Two matches from Wednesday’s line-up are worth a bet…
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich 20:45 CET
Those of you who don’t suffer from short term memory loss should clearly remember when these European giants last met because it was just four and odd months ago when Atletico beat Munich over two legs in the CL semi-final.
Truth be told, it seems like a lot longer but rest assured, few of the Munich players will have forgotten losing out on a place in the final due to Antoine Griezmann’s away goal. One suspects their annoyance pales in comparison to Atletico’s as the Spanish team were beaten by their city rivals to the ultimate prize.
Swings and roundabouts
Atletico have yet to be beaten this season and sit 3rd in La Liga, just two points off the lead. They secured a creditable away draw to Barcelona last week and displayed all the obdurate and opportunist skills which Diego Simeone has instilled in them, aspects which make them a match for any team.
Unfortunately, their narrow 1-0 win over Deportivo la Coruna at the weekend saw them lose both Augusto Fernandez and Jose Gimenez to injury. Simeone will hope their replacements can slot in without upsetting the balance of the team.
Munich may have lost manager Pep Guardiola to Man City but still they roll on. Under the direction of the amiable Carlo Ancelotti, the German champions have a 100% record in all competitions since the start of the season and are traditionally one of the favourites to win the CL outright.
Few would bet against them reaching the semi-finals at least. With Robert Lewandowski picking up where he left off last season, his goal scoring prowess poses a serious threat to the home defense.
Atletico have an excellent home record in European competition having won 25 of their last 30 matches and losing only 2 along the way. In addition, their record against German opposition also stands up to scrutiny with 12 wins and 3 losses from 17 games. By contrast, Munich have lost 13 of their last 24 visits to Spain so it is not a happy hunting ground for the Germans.
Both teams possess a world-class array of attacking talent so expect both to score at least once. It would go against Atletico’s DNA to open up too much space for their opponents so, even though it has the makings of a classic, it may not be a goal fest. Even allowing for their respective European records, the market has Munich as favourites.
Many bookies are offering the same price for a draw as for an Atletico win and, as much as the home side will want to win, they absolutely do not want to lose. For this reason, we’re inclined to go for a draw. BetVictor and a host of others are offering 11/5 for that outcome.
Celtic v Manchester City 20:45 CET
Of the two teams on show here, there is no doubt which one can boast of the greater European pedigree. The Scottish champions famously won the European Cup in 1967 with a team comprised of local players, the jewel in their storied crown. Man City, flush with oil money, desperately want to do likewise and should they succeed, will do so without any local players. Such is the way of the football these days.
Tallest among dwarves
Celtic are well used to lording it in Scotland. This weekend just gone, they hammered Kilmarnock 6-1 and it looks as if, even at this early stage, it will take one hell of a cock-up for them not to win the league yet again. But domestic domination of a poor league is not enough to allow them compete effectively in the CL. The 7-0 shellacking they suffered at the hands of Barcelona two weeks ago is unlikely to be an outlier. City are swaggering into town.
Rising to the top
The speed with which Man City have adapted to Pep Guardiola’s demands has surprised many. Since the first day of the season, they can boast of a 100% record having won ten from ten in all competitions but few if any have been dull victories. For the most part, they have laid waste to all who have stood before them and with Gaurdiola demanding and expecting higher standards from his team, they are a serious proposition in this years CL.
News has emerged that Kevin de Bruyne picked up an injury in their weekend win over Swansea and it looks as if the Chelsea reject might miss a number of matches. Given the heights his performances have already reached at this early stage of the season, you would be forgiven for thinking that his absence will impact negatively on the team’s performance. However, such is the embarrassment of riches at their disposal, it’s entirely likely that, in this match at least, City will hardly notice at all.
Learning to love the bomb
Realistically, it seems as if there is little Celtic can do to avoid defeat here. The old David v Goliath analogy doesn’t even do it justice as this gulf between these teams is so pronounced. What Celtic must do is avoid the mistakes of two weeks ago.
That means they must keep their concentration levels high, communicate effectively and fight like dogs for each other. Composure and efficient use of the ball when they have it would also help but they might not see all that much of the leather. Basically, the best that they can hope for is to keep the score line respectable.
Can there be any other result outside of a Man City win? There’s always a chance, certainly but there’s just not enough crack cocaine in the world to make this column think otherwise. For Celtic, the best they can hope for is a 3rd place finish in the group to give them a chance in the Europa League. For City, it’s to go further than they have ever been before. Celtic are unlikely to get in their way. Best price for a City win is a predictably 4/11 short and comes by way of PaddyPower. Put your tent on it.