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Champions League: United closing in on knock-out stages

by Sean Goff | October 22, 2012
Robin Van Persie

VAN THE MAN: RVP is in scintillating form for the Reds  (pic: Google)

It is Match Day Three in the Champions League on Tuesday night and victories for some of the tournament’s bigger names will almost assure them of qualification for the knock-out stages.

Manchester United v Braga (7:45pm, ITV1)

Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have his edge back when it comes to fighting for the European Cup. Manchester United currently top Group H having won their opening two games.

However, the Red Devils will need to be wary of a Sporting Braga team who have a knack for out-playing English opposition. Liverpool fell to the Portuguese giants in the 2010/11 Europa League tournament, while Birmingham had no reply when clashing with the club the following season.

One reassuring note for Manchester United fans is that the team hold a home record of eight wins and three draws against Portuguese opponents.

If the Red Devils increase this to nine wins on Tuesday night they’ll be nearly home and hosed in Group H.

Money Back Special: If there’s a goal in injury time, Paddy Power will refund all losing Next goalscorer bets on the match.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Chelsea (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

Chelsea are riding high in the Premier League and the reigning European champions will look to bring some of that swagger into Tuesday’s tie with Shakhtar Donetsk. A 2-2 draw (after leading 2-0) with Italian giants Juventus left them disappointed but thrashing FC Nordsjaelland 4-0 will have raised their spirits in Group E.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side are 15/8 to leave the Ukraine with another three points, even though Donetsk have taken the scalps of  Spurs and Arsenal before and are 7/5 to do the same again here.

Spartak Moscow v Benfica (5:00pm, Sky Sports 2)

Spartak Moscow sit at the bottom of Group G after failing to register a single point from their opening two games, though Benfica haven’t fared much better and only have one point on the board.

Home advantage could  favour the Russians, who are 9/5 to record their first win of the campaign, though the fact they have only won once as hosts to Portuguese teams is sure to boost the spirits of Benfica. They are 6/4 to head back west with all three points secured.

Barcelona v Celtic (7:45pm, Sky Sports 2)

It’s hard not to skim over this fixture and think Barca win.  The Spanish giants are top of La Liga, scoring for fun and deserve to be long odds-on.  Celtic registered their first away win in the Champions League last time out against Sparta Moscow but have lost nine and drawn three against Spanish opposition over the years.

But Bhoys’ supporters still remember their team’s 1-0 aggregate victory over Barcelona in an epic 2003/04 UEFA Cup fourth round tie.

It proved that miracles can happen in football though at 25/1 they may have to say their prayers for Celtic to repeat history at the Nou Camp.

Champions League Match Day 3

Champions League Matc Day 3: sdafsdgfd (pic: Graphic News)

BATE Borisov v Valencia (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

BATE Borisov. No we hadn’t heard anything about the Belarusian champions prior to this season’s Champions League either.

However,with powerful victories over Lille and Bayern Munich in Group F – suddenly the club is the talk of Europe. So can they overturn their six previous defeats against Spanish opposition and continue their phenomenal run against Valencia

Valencia look set to be their toughest challenge yet as they bid to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group F.

FC Nordsjaelland v Juventus (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

The Danish champions are still searching for their first point in the Champions League, though trying to gain this against Juventus seems a bit cruel.

FC Nordsjaelland have home advantage but even at 4/11 a Juventus win seems the best play here.

Galatasaray v CFR Cluj (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

Galatasaray have to approach this tie with an ‘all or nothing’ mentality.

After defeats against Manchester United and Braga, the Turkish champions are propping up Group H against a CFR Cluj side who have won their last three Champions League away ties.

Despite this Galatasaray are 4/6 to turn their Champions League campaign around but the 9/2 about CFR Cluj to make it four wins out of four can’t be dismissed.

Lille v Bayern Munich (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

The Germans got a major wake-up call after suffering a shock 3-1 defeat against BATE Borisov last time.

The face French opponents Lille on Tuesday night and in their 29 clashes with French opposition they’ve won 15 of these and lost nine

Bayern Munich are odds-on at 1/2 to beat Lille  who may be overpriced at 6/1 – especially on their home turf.

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