Spartak Moscow v Fenerbahce
The Champions League evening kicks off with Fenerbahce’s trip to Russia to take on Spartak Moscow. Both teams finished last season as runners-up in their respective leagues and both go into the tie with a point to prove.
Spartak were eliminated from the Europa League at this stage last season and are looking to show that they are still capable at this level, while the Turks are back on the Champions League scene after being banned last season due to match-fixing allegations.
The arrival of Dirk Kuyt, Alex and Milos Krasic shows Fenerbahce’s intent this season, but Spartak are solid on their home patch and in manager Unai Emery they now have an experienced continental campaigner. Take the home side, at 1.90, to hold a first-leg lead after tonight’s game.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Dynamo Kiev
Borussia Monchengladbach will make their debut in the Champions League this evening after a fourth place finish in last season’s Bundesliga. But they come up against seasoned campaigners in Ukrainian outfit Dynamo Kiev and could be forced to settle for a place in the Europa League this season.
Dynamo have a decent record against German sides (P26 W11 D5 L10), and I expect that whatever the result tonight, experience will ensure that they do enough to keep themselves in the tie. Take the 2.00 available on Yuri Semin’s side to qualify for the group stages.
Basel v CFR Cluj
FC Basel were one of the competition’s surprise packages last season as they sent Manchester United tumbling out at the group stages. Now the considerably less imposing figure of CFR Cluj stand in the way of qualification for the group stages for a third successive season.
Not that Basel will underestimate the Romanians. Two years ago Cluj caused an upset of their own in beating Basel in their opening Champions League group stage fixture.
Heiko Vogel’s side have been solid on their home patch in the early part of the domestic season, and the experience gained from last year’s European excursions shouldn’t be underestimated. They’re a short price at odds of 1.65 for the win, but justifiably so.
FC Copenhagen v Lille
FC Copenhagen are unbeaten in their six domestic league games to this point, but have a miserable record on their home patch in European competition. The Danish side have won just one of their last five European fixtures at Parken, while Lille will take extra encouragement from Copenhagen’s poor record of just one win in seven games against French clubs.
Lille are heavy favourites to progress to the group stages at odds of 1.40 and can put the tie to bed in the Danish capital this midweek. Back Lille to win at odds of 2.20.
Helsingborgs v Celtic
Not since the 2008-09 season have Celtic qualified for the Champions League group stages, but they could re-assume their position amongst Europe’s elite this season if they justify favouritism in their tie with Helsingborgs.
Both sides come into the game on the back of negative domestic results, yet neither will be too downhearted. A last-minute equaliser against Ross County will have buoyed Celtic, while Helsingborgs won’t be too upset with their narrow defeat to league leaders Elfsborg.
In terms of the match result, it’s as tough to call as the 2.60 odds offered on both a home and away win suggests. So we’ll steer clear of the Match Odds and instead look at the goals betting markets.
Both teams were emphatic in their progression to the play-off round; Celtic scoring twice both home and away against Helsinki and Helsingborgs scoring three in each of their legs against Slask Wroclaw.
No team has scored more home goals in the Swedish Allsvenkan than Helsingborgs, while the recent 7-2 win over Kalmar was as emphatic a scoreline as you could wish to see. Over 2.5 goals looks to be the bet of the night at odds of 2.10.