a major upset, but will defend its chances frantically, while aiming for a single point. If opportunity presents itself and the host get to score on the counterattack, then they will have at least your ethical chances of advanced the next stage.

The top priority would be to keep a clean sheet and this is the thing that punters should have in mind when betting on this match. The +1.5 Asian handicap on the home side is a bit risky but the odds are tempting and even value, so it makes sense to place such a bet.

AS Roma set to end Bayern streak

One of the most interesting games for this stage of the Champions League groups is the confrontation between AS Roma and Bayern. The Italian side is having its best season start in many years, while the Germans are apparently cruising to another title in the Bundesliga. While nobody is surprised by their performance, AS Roma’s strong debut is impressive on many levels and everyone is waiting to see how they will match up against a proven side.

as romaUntil recently, the Italians were dominating the domestic championship and sat on the first place in Serie A but as a result of losing to Juventus on the road, they fell into second. They are within striking distance and there are plenty of rounds left to play, so time is clearly on their side. On the other hand, winning most of the games in the Champions League and advancing to the next stage is a pressing matter and so far they can be proud of their accomplishment.

AS Roma won with ease against CSKA Moscow and then saved one point on the road at Manchester City, so they sit in the second place behind Bayern. Winning tonight against the German side would allow them to take the lead for the first time and this would also make them the top favorite to win the group. This is easier said than done, because the Germans are yet to lose a match and their performance in the domestic championship is even more impressive.

So far, they won both games against Manchester city and CSKA Moscow by 1-0, but they were far more prolific when playing against fellow German teams. They win five games in a row and kept a clean sheet in the last eight games, with October being an extremely good month for them so far. In the last two rounds, Bayern scored 10 unanswered goals and they will be traveling to Rome, trying to extend this winning streak to six in a row.

Seven different players scored in the last two goals and even though Muller and Lewandowski are the two listed as strikers, the most prolific scorer is Goetze. This is an offensive midfielder who will probably play tonight from the very beginning, so the German side will have plenty of options. Wingers will play a big role in this fixture as noted by and both the hosts and the visitors have a couple of great players on these positions

Strictly from a punter’s perspective, this is a very interesting match, with bookmakers offering excellent odds for a home win. Obviously, it is difficult to go against Bayern at this time when they are on offensive roll, so a better chance to be to take the double chance wager at odds of 1.80. Those who are willing to go all the way with the German side will rejoice hearing that virtually all bookmakers are offering odds of even value for the visitors to win.


Chelsea aims rare victory on the road

Chelsea has always found a way of making it out of the group stage, despite the fact that their champions league campaign started relatively slow. This year makes no exception, because the English side had to settle for a draw in the opening match and they are now traveling to Portugal. This is where they will play against a defensive minded team, fully aware of the fact that the visitors are favorites to win.

4footballSporting Lisbon is equally frustrated by its start as the team had to settle for one point on the road against the weakest team in the group. Maribor made its debut in the Champions League and they obviously lack the experience needed to make a deep run in this competition. Their low expectations were obvious as the hosts defended with all lines for 90 minutes and succeeded in stripping the Portuguese of points.

Tonight things will be quite different, because Sporting Lisbon is going to be the team to defend and the fact that they have home pitch advantage won’t matter much. They have real problems in scoring regardless of where the game is played and only two quality strikers to rely upon. Their roster includes 8 forwards but only Slimani and Carrillo are meeting expectations, with the two strikers scoring a combined five goals so far.

They are the ones that the Portuguese expect to create scoring opportunities, but the trick is to make the most of those few they get. Chelsea does many things great and defending is just one of them, with Mourinho being one of the most pragmatic managers. Now that he also has Diego Costa in his starting formation, the Portuguese coach is going to shift into more aggressive gear and try to win a couple of points against the team he admired as a kid.

The Spanish striker is firing on all cylinders and has scored eight goals already in only six games, so he will be a real threat for the home side. It will come as no surprise if Sporting Lisbon would assign two defenders to guard him at all times, even though this might leave other players free to push forward. In a nutshell, this game is probably going to result in yet another draw, which would keep both teams in the race with real chances. For punters, the prospect of increasing their investment four times by betting straight on the draw is alluring and it is worth a chance at medium stakes.

Marseille’s dreams of glory could suffer a blow in Bastia

The beginning of a new season is always a difficult moment for the teams who aspire to win the championship, with Marseille being one of them. The French championship is more competitive than ever, but even though PSG has by far the best team, they are not the only ones to worry about. Monaco can rely on its best players and with Colombian superstar Falcao back to fitness, they should give the reigning champions a run for their money.marseille

Marseille is not among the favorites to lift the trophy, but they can change all that, by starting the season on the right foot and taking an early lead. So far, the stars seem to have aligned in their favor, because PSG failed to win the opening match away at Reims. With both Lyon and Monaco playing tomorrow, Marseille have the rare opportunity of getting at the helm, even if for only 24 hours.

In order to do that, they need to secure all three points away from home at Bastia, a team that has a reputation for playing defensive football very effectively. Past performance suggests that the hosts are going to defend with all lines for 90 min., but shouldn’t be underestimated on the counterattack. Last season they scored just enough goals to ensure a winning record in front of their fans and their hopes of remaining in the first French division depend on home performance.

Marseille have more than one ace in its sleeves, with its best asset being by far the offensive, and it is Gignac and Payet that they will be relying on tonight. The two strikers have scored a total of 24 goals last season with the former being the one who stood out from the crowd, with 16 goals. Both of them have met expectations in a single friendly games and overall the team scored 13 times en route to winning three of the four matches.

They decided to play most of the games at home, which leaves us with very little useful information about their performance on the road. The visitors will come out firing on all cylinders, in an attempt of taking the lead early on, because the longer the hosts deny them the chance to score, the more difficult it would be to win. As far as punters are concerned, the visiting team is clearly the one that is worth backing tonight, but the odds are not high enough.

Last season, Bastia managed to defeat opponents 10 times when having home pitch advantage but they were not particularly successful against Marseille over the last decade. It was the visitors who won five of the last six head to head games and each time they had to settle for a narrow margin victory. This is the most likely outcome for tonight, so punters who seek the best return on investment should place a small bet on Marseille to win by exactly one goal.

Lyon plays first Europa League match in 2014

A couple of years ago, Lyon was playing against Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League and even though they were the underdogs, they were not to be trifled with. Much has changed and with some of their best players being traded to other teams, the French side is now struggling to regain its position among the most competitive European squads.4football

The top priority right now is to reach the group stage of the Europa League, a pretty simple objective, given the fact that they will be playing the qualifier against Mlada Boleslav. The team from the Czech Republic is bound to exercise some pressure in front of their own fans, because winning on the road is very unlikely. Even so, they start as underdogs and as a result will try to avoid conceding a goal, while scoring on counterattacks.

Bookmakers and pundits alike are reluctant to trust Mlada Boleslav tonight, even though they have home pitch advantage. An interesting analysis of the upcoming match for those who plan to wager can be found at The hosts have the advantage of already playing an official game in the domestic championship and winning, even though the narrow margin triumph is not something to shout for.

Manager Jarolim is not a big fan of offensive football and the best proof is that in the previous games played by his team, he rarely used more than two strikers. Duris and Skala appeared to be his favorites upfront and they’re going to feature in the starting formation, hoping to tip the scale in Mlada’s favor. There is a gap between the midfield and backline, which means that players from one sector will need to support the others, which might leave the strikers a bit stranded.

Both of them are still looking for their first goal in an official match after subpar performances in the friendly games played by the Czech team in July. Lyon will be trying to score at least once on the road, because by doing so, they will deny their opponents the chance to barricade themselves in the second leg. This is how they got eliminated last season and some lessons need to be learned, which explains why the visitors will use a 4-3-3 starting formation.

This served them well in the previous games played against top European teams, but not only strikers are a serious threat for Mlada Boleslav. Lyon has one of the best midfields of all the teams playing in the Europa League qualifiers, with Gourcoff being one of their most prolific scorers. This is the first time that the two teams meet, so there is no head to head record for punters who value these sorts of statistics.

Placing a wager on this fixture is fairly easy, because even though only a few hours separate us from kickoff, the odds revolve around even value. Betting live after the match has started is another option, but with Lyon expected to storm the visitors from the very first minute, it is not worth the risk of them scoring first, because the odds would plummet as a result.

Brazil takes on favorite neighbor in the last 16

After a string of convincing victories in friendly games, Brazil started the World Cup 2014 rather shaky and was lucky to win the opening match. There were many who claimed that the referee made that victory possible, by awarding a penalty shot that shouldn’t have been there. Nevertheless, the hosts picked up speed and they doubled their efforts after drawing against Mexico, to win the final match by 4-1.

It was an impressive effort but the fact that they were competing against a team already out of the competition casts some shadows over that triumph. Things are about to turn serious, as they prepare for a decisive match against Chile, a squad that stunned the teams in Group B. They won with relative ease against both Australia and Spain, but decided to take the foot off the gas in the final match, which resulted in a defeat to the Netherlands.

The players are under no illusion that they are in for a challenge, because past performance suggests that Brazil wins in most cases. Their opponents have an impressive home record that includes three victories and they are yet to lose a game to Chile when having the support of their fans. All these facts explain why the odds are stacked against the visiting team, but this is not the first time that Chilean players have to fight seemingly insurmountable odds.

Defending against Brazil is clearly a better idea, but against the likes of Neymar and Fred, it would be a mistake to retreat all players into their own half. A flexible approach is needed, something that Chile proved to be capable off, but it will all come down to how well Vargas and Sanchez perform. The two strikers have been a constant presence upfront and there is no reason for either of them to be kept on the bench, especially with both of them scoring one so far.Brazil vs Chile

There is no room for a third striker and taking unnecessary risks is not what the underdogs need to do right now, but they have another ace in their sleeves. Arturo Vidal is both willing and capable of advancing to support the strikers if his skills are necessary and he’s expected to assume an offensive role. The backline is decent, but if the defenders are forced to block the Brazilian strikers on many occasions, it should be only a matter of time until a mistake will be committed.

As for the hosts, this is the best opportunity to extend an already impressive winning streak, against the team that they have always dominated. They can rely on the support of their fans as the arena will be packed with enthusiastic Brazilians, cheering for the Cariocas. It goes without saying, that the hosts are under a lot of pressure and they can’t afford to take it one step at a time and hope that they will eventually score a goal.

The sensible approach would be to back Brazil to win outright, but the odds of 1.60 offered by most bookmakers are hardly impressive. A far more tempting proposition would be to trust the hosts to cover the -2.5 goals spread at odds exceeding 2.30. If the hosts score early, the game could easily spin out of control, but if the Chilean defenses hold by half time, both teams will shift into a less aggressive gear.

Spain squad outlook for World Cup 2014

Spain has achieved something that no team in history has accomplished, by winning two European championships and the World Cup in 10 years. To say that they dominated international football for a decade would be an understatement, but in Brazil, they will be challenged by tough opponents. The hosts are credited with a better chance to prevail and Argentina comes in second, but what’s surprising is that Germany is also ahead of them in the bookmakers’ preferences.

4footballThis doesn’t mean that Spain will be a pushover, in fact those who bet on them to win for the fourth time in a row will increase their investment eight times. The odds are terrific and it is definitely worth taking a leap of faith with the reigning European and world champions. The same can’t be said about them winning the group stage, not because they don’t have the first chance to do it at the expense of Netherlands, Australia and Chile, but because odds are ridiculously low.

The Netherlands are a team that somehow finds new and surprising ways of disappointing fans and football specialists alike, but at least on paper they have a great team. It is hard to forget how they made the final four years ago and it would be stupid to dismiss them as underdogs. Basically, these two teams will play for the first place in Group D and the winner will probably pick up the consolation prize of finishing second.

It is more important that it looks to win the group, because strong teams are expected to come from the other groups and the last thing that Spain needs is a breathtaking match in the round of last 16. This is probably going to be the last major competition for a handful of the players, with some of those who made history at the last final tournaments expected to retire the next year.

Vincent Del Bosque knows that he has another challenge besides managing a somewhat aging team, with the biggest problem to tackle being the one of keeping players motivated. When a team wins so many international trophies in as little as a decade, it is easy to understand why some players start to take victories for granted. Furthermore, they tend to lose motivation and are no longer willing to put everything on the line for a victory, because they did it so many times before.

On the bright side, Spain suffered a humiliating defeat to Brazil earlier this year and allowed three goals without scoring one, so that match could serve as a wake-up call. The group stage will provide them with several opportunities to test their starting formation and the Netherlands will be a tough nut to crack. If Vincent Del Bosque can draw the right conclusions from this initial phase and make certain adjustments in his first 11, Spain will be a team that everyone will hope to avoid in the elimination rounds.

90 minutes of siege for Sevilla

Sevilla ended its five-game winning streak over the weekend, at Bilbao, where the visiting team allowed three goals while scoring once. As a result, they can kiss the Champions League goodbye, since they have no way of closing the gap separating them from the Basque team. Just a few days after missing out on an important objective for 2014, they travel to Valencia and prepare for a siege that will last at least 90 min.

SevillaThe hosts will be throwing everything they’ve got at Sevilla because they are more or less in the same situation. Both teams failed to win anything notable this season and now that a Champions League berth is out of the picture, winning Europa League is the only thing that matters. The visitors are in a better position, since they won the first leg and didn’t allow a goal, which means that scoring once on the road should be enough to advance to the finals.

The same three injured players that were unable to play one week ago will miss from the starting formation, but none of them is really important for Sevilla. Bacca and Gameiro are fit to play and they will pair up front for the first time in many weeks, as coach Emery chose to use them alternatively. Tonight they will spearhead the offensive and even though the visitors won’t come out firing from the first minute, they will have plenty of opportunities to score a goal.

Valencia knows that unless they take an early lead, everything could be lost and as a result will be compelled to field an offensive starting formation. With five players injured, their options are relatively limited but even so they are real threat for Sevilla and the head to head record speaks for itself. The two teams met 20 times in Valencia and the hosts prevailed 13 times, but not any victory will do.

As far as punters are concerned, there is no point in backing the hosts to qualify, because the odds of Valencia winning by three goals to none are remote. On the other hand it is worth taking a leap of faith with the hosts to win the match in 90 minutes at odds of 2.30 with most bookmakers. Sevilla would probably score the goal its needs to qualify for the final, but it’s hard to believe that they will win the second lag as well.

Sevilla shoots for its 6th consecutive win

Earlier this season, nobody credited Sevilla with the chance of finishing on one of the spoils eligible for the champions league. Following their string of disappointing results, many assumed that they will be more likely to back of their city rivals in an attempt of avoiding relegation. 2014 has been an excellent year for Sevilla and so far they can be satisfied with their performance, but it would be a mistake to dwell on this relative success.

Sevilla shoots for its 6th consecutive winThey won five games in a row and delivered a stunning blow to Real Madrid, by defeating them at home and jeopardizing their chances to win the championship. Unlike the former leaders who kept them in check for 90 minutes, Celta Vigo is more likely to defend and try to avoid defeat at home. The hosts have greatly improved their position in the standings and for the first time in many months they are sitting comfortably above the relegation area.

Their objective for 2014 is to finish about these psychological threshold, so that they will be playing in Primera Division for at least one more season. March has been a terrible month for them, with a single victory in five games and even though their injured players have returned to fitness, Celta was unable to win back-to-back games. Their inability to score goals is by now chronic and this could be a problem against a team that limited Real Madrid to a single goal.

Sevilla had quite an intense schedule this month and they are still fighting a battle on two fronts, in an attempt of making the semifinals of the Europa League. Overtaking Athletic Bilbao won’t be easy, but the good news is that their rivals are facing the leaders this weekend and it is quite possible for them to lose at home. There is no point in settling for a draw in Vigo and the visitors can afford to take more chances than they usually do in an attempt of securing victory.

If this strategy backfires and Sevilla loses the game as a result, there will be no consequences whatsoever and they will simply have to focus on consolidating their position. There are still six days left before they will be facing Porto in Europa league, so it is only fair to assume that the visitors won’t be resting any players. Bookmakers offered terrific odds of 2.50 for a road win tonight and given Sevilla’s recent results this is a great opportunity to round up your bankroll.

PSG makes another attempt at the Champions League

psgPSG lost a single official match this year, after going down by the odd goal in the friendly game against Real Madrid. They comfortably seat at the top of the domestic championship and the fact that they drew 1-1 away from home at Monaco greatly helped their cause. A five points advantage over their bitter rivals could prove enough to lift the trophy in 2014, but Paris Saint Germain has higher expectations than that.

Winning the Champions League would prove beyond doubt that the massive investments were worth making and will provide the club owners with the incentive to spend even more money in 2015 and beyond. During the group stage, they encountered little opposition and won four games out of six, while the narrow defeat to Benfica was simply the result of lack of focus and the absence of any real stake.

It goes without saying that tonight the stakes are as high as they get, because losing away from home at Leverkusen with complicate their mission in the second leg. PSG face a difficult opponents this month but kept a clean sheets twice and is still undefeated, not to mention that they, after a convincing victory over Valenciennes. A narrow margin victory over the German side would be regarded as a major triumph, but even scrapping one point would be acceptable as long as PSG scores at least one goal.

Leverkusen is on a downswing, with three defeats in the last month and they have a hard time scoring goals both away and at home. After a disheartening last-minute defeat in Freiburg in late January, they fired back with consecutive victories, only to be eliminated from the German cup by the team playing in the second flight. Schalke04 also got their number and defeating them over the weekend, which made it possible for Dortmund to come within striking distance.

The fact that the Germans didn’t rest any players for that difficult Bundesliga match says a great deal about their Champions League expectations. The hosts realize that they are the underdogs in the double legged fixture and that they are in dire need of a victory in front of their fans. It is only fair to assume that Leverkusen will come out firing on all cylinders and play aggressive football, in an attempt of taking an early lead. The odds for a home win are juicy but the more likely outcome is a low scoring draw.