Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM
CL Best Bets - Wednesday
UEFA Champions League - Matchday 2
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The Banker: Manchester City vs. Lyon
Manchester City got 100 points in the Premier League last year - their third English league title in their new super-rich era. But the Champions League has always evaded them. They have managed just one semi-final, where they went out meekly to Real Madrid.
This year they go off as favourites, and they can justify that status by taking Lyon apart at the Etihad Stadium. They have already scored 14 goals in five Premier League games this year, most recently easing past Fulham by three goals to nil.
Lyon are yet to get going in Ligue 1. They could only draw 2-2 with nine-man Caen at the weekend thanks to a late equaliser, although they did rest star player Memphis Depay.
Depay, however, flopped in England at City’s crosstown rivals, and this Lyon team as a whole would finish mid-table in the Premier League. City are very strong favourites here, and the best way to get on them might be to back them to make a fast start. Their opening goals in their three home games so far have come in the second minute, the eighth minute and the 25th minute, so a half-time/full-time play looks best here.
Tip: Manchester City/Manchester City half-time/full-time at 8/15
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Lyon
The Solid Bet: Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim’s first ever match in the Champions League group stages takes them to the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, the adopted home of Shakhtar Donetsk. The German club, which has risen rapidly from amateur origins, featured in the Europa League group stages last year where they finished bottom, behind Braga, Ludogorets Razgrad and Istanbul Basaksehir.
Shakhtar, meanwhile, are regulars at this stage of the competition and have a fearsome home record despite their nomadic existence. They have won six of their last seven home games in the competition, with only a 4-3 defeat to Real Madrid blotting their record.
They are huge value here at even money - a price that, given the added weight given to home advantage in European competitions, suggests that the two sides are about equal.
They are not. Hoffenheim’s squad looks too small and their defence looks too shaky to deal with the rigours of the Champions League.
Tip: Shakhtar Donetsk to win at 1/1
Prediction: Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 Hoffenheim
The Outsider: Real Madrid vs. Roma
After winning three consecutive Champions Leagues, Real Madrid have the make the enormous adjustment to losing the man who led them to those triumphs: Cristiano Ronaldo. Zinedine Zidane has also left and his replacement, Julen Lopategui, has a rather unspectacular pedigree in club football. They face the favourites to join them in the last 16, Roma, in their opening game at the Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be value in backing the visitors to cause a shock.
Roma fans are unhappy with a string of sales in the summer, believing that they are spurning the opportunity to build on last year’s semi-final exit. Alisson, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman have all left, but Steven N'Zonzi, Robin Olsen and Javier Pastore look capable replacements, and a new generation led by Justin Kluivert and Ante Coric promises much.
Roma are unlikely to get as far as they did last year, but it would take a brave man to back Real Madrid at 1/3 given the huge changes at the club over the summer.
Tip: Draw or Roma at 11/5
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-2 Roma
The First Goalscorer: Young Boys vs. Manchester United
There are long-term worries about this Manchester United side, particularly in defence and with regard to their signing policy, but they have secured two hard-fought, morale-boosting away wins at Burnley and Watford in their last two matches, and they can make it three out of three in Switzerland, where they face Young Boys of Bern.
Young Boys won their first Swiss title in 32 years last year, battering perennial champions Basel. But they are unlikely to challenge for qualificaiton here. This game looks perfectly set up for Romelu Lukaku. The artificial surface at Young Boys’s ground might mean that United go a little more direct than usual, and Lukaku is a nightmare for unprepared centre-backs. He has scored seven goals in his last six games for club and country and is value to score first here at 15/4.
Tip: Romelu Lukaku to score first at 15/4
Prediction: Young Boys 0-2 Manchester United