CL Best Bets – TuesdayUEFA Champions League - Matchday 5
The Banker: AEK Athens vs. Ajax
Four-time Champions League winners Ajax have not won away in this competition for 12 games - a run that stretches back to October 2011. But that miserable record should come to an end on Tuesday as they travel to face their group’s whipping boys, AEK Athens.
Erik ten Hag's men are closing in on qualification for the next round, ahead of fellow sleeping giants Benfica and behind Bayern Munich. A big summer spending spree appears to have worked its magic for the Dutch side, and they have lost only one of their 25 matches in all competitions this season. Ajax were the better team in their 1-1 draw away to Bayern Munich, and are much improved.
They smashed AEK Athens 3-0 on matchday one. AEK, Greek champions for the first time since 1993/94, breaking Olympiacos’s dominance, now lie mid-table in the Greek league. They have looked out of their depth in the Champions League, and Ajax make a good value banker at 4/5.
Tip: Ajax at 4/5
Prediction: AEK Athens 0-2 Ajax
The Solid Bet: Manchester United vs. Young Boys
Three points against Swiss champions Young Boys of Bern could put Manchester United through to the last 16 and bring some welcome good news to Old Trafford in the midst of a dismal season. Their best result this term came in their last Champions League match as they came from behind to win away to Juventus. However they were quite lucky: Juventus had the lion’s share of the match’s chances, as well as dominating possession. United’s goals came from two set-pieces.
Jose Mourinho’s side were booed off after their dreadful 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace last weekend, and it is very hard to see them sweeping aside Young Boys with ease here, despite their status ass 2/7 favourites.
Young Boys are dominating the Swiss league, but have found European football harder. However they showed they can compete at this level with a 1-1 draw against Valencia last time out. A lack of attacking options means that they will have little choice but to play defensively. The 11/8 about under 2.5 goals looks an excellent bet here.
Tip: Under 2.5 goals at 11/8
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Young Boys
The Outsider: Hoffenheim vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Hoffenheim meet Shakhtar Donetsk in a battle of the two basement boys in Group F, but a win for either team combined with a Manchester City win in Lyon would blow the group wide open for the final round of matches.
Hoffenheim have been rather more competitive than I predicted at this level, having secured three draws and one defeat from their four games. But their defensive problems have been on show, and Shakhtar can punish them.
The Ukrainian champions are bottom, but the position may be a bit false given they have played (and been outplayed by) Manchester City twice already. Hoffenheim have not beaten a side who are above tenth in the Bundesliga so far this season.
Both teams have big injury problems: Hoffenheim’s defence is patched up while Shakhtar’s star man Marlos is injured, but it is impossible to make any sort of case for Hoffenheim at odds on.
Tip: Shakhtar Donetsk at 18/5
Prediction: Hoffenheim 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
The First Goalscorer: Lyon vs. Manchester City
Manchester City swept aside West Ham United 4-0 last time out, and the scary thing was that City have played far better this season. But expected goals statistics show that they are even more dominant in the Premier League than PSG are in Ligue 1.
They are very short 2/5 favourites to avenge their matchday one defeat to Lyon here, and one man who could set them on their way, should he start, is Leroy Sane. The German winger has scored six goals in his last seven games. He scored a brace away to West Ham and also netted in both matches he played for Germany during the international break.
Tip: Leroy Sane to score first at 13/2
Prediction: Lyon 1-3 Manchester City