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Champions League tips: Back Spurs to overcome tough trip to Serbia

After nailing 3/3 in his weekend preview, Chris Bland returns to take on the £5,000 1X2 Champions League – Pick 5 pool on Wednesday evening. Read his three Champions League tips below.

 

Bayern Munich v Olympiacos

Managerless Bayern Munich host Olympiacos at the Allianz Arena in the evening’s early kick off as the German Champions look to bounce back from Saturday’s embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Reduced to ten men after nine minutes following Jerome Boateng’s red card, Frankfurt ran riot and inflicted a defeat which saw Niko Kovac’s tenure in charge of Munich brought to an end. Hansi Flick will take charge of the Bavarians who require a win to secure qualification into the next round with two games to spare.

Despite the ongoing concerns after Saturday’s defeat, Bayern are still heavy favourites and understandably so. Sat top of the group with a perfect record and 13 goals scored, they come up against a side whose sole point came in the opening game at home to Spurs.

Bayern defeated the Greek side 3-2 away from home, courtesy of goals from Robert Lewandowski (2) and Corentin Tolisso. It is worth noting that Olympiacos were clinical in Greece compared to a wasteful Bayern side who created plenty of goalscoring opportunities. With an xG of 0.52 to 2.69, the Germans dominated proceedings and should have won by a more comfortable margin.

Defensive injuries are mounting up for Bayern and Olympiacos will look to target these areas, particularly the struggling Jerome Boateng, as this offers up an avenue of attack for Pedro Martin’s side. Daniel Podence and Guerrero have the ability to trouble the German defence with their direct dribbling ability and they will at least fancy their chances of getting on the scoresheet in Germany.

However, despite being unbeaten in their domestic league and only conceding three goals this season, they haven’t been able to translate that form into the Champions League, and it is hard to see them doing so once again against Bayern.

It has been defensive issues that have stifled Bayern this season rather than attacking problems and they have netted 25 goals in the league. I believe they are well equipped to break down the Greek side, despite ongoing injury concerns. With Robert Lewandowski leading the line, alongside the inform Serge Gnabry on the wing, it makes for ominous reading for Martin’s side, and subsequently it’s hard to argue with a home win.

Verdict: Bayern Munich

 

Crvena Zvezda v Tottenham

Tottenham travel to Serbia without an away win all season after Sunday’s draw with Everton, which was marred by Andre Gomes’ late injury. Sat second in Group B, a point clear of Crvena Zvezda, Mauricio Pochettino knows a win will move them a step closer to qualification, and will be keen to do so knowing they still have a trip to Germany to come.

Despite their poor away record, there were signs of improvement on Sunday and, up until Heung-Min Son’s red card, Spurs were heading for a first away win of the season. It took a late equaliser from Cenk Tosun to deny Pochettino’s side.

They dispatched the Serbians 5-0 in the reverse fixture two weeks ago and, if they are to perform to a similar standard once again, it is hard to see past Spurs. They racked up an impressive xG of 3.69 to Red Star’s 0.54, the signs are ominous if they can click going forward once again.

Harry Kane missed Spurs’ draw on the weekend but is expected to return and this will give the Londoners a huge boost, especially after his two goals last time out against the Serbian side.

Ryan Sessegnon may be handed a first start, as Spurs look to solve some of the defensive worries that have plagued their season so far. They looked a more assured unit up to Son’s red card but the erratic performances of Serge Aurier at right back remain a cause for concern.

There will be more impetus on Crvena Zvezda to come out and take the game to Spurs, especially with a raucous atmosphere expected. Ex-Chelsea midfielder Marko Marin is their creative spark but, as long as Spurs can stop him dictating the game in attacking midfield, they should be able to nullify the threat of the Serbian side.

Whether Son starts for Spurs is yet to be seen but Lucas Moura is an able replacement and possesses the ability to stretch the game on the break, something key to breaking down the Serbian side who might be invited on to play.

Their defence has been questionable throughout the group against quality opposition, conceding an xG of 4.77 in a 3-0 defeat at Bayern. Despite beating Olympiacos in their only home game so far, this came against ten men following Benzia’s red card and they were down 1-0 at the time, thus having a huge bearing on the game.

Although a tough place to travel, if Spurs can replicate the class shown in the first meeting, it is hard to oppose Pochettino’s side.

Verdict: Tottenham

 

Atalanta v Manchester City

Atalanta play host to Manchester City at the San Siro in search of their first points of their inaugural Champions League campaign and the signs point towards another high-scoring game.

Raheem Sterling blew the Italian side away with an 11-minute hat trick in a 5-1 win two weeks ago and, despite Pep Guardiola expected to ring the changes ahead of Sunday’s heavyweight clash with Liverpool, I expect them to have enough strength in depth to cope with the Italian side’s threat.

The tactics of both sides suggest an open encounter and Atalanta weren’t without their chances in the first meeting. Taking the lead through Ruslan Malinovsky’s penalty, they continuously pressed throughout the game, and racked up an impressive xG of 1.91, highlighting the threat they do possess. Top scorers in Serie A this season with thirty, they did draw a blank on Sunday in defeat to Cagliari but that was following Josip Ilicic’s red card and, despite this, still created plenty of scoring opportunities.

Their front three are well suited to taking on City’s back four, particularly one struggling for numbers, and Nicolas Otamendi will have to be on top form to keep the threatening Italian side at bay. Luis Muriel has been in fine form this season and his direct, dribbling style will cause problems, as well as his movement in behind the areas vacated by City’s full backs when attacking.

It is hard to see Atalanta not scoring on Wednesday night, however their defensive worries may outweigh the attacking threat.

City impressed in their 5-1 victory two weeks ago and relish playing opposition such as Atalanta, due to the space and ability to break they are afforded. Sterling’s hat trick highlighted the threat they have going forward when given time and Kevin de Bruyne is a scary proposition in a game like this.

They will look to create overlaps once again out wide, when Atalanta’s wing backs push on in a 3-5-2 formation, and this was something Sterling in particular exploited with ease. Racking up an impressive 4.35 xG, City showcased their ability going forward and, as long as Guardiola doesn’t have too keen an eye on the clash with Liverpool regarding his team selection, it is hard to oppose City once again.

Verdict: Manchester City

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