It’s crunch time for three English clubs in the Champions League this week, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea desperate to join Arsenal in the knockout stages of the competition as Paddy Power bookmaker announce a superb Champions League free bets offer. – Find out more about Paddy Power here
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The Gunners secured top spot in Group F with a 2-1 home win over Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago, meaning their trip to Olympiakos is largely irrelevant, but their London rivals Chelsea need a goalless draw or win against Valencia at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night to advance.
Arsene Wenger has already mentioned in the press that he could play a Carling Cup XI here and 10/11 on the Greek side does look a great bet.
Olympiakos must win this game and hope that Marseille do not pick up anything in Dortmund, so they have everything to play for and with Walcott and Van Persie destined not to travel they look the bet.
With boss Andre Villas-Boas under pressure as a result of their stuttering domestic form, the former Porto chief will be hoping that a solid performance – and victory – for Chelsea over the Spanish side Valencia can calm the media hype in West London.
Valencia need a score draw or a win to qualify and to be fair the side look at least capable of a score draw. Unai Enery’s side are in fantastic form at the moment winning home and way, and seemingly scoring goals for fun, smashing seven past Genk in the earlier rounds.
Chelsea are looking far too ponderous at the back for my liking to back them and at odds of 4/1 Valencia look the bet, although I may take a dabble with the ‘Valencia to win, draw no bet’ at 5/2. This gives us our money back if the game is a draw and with this safety net in place I’m more than happy to oppose Villas-Boas side.
In Group A, Man City face the toughest task of the Premier League trio, needing to beat leaders Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, while at the same time hoping Villarreal can get a draw or more at home to Napoli. But with the Spanish side sitting bottom of the group without a point to their name, the smart money will be on the Italians getting the victory they crave to go through to the knockout stages with Bayern.
Of course Bayern have nothing to play for as they make their trip to the Etihad as they have already qualified, and of course nine times out of ten its better to back the side who have everything to play for rather than a side already through to qualification. However the 5/1 on offer for a Bayern victory is extremely tempting indeed, and I’m not prepared to back City at a paltry price of 8/13 against one of Europe’s finest sides regardless of circumstance.
Napoli should have no problems picking up a result against Villarreal, and if this filters through to the City players, then even a win won’t do, and Bayern could snatch an away win. 5/1 is plenty big enough and I’m happy to get on the Germans.
Finally, in Group C, United know that an away success or share of the spoils at FC Basel will be enough to see them through to the next round. And with the Champions League pedigree the Red Devils enjoy, it would take a brave man to back against them.
United will probably have to make do with second place, however, with leaders Benfica at home to whipping boys Otelul Galati. But Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson will just be pleased to see his side qualify, after a stop-start campaign – which has included home draws with both Benfica and this week’s opponents – so far.
It years gone by when it gets to the business end of the competition, the Premier League champions should be a different proposition, but this year things could be different, and this is a far from vintage United side. Wayne Rooney has his disciplinary hearing the following day and we’ve seen in the past that off field problems do effect the striker.
I’m prepared to back the home side with a +1 goal handicap at 6/5.
Good luck with your bets and don’t forget to pick up your Paddy Power Free Bets offer on any Champions League fixture this week!