So here we are: the final round of Champions League fixtures. The fate of many has already been decided, but for a few the squeaky bum time is set to pick up pace on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
From a betting perspective, we’re only looking at games where there is something to be played for; points are important, but so too is pride. So here are Tuesday’s Champions League betting tips:
Basel vs Arsenal (7:45pm)
The hopes of Arsenal in Group A hang in the balance, and the Gunners need a favour from Ludogorets to help them claim top spot and avoid a potential last 16 clash with the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid or Juventus.
The bizarre vagaries of the competition state that PSG will go through as group winners here despite Arsenal boasting the better goal difference (they are currently level on points). Somehow, the powers that be conjure that the Parisians have a better head-to-head record despite both ties between these two teams ending in a draw. Answers on a postcard.
There’s no point dwelling on that though, and Arsene Wenger’s men know that they at least have to hold up their end of the bargain – beating Basel – while hoping that Ludogorets can somehow claim a point in Paris.
What have we seen from Basel? Not much, in truth, from a pair of draws with Ludogorets, and they were rather torn apart by the Gunners in a 0-2 defeat in the reverse fixture. At least a 1-2 loss at home to PSG suggests the Swiss outfit will be a tougher nut to crack in front of their own fans.
But Arsenal, buoyed by an excellent 5-1 trouncing of West Ham at the weekend, will know that the pressure is off, to a certain extent, as their fate is out of their hands. Basel, who lost in a top-of-the-table Swiss Super League clash with Young Boys at the weekend, are there for the taking.
Arsenal to Win (27/20 with bet365)
PSG vs Ludogorets (7:45pm)
So to the other half of the equation in Group A, where hosts PSG know that a victory by any means will see them through to the knockout phase as table toppers.
Can plucky Ludogorets get the job done on Arsenal’s behalf? We can’t offer much hope seeing as though the Bulgarian outfit were slaughtered on their last profile away day (0-6 at the Emirates) after taking a bit of a tonking against PSG at home (1-3). They earned some stripe for the manner of their performance in the 2-3 defeat against the Gunners last time out, but clearly they are a class below their more prestigious rivals here.
The fact that the Parisians lost at the weekend in Ligue 1 should not necessarily be taken as any sign of weakness – clearly they had one eye on this fixture – and consequently they should win reasonably comfortably here.
But we do like the look of Ludogorets netting: they have scored in 3/5 Champions League matches so far, and having won 12 Bulgarian Premier League matches in a row – yes, we know not the greatest standard – they should be confident enough. A team playing merely for pride can be a dangerous animal.
PSG to Win & Both Teams to Score (21/10 with Coral)
Manchester City vs Celtic (7:45pm)
Okay, so this one has nothing riding on it in terms of Champions League progression – Man City are through to the last 16 as runners up and Celtic are bottom of Group C regardless of what happens here, but ‘Battle of Britain’ fixtures always deliver an excellent spectacle and a feisty encounter.
Celtic have, at times, shown some quality in this Champions League, and lest we forget that they drew 1-1 with Borussia M’gladbach in Germany (matching City’s result) and holding their hosts here to a 3-3 stalemate thriller at Celtic Park in the reverse fixture.
But Brendan Rodgers’ boys have two huge problems here: firstly, their below-par defending was cruelly exposed by the mighty Motherwell in Saturday’s Scottish Premiership clash, and secondly Man City are a wounded animal after their weekend defeat to Chelsea, with both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho likely to start here given that they are suspended for the foreseeable future from domestic action.
That is not a rather sour cocktail for the Scots here.
Manchester City Win & Over 2.5 Goals (8/11 with Paddy Power)
Manchester City -1 Handicap (10/11 with Betfair)
Benfica vs Napoli (7:45pm)
It’s all to play for in Group B with three teams capable of mathematically going through as group winners, and two of them meet in Portugal on Tuesday night.
This is a winner takes all contest with Benfica and Napoli on eight points, with a draw seeing the Italian side through courtesy of their 4-2 win in Naples. Besiktas, in third on seven points, could yet finish first, second or third depending on how they do against Dynamo Kiev.
So really, the onus is on Benfica to make things happen; Napoli will go through with a point after all. The Portuguese side have a pair of wins to Kiev to their name but otherwise have disappointed somewhat with draws against Besiktas and that defeat in Naples. They are going well domestically but did suffer a shock defeat to Maritimo on Friday.
Napoli have been horribly inconsistent this term, with goals following them around both in Serie A (27 scored, 15 conceded in 15) and in the Champions League (nine scored, seven conceded in five). That unpredictability makes them very difficult to bet on, although we do expect goals in Portugal.
We also expect there to be a winner on the night; offering Besiktas a back door route into the last 16.
Both Teams to Score (4/5 with Betfair)
Besiktas to Qualify (10/11 with Coral)