IT’S crunch time in the Champions League with five play-off first legs tonight and some big names involved.
The games to look at are Ajax v Rostov, Copenhagen v Apoel, Dinamo Zagreb v Red Bull Salzburg, Steaua Bucharest v Man City and Young Boys v Monchengladbach.
They say you don’t get an easy game at this stage and that’s pretty much true. Let’s start with City who travel to Romania looking to at least return on level terms.
Pep Guardiola’s side failed to impress at the weekend but got lucky to beat Sunderland 2-1. The Spanish boss isn’t being paid millions for a Europa League campaign and fans will expect a lot as he’s reached seven semis in seven season with Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Steaua have been knocked out by Ludogorets and Partizan Belgrade in the past two seasons but strengthened in the summer and have netted in their last six home qualifiers.
With City not keeping a clean sheet in seven in a row abroad and Steaua netting in all six this season best bet could be both to score at 20-23 with McBookie.
There is also a question mark over City’s No,1 position with Willy Caballero handed the gloves ahead of Joe Hart at the weekend. On top of that Vincent Kompany is still out and new boys Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane not fully fit.
I tipped Sergio Aguero to score first at the weekend and he’s worth a look any time at 4-5 with bet365.
Elsewhere in the Champions League best bets are Copenhagen at home to Apoel while both should score at Young Boys v Monchengladbach.
The Danes have been impressive at the Parken this season and have banged in more than three goals a game. Apoel are better at home so will be keen to avoid anything more than a one-goal defeat and the Danes are priced up shorter than anyone else tonight at 1-2 with William Hill.
Ajax have much to prove against Russian runners-up Rostov who defeated Anderlecht 2-0 in Belgium to reach this stage.
The Dutch have lost at home to Copenhagen, Slavia Prague and Rapid Vienna in recent qualifiers and don’t look good value at a shade of odds on at 4-5 with William Hill. Rostov are a side built on good defence and are worth a look at 14-5 with McBookie.
Regular visitors to the site will have seen plenty of goals tips involving Swiss sides and Young Boys in particular. They shocked Shakhar Donetsk in the last round and will be looking for another scalp in the shape of the Bundesliga men who are not partial to a goal or two.
Indeed when the sides met in a friendly last month they played out a 3-3 draw. Goals look certain – both to score, over 2.5 goals or even over 3.5 goals.
Red Bull are traditionally a side packed with goals but in the Champions League this season they have won four matches without conceding and all have been udner 2.5 goals. Dinamo beat Tbilisi without conceding in the last round and while unders is a possibility this looks a tough one to call.
Bets to Consider
Steaua v Man City btts
Rostov draw no bet
Young Boys v Monchengladbach over 2.5 goals
(4-6, Paddy Power)