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Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Midweek Football Picks 2019 (October 1-3)

Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage takes centre stage during the week and I am looking to open up October in the same fashion in which September ended.

It was a much stronger month than August, and it was good to wipe out the poor first month of the 2019/20 season. I do want to kick on now and really start producing some strong returns to move forward and the few selections during this week will hopefully begin to do that.

I had wrote a short piece about Manchester United prior to their League Cup win over Rochdale which can be read here. They have an important game in the Europa League this week and a win would mean Manchester United can start thinking about Qualifying for the Last 32 with a couple of games to spare and that is important for a thin squad that will need some rest ahead of the busy December period that all English clubs face.

Onto the Champions League Picks from Match Day 2 and the update to the season totals below.

Real Madrid v Club Brugge Pick: You don't want to completely rule out Club Brugge causing problems for Real Madrid considering how they played in the Group Stage of the Champions League twelve months ago. Atletico Madrid needed late goals to see them off and Borussia Dortmund had to settle for a draw with them at home, while Real Madrid seem to be playing with some vulnerable confidence at the moment.

Even then it is hard to see Real Madrid doing anything but bouncing back after the 3-0 defeat in Paris on Match Day 1. They have looked very good in the League since that defeat to move to the top of the Spanish top flight, and Real Madrid have shown some resiliency with 3 clean sheets in a row.

The return of Nacho and Sergio Ramos will help and I do think Real Madrid are very dangerous at home where they are looking to snap a run of consecutive Champions League defeats. The side have scored at least twice in their last couple of wins here overall and Real Madrid should be able to get on the front foot against Club Brugge who were beaten heavily at Salzburg in the Europa League Last 32 last season.

Club Brugge will be playing with the belief of a team that is unbeaten in 14 games to open the 2019/20 season, but that may not be enough. They can create chances here with the spaces Real Madrid tend to leave behind when getting forward, but I am not sure it will be enough to really challenge a team who want to get this Group back on the right track.

Last season late goals saw Atletico Madrid pull clear of Club Brugge and I think Real Madrid will match that margin of victory.

Galatasaray v Paris Saint-Germain Pick: I really did fancy Paris Saint-Germain to get the better of Real Madrid on Match Day 1 of the Champions League Group Stage, but injuries to the front three tempered by enthusiasm for them. It ultimately proved to be little problem for the French Champions who deservedly won on the day and Paris Saint-Germain have to be looking to secure a Last 16 place as soon as possible.

Wins over Galatasaray and then in the double header with Club Brugge over the next month will put Paris Saint-Germain through to the Last 16 and I do think they are capable of doing that.

Both away games will be difficult beginning with this trip to Istanbul, but Paris Saint-Germain have won 7 of their 12 away Champions League Group games and they have also won back to back away games in the competition overall at Crvena Zvezda and Manchester United.

Playing in Istanbul is rarely an easy task for any team in European Football and Galatasaray are unbeaten in 14 at home in all competitions. That has to be respected, but both Porto and Benfica won here in the Champions League and Europa League respectively last season and this Paris Saint-Germain team are stronger than those two even without Neymar and Edinson Cavani.

This won't always be easy for Paris Saint-Germain, but they have been defending well enough in recent away games to lay the foundation for success here. The chances created in Bordeaux is encouraging even if they have been lacking goals away from home and I think there is enough here to back Paris Saint-Germain to record a good looking win on the night and earn their third away win in a row in the Champions League.

Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb Pick: The layers are not going to be offering anything too short in terms of a margin of victory for Manchester City in this fixture and I am not surprised when you think of the amount of goals the English Champions have been scoring. It is very difficult to see how Dinamo Zagreb are going to keep it competitive against a team who have scored four or more goals in 3 of their last 4 home Champions League games.

The win over Atalanta will make Dinamo Zagreb believe, but that was at home and this is a club who have lost 12 away games in a row in the Champions League Group Stage. A lot of those defeats have been by wide margins and I think Manchester City have rested enough big name players to believe they are going to produce a very strong win in this one.

It is a big Asian Handicap though and it will need a three goal margin of victory to secure a full payout, but I would be surprised if Manchester City did not win by that margin. The defensive problems are a concern as one goal for the visitors would make it very difficult to see how Manchester City can cover the number, but I think Dinamo Zagreb will soon see this as a damage limitation exercise.

Fast starts have been common for Manchester City since the 3-2 defeat to Norwich City and they have scored within 25 minutes in each of the four wins since then. Another one would set them up for a big win on Tuesday and put Manchester City in a very strong position to Qualify and win this Group before the end of November.

I think Dinamo Zagreb will find their 4-0 win over Atalanta on Match Day 1 has not really prepared them for a test like this and Manchester City can win easily enough on the day.

Barcelona v Inter Milan Pick: It sounds like Barcelona will have some attacking players back in contention for a starting spot for the Match Day 2 game in the Champions League, although Lionel Messi is a doubt.

Both Barcelona and Inter Milan drew their opening Champions League games which has increased the importance of this one as they look to get going in a difficult looking Group. The Barcelona draw in Dortmund certainly looks more positive than the home draw Inter Milan had with Slavia Prague and I do think the Italian club are built for success domestically and perhaps not in the European competitions.

Inter Milan appointed Antonio Conte to break the Juventus domination of Serie A and the manager has had his best successes in domestic competitions. He has struggled for an impact in the Champions League and Inter Milan looked short of ideas in their home draw with Slavia Prague.

Now they have to face a Barcelona team that remain very strong at home and who have won 29 of 32 games at the Nou Camp in the Champions League. A Lionel Messi-less Barcelona beat Inter Milan 2-0 here last season and I think they can do the same on Wednesday on Match Day 2 of the Group Stage this time around too.

Barcelona have been scoring plenty of goals at home and they should be able to break down an Inter Milan team who do have questions to answer at the back. The Italian side will head to Spain with some confidence from their League form and they do have attacking players to make a difference, but Barcelona should be too strong on the day.

Backing the home team to cover the Asian Handicap is the selection.

Lille v Chelsea Pick: Both Lille and Chelsea were beaten on Match Day 1 of the Champions League which means this could be a vital game for both in their bids to get Qualification to the Last 16 back on track.

This should be a good match with both Lille and Chelsea capable of playing impressive attacking football while perhaps not looking as secure at the back as they would like.

Chelsea have conceded at least twice in every away game played under Frank Lampard and Lille have managed two or more goals in 7 of their last 8 home games going back to last season. All four played this season have seen Lille hit that mark so they will feel they can get hurt their visitors on Match Day 2.

On the other side Chelsea have scored eight goals in their last couple of away games and played well on their travels in the Europa League last season. The Blues have scored at least three goals in their last 2 away games at Norwich City and Wolves, and I do think they can challenge a Lille team who won't have faced too many teams of the quality of Chelsea on a regular basis.

Both teams will feel they can get on the scoreboard here and the importance of the three points should help encourage an attacking and expansive game. Backing at least three goals to be shared out is the call here.

Liverpool v Salzburg Pick: This has the makings of a really good Champions League game with the approach that both Liverpool and Salzburg will take to the game.

While many teams will head to Anfield and look to be tight and well organised defensively, Salzburg have shown in the last couple of years in the Europa League that they are willing to take chances with their attacking play. Last season they were beaten 3-0 in Naples in the Europa League Last 16, but Salzburg created plenty of good chances of their own and they must recognise that the Liverpool defence is not playing as well as it was last season.

The absence of Alisson does leave Liverpool a little vulnerable at the back, but attacking this team at Anfield can expose defences to the much vaunted front three who should all be starting for the home team. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah have the perfect blend of pace and creativity in the final third and I do expect they will be in a position to hurt Salzburg in this one too.

Liverpool have been very strong at Anfield and 10 of their last 11 here have ended with wins by two or more goals. They also have won 7 of their last 8 at home in the Champions League and I do think the defeat in Napoli on Match Day 1 will focus the players for a big performance here.

I would not be surprised if Salzburg score here, but I think their attacking intent will leave them open to the home team too. It could be an enjoyable game of football for the neutrals when two attacking teams take the field, but at the end of the fixture I would expect Liverpool have won by a good margin.

MY PICKS: Real Madrid - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Barcelona - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Lille-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September 2019/20: 13-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)
August 2019/20: 14-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

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