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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (September 30-October 2)

The Champions League and Europa League take centre stage this week before the final round of domestic League football ahead of the next international break of the season. Match Day 2 doesn't decide which teams will qualify for the Last 16, but this is certainly the time where teams can put themselves in a big hole as the likes of Manchester City and Atletico Madrid search for their first points in the Group Stage.

Neither has an easy game against top Italian opposition, but both are at home and will be expecting to win their games. We will also see the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal try to win their first game in the competition, while other teams like Real Madrid and Liverpool will feel a win for them this week will put both clubs on the brink of reaching the Second Round.

Manchester City v Roma Pick: When the draw for the Champions League Group Stage was made, a lot of people suggested that Roma could be a threat to either Manchester City or Bayern Munich in this Group, but the 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow would have gotten the attention of many more.

That win coupled with Bayern Munich's 1-0 win over Manchester City means the latter can't afford to drop points in this home game if they are to avoid another Group Stage exit in the competition. The Champions League is where Manchester City really want to make an impact this season and so the pressure is on them to win this game and put themselves in a strong position heading into the double-header with CSKA Moscow next month.

It won't be easy against a confident Roma side that have been playing very well in Italy, but I don't think it is far fetched to say that Serie A is not quite the level of competition that Manchester City compete in. Roma were also beaten in away games at Napoli (twice) and Juventus last season, two teams that have had a decent impact in the Champions League, which will give Manchester City confidence they can do the same.

The counter attack will make Roma dangerous in this one, but they could be forced to do a lot of defending by this Manchester City team that have begun to score goals again and I like the home team to win by more than a goal.

Sporting Lisbon v Chelsea Pick: Sporting Lisbon have won their last 3 home games against English opposition, but all of those games have come in the UEFA Cup/Europa League and their one home game in the Champions League resulted in a 0-1 loss to Manchester United.

It won't be easy for Chelsea to replicate that success that United had here, even if the layers are expecting a fairly routine win for the English side, especially as Sporting Lisbon have a long unbeaten run in European competition in front of their own fans. Add the fact that Sporting Lisbon have only lost 1 of their last 26 home games in all competitions and you have to think that there will be enough confidence in the home side to make this a very awkward evening for Jose Mourinho.

In saying that, Chelsea have been in strong form to open this season and they did crush Steaua Bucharest and Schalke in their first two away games in the Champions League Group Stage last season. There have been plenty of goals in the Chelsea team and they have enough days to prepare for the League game against Arsenal next Sunday which has led Mourinho to admit he is only thinking of this game.

That also means Diego Costa being given the start up front and the Spaniard has made the kind of beginning to the season which suggests he can make the difference in tight games. It might be a Diego Costa goal that makes the difference in this one and Chelsea might win this game, although it may also be by the slimmest of margins.

Arsenal v Galatasaray Pick: This is a big game for Arsenal as they look to get their Champions League campaign back on track after the demoralising loss in Borussia Dortmund. They would have been glad to see Galatasaray and Anderlecht share the points from their game in Istanbul and a win over the Turkish side on Wednesday, the second to visit the Emirates Stadium this season, will set Arsenal up in a strong position for their back to back games against Anderlecht.

A few injuries are affecting the Arsenal squad who are coming off a tough North London derby, and the midfield is a particular area of concern now Jack Wilshire looks set to join Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey on the sidelines.

Arsenal have been strong at home in the Champions League when not facing German opposition, winning their last 7 games against teams from outside that nation, including two in a row against Turkish opposition. That has always been a big criticism of teams from Turkey in that they struggled to take their form away from their home games.

Galatasaray have lost 4 of their last 5 away games in the Champions League, including in Copenhagen last season and they may struggle to contain an Arsenal attack that is the strength of the home team. I fancy that to have enough creativity to score goals against this team and Arsenal should be able to come away with a fairly routine home win in the Champions League and begin focusing on the Chelsea game on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid v Juventus Pick: Another team in a position where they really need to win to get their Champions League campaign going are Atletico Madrid and I think they can overcome the Italian Champions Juventus on Match Day 2.

There is little doubt that Spanish teams have hated facing the Italian teams in European competition as they feel their football is played to stifle the creativity the Spanish bring to the table. That should be less of a concern for Diego Simeone whose Atletico Madrid team is based on the hard work and tough defensive shape that has made so many Italian teams famous in the past.

I don't want to underestimate how good this Juventus team are, but losing Antonio Conte in the summer could be a tough obstacle to overcome, even if Massimiliano Allegri has plenty of Champions League experience from his time with AC Milan.

This certainly will be a tough, physical battle, but Atletico Madrid's home advantage could be key after they won 5 of their 6 home games in this competition last season. Add in the fact that Juventus have sometimes struggled away from Turin in European competition and I think the home team could be a big price to win this game.

Basel v Liverpool Pick: With Real Madrid expected to top this section of the Group, Basel and Liverpool will feel it is the team that can pick up the most points from their two head to head battles that will likely join the reigning European Champions in the Second Round.

There are some serious doubts about both teams and their abilities in this game- Basel were crushed in their first game in Madrid, but they have a strong home record over the last few months; Liverpool are missing Daniel Sturridge and have been conceding goals at an alarming rate which could be exposed by the home side.

Basel won't have any fear taking on Liverpool having recently beaten the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United at home in the Champions League. The problem for them is trying to find the balance in this game between attack and defence as Basel will surely believe they need to win this game if they are to progress from the Group.

It would be a real surprise to me if we don't see goals in this game with both teams likely feeling better when moving forward than when defending. Any kind of draw would likely suit Liverpool, but this isn't a team that will feel comfortable defending deep and could use the counter attack to punish Basel, but I also think the home team will create chances and over 2.5 goals could be the call on Wednesday.

Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica Pick: After opening the season in a fashion that looked to have set up Bayer Leverkusen as the next 'boy crush' from the Bundesliga, the home team have come off the boil a little in recent weeks. Goals have begun to be a problem and Bayer Leverkusen were surprised in their opening game at Monaco which makes this an important game between two teams that lost their opening game.

Leverkusen will feel confident they can get back to winning ways against a Benfica team that have lost some key players over the summer. While Benfica have played well on their travels in the Europa League, their 2-3 win at Anderlecht in their last away Champions League game ended a run of 8 away games without a win.

They had previously lost 5 of 7 away games in the Champions League and I think Leverkusen have the ability to win this game at a price that is only slightly under odds against. The German side should use their attacking ability to keep Benfica under pressure in this one and come away with a vital three points that gets them up and running in the Group.

MY PICKS: Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea to Win by One Goal @ 3.60 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.01 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid @ 2.30 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Basel-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bayer Leverkusen @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update11-17, - 2.88 Units (38 Units Staked, - 7.58% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/158-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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