Shakhtar Donetsk v Chelsea, Live on Sky Sports 4, Tuesday, 7.45pm
This Shakhtar side is not a bad team by any means. Any team that can go to Turin against the Italian Champions and come away with a draw has to be respected. They beat Nordsjaelland quite comfortably and then came away from Juventus with a point and if Chelsea want to get something here they have to be at their very best. The worry is how much the tough game on Saturday has taken out of them. Chelsea had to work very hard to get that result against Spurs. They’ll be ready and rested but going into Donetsk and trying to get a win is not an easy thing to do.
Away from home nowadays it is so difficult and although Chelsea can win it the draw is more likely. It is hard to judge Chelsea’s away form. Against Nordsjaelland they were under pressure and struggled to put away the Danish side. Petr Cech pulled off a lot of good saves at 1-0 and Chelsea could have been embarrassed. His team selection will be interesting. Will Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata all start? It might make more sense to play someone a bit more disciplined and defensive away from home in Europe. If they come out of there with a point it’s a good night’s work indeed.
Both teams can score in this game. Chelsea can go in with a strong attacking instincts. They’re good going forward and have scored six goals in two games in this competition but it’s whether they can keep them out. Shakhtar are a threat and Chelsea need to be at the best. A low scoring draw such as 1-1 at 11/2 is a good bet.
A Chelsea midfield player is more likely to get on the scoresheet than Fernando Torres in these European games. Oscar scored two fabulous goals against Juventus and he is 9/1 to open the scoring. If Frank Lampard plays he is a threat and of course takes penalties. He’s scored 40 out of 43 in the Premier League so if he does get a penalty you’d expect him to score and 7/2 to score anytime is appealing.
Man United v Sporting Braga, Live on ITV,
Manchester United have an achilles heel in Europe where teams know they can get at them. They were fortunate against Galatasaray in the opening game and weren’t convincing against Cluj winning 2-1. United are getting the job done but it’s not great. Sporting Braga went to Galatasaray and won 2-0 last time out which is very impressive. Braga had 30-40 shots on goal against Cluj and somehow lost, so use that game in Istanbul as a marker.
They will try to soak up the pressure, they’ll try and keep Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney quiet and then they’ll hit United on the break. United look susceptible to the counter-attack this season and it will be a fascinating tie. Braga struggled in the Portuguese Cup at the weekend but left a lot of players out. They are coming to Manchester fresh and confident and they will want to frighten United.
But United don’t lose many at Old Trafford and they don’t draw many either. It will a tough game, and finish close but United will get the job done. Look at the Stoke game, United should’ve been comfortable but conceded twice.
You can expect United to let in a goal and win so 3-1 at 10/1 might be the bet.
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Barcelona v Celtic, Live on Sky Sports 2,
The odds reflect exactly what people think. 25/1 is usually generous in a two-horse race but Celtic are going to have to defend out of their skins. Barcelona look a little suspect at the back without Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique so if you get at them, you can get goals as Deportivo showed at the weekend. But the problem for Celtic will be getting enough of the ball and getting people forward to influence the game.
Celtic went to Moscow and got a fantastic result away from home but this should be comfortable for Barcelona. The Moscow result might be the exception rather than the rule. Barcelona won’t let Celtic perform like that in the Nou Camp because they won’t let them have the ball.
Celtic won’t want to be embarrassed but Barcelona are capable of scoring five or six in these games. If Celtic lose a couple of early goals this could be a cricket score but the Hoops are made of stern stuff and can defend well. Barcelona should win at a scoreline of 3-0 at 6/1 or 4-0 at 7/1.