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Champions League Predictions > Aug 2nd & 3rd


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Benfica performed well during the training camp despite not having any official games. All of Portugal's test matches were victories. I think Benfica should be able to handle such an opponent without issue.

Pick: Benfica (-1.5) in AH

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Union St Gilliose v Rangers - Under 2.5 Goals

Rangers start their Champions League challenge with a trick tie at Union Saint Gilloise who surprised many last season by finishing 2nd in the Belgian top division though they did top the table at the end of the regular season. Rangers had a great run in the Europa League last term finishing runners-up to Eintracht Frankfurt and started their domestic season with a win at Livingston at the weekend. I do not see this game having many goals as Rangers will be happy with keeping the game tight hoping to finish it off in the return leg at Ibrox whilst Union will not be using their home ground as it does not meet UEFA standards and will be playing at neighbours Leuvens. Union managed just over 1 goal a game in their home league matches last season managing 31 in 17 whilst Rangers managed 33 in 16 away league games. Given the importance of the game to both sides under 2.5 seems the likeliest outcome. 

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c/p from our site, price on Benfica overs has moved down in meantime but it may improve before kick off, so we leave notes for that one here as well:

.............................................

Benfica o3 @2.09
Min price to bet: o3 @2.02 or o2.75 @1.80
Model +value:
Significant team news: key cm Evander inj for Midtjylland
Note: Benfica have lost a couple of attackers this summer, including star striker Nunez who was sold to Liverpool, but they brought in some young talents, have a new president in club legend (and Portugal legend) Rui Costa, and a new coach in Roger Schmidt, who joins after his contract with PSV expired a couple of months ago. Excellent coach with good, attacking football philosophy, his 2 year spell at PSV was a clear success despite no league titles won; as such a dominant Ajax side was still made to sweat for Eredivise last season, and also, PSV won the Cup against them and beat them before that in Super Cup as well. No doubt that Benfica will play much more attractive this season, they will play at a higher tempo and with lots of high press when not in possession; their pre-season friendlies were nothing short of spectacular, with 5 straight wins against decent sides, 2+ scored in all and at least 3 goals scored in last 4 (Newcastle, Fulham, Girona and Nice). Both teams have scored in each of Midtjylland's 5 official games this season (3 Den SL, 2 UCL) and 3 pre-season friendlies, and they got their first win last Fri at Odense, with emphatic 5-1 score, in first game after dismissal of head coach Henriksen - who was sacked at the airport after FCM arrived from 2nd leg of UCL qual prev round, which they won only after penalties, against Cypriot side AEK Larnaca. It was no wins in first 2 league rounds and no wins against limited Cypriots either, with penalty shootout needed to progress, along with missed opportunities last season, in which they failed to capitalize on numerous problems that main rivals FCK had, and finished as runners-up, though at least won the Danish Cup (on penalties against Odense). So two teams with new coaches (FCM with assistant coach Henrik Jensen as interim head coach at the moment), but we know exactly what to expect from sides coached by Roger Schmidt - PSV last season, or Salzburg, Leverk, Paderborn before that, even in China with Beijing Gouan he played a very attractive footie and got himself something of a cult-status among fans... after he was sacked, there were some incredible emotional scenes on the airport during his departure, with fans gathering in thousands to say good-bye to their beloved coach. Anyway, Benfica are ofc deserved strong favs in this tie, but FCM are not only a good side, but also have advantage of already playing 5 official games this season; while Benfica kept changing entire 11 at halftime of almost all their pre-season friendlies and actually, we have a pref on FCM hcap at current price (that was even better yesterday); but will just stick to TG bet, expecting a watchable game despite it's huge importance, est TG at 3.25-3.30. It will be hot in Lisbon tomorrow, but should be ok during the match with around 25c expected. No surprise if this price improves, we do like it but it's still a very important game and only the first leg.

Dinamo Zagreb and Viktoria Plzen dnb hcaps both looked as picks yesterday, unfortunately the prices have moved quite a bit in meantime, and both are out of range at the moment... perhaps if mkt moves in other direction tomorrow, there is always a chance. Also, ugly counter-intuitive pick on Union SG against Rangers is also poss, the Belgian surprise package is weaker this season after losing 3 important players and coach Mazzu, and also, they can't play UCL games at their stadium, so no 'true' home advantage either (game will be played in Leuven), but Rangers have over-performed heavily in UEL last season and they are way overrated in general (in our eyes), so if market does go for them here, USG as home dogs are likely to be our choice tomorrow (unders also look quite ok, line is 2.5 with price 190ish; whereas it does feel as if line 2.25 with prices around 195 for both o-u is more appropriate here). So, possible update tomorrow, deadline 17h - unfortunately, limits are not better than in previous round; so overnight picks for UEL and UECL on Wed and Thu are less likely, it will probably be matchday picks/notes for both... for UCL though, we are still likely to have something for Wed published tomorrow evening. Update 14.40h:

Dinamo Zagreb dnb @1.88
Min price to bet: dnb @1.83 or -1/4 @2.25
Model +value: -
Significant team news: Dinamo's first choice cb Sutalo is out inj, so is backup cb Theophile-Catherine; while cf Petkovic is a slight doubt
Note: Two Eastern European powerhouses, with Dinamo Zagreb and Ludogorets dominating their domestic leagues in last decade and also achieving some eye catching result in european cups. Very high ambitions this season as well, both are aiming for UCL group stage, but Croatians have the advantage in terms of quality and should really make it count. Bulgarian side has lost the step in last couple of years, their new signings have failed to replace players who have departed and while they didn't have the problems to dominate very weak Bulgarian league last season, they looked out of depth in EL group stage with Midtjylland, Braga and Red Star, scoring just 3 goals and winning just 2 points in 6 games. Largely the same squad as last season, no new important signings and actually a couple of regulars have left. They eased past Sutjeska in the preliminary round, but didn't impress vs poor Shamrock in previous round and almost got into trouble in the return leg; however Dinamo Zagreb were also far from impressive vs Shkupi and barely progressed, with form clearly far from optimal level at this stage. Croatians have lost a number of key players over the last couple of years, but they have always managed to sign good/proven players and produce new domestic stars, and judging from their transfer activity this summer it will be the same this time around. They are a bit shorthanded on cb position here and Sutalo's absence is not ideal, but cbs Peric and Lauritsen are both fit and ready and they have played many games together; and also, while cf Petkovic is a slight doubt after he got a knock in return leg against Shkupi last week, he is with the team and expected to take part in the game - and even if he doesn't start it wouldn't be a major loss, as both Orsic and new arrival Drmic are available and in good scoring form already. This is almost the same, albeit stronger team from one that impressed in EL group with West Ham, Rapid Vienna and Genk last season; and then troubled Sevilla in the knockout phase; and we make them 41-41.5% favs in this first leg in Razgrad.

So, the price on Croatians has bounced back allowing for a pick on them, however that will be all from today's update as Union SG price is lower than yday and expected move on Rangers never happened (TG price did move quite a bit, in expected direction); and Plzen price kept going down, so much that we now actually pref Sheriff hcap in that game (+1/4 190ish)! Nothing else today, possibly evening notes/picks for Wed action later, if not - we will have something tomorrow for sure.

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4 hours ago, silver fox said:

Union St Gilliose v Rangers - Under 2.5 Goals

Rangers start their Champions League challenge with a trick tie at Union Saint Gilloise who surprised many last season by finishing 2nd in the Belgian top division though they did top the table at the end of the regular season. Rangers had a great run in the Europa League last term finishing runners-up to Eintracht Frankfurt and started their domestic season with a win at Livingston at the weekend. I do not see this game having many goals as Rangers will be happy with keeping the game tight hoping to finish it off in the return leg at Ibrox whilst Union will not be using their home ground as it does not meet UEFA standards and will be playing at neighbours Leuvens. Union managed just over 1 goal a game in their home league matches last season managing 31 in 17 whilst Rangers managed 33 in 16 away league games. Given the importance of the game to both sides under 2.5 seems the likeliest outcome. 

I'll have a bit on Tavernier to score at 5/1 Hills (also 9/2 Sky Bet and Uni). A player who often seems slightly underrated in terms of his chance of scoring, I was on him at 3/1 at the weekend. I've backed him 5 times this year and won 3 times, shortest odds being 3.3. Obviously not going to score every game but always worth a look.

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