Across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights this week, we will see Matchday 5 in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League contested and of the nine British teams still in action in both these tournaments, all have something to play for, whether that is a place in the next round of the competition, or trying to secure top spot in their respective group.
Part of the incentive for the teams battling it out this week in European competition is that the right result tonight could see them qualify for the next stage of the competition and that would allow them to then rest key players on Matchday 6, just before the teams then enter the massively hectic Christmas period of games when there will be a lot of games played, often with as little as 48-72 hours between matches.
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Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk (Tuesday, 8pm)
Last season, Manchester City slammed six without reply against tonight’s opponents at the same stage of the competition and after a 3-0 win in the Ukraine in their first game in the group, I would expect this to be a very comfortable evening for City and their fans. Donetsk are a decent side, but not in City’s league and after a key win over Chelsea at the weekend in the EPL, and Bernardo Silva back from his domestic ban, I think City could secure another comfortable win here. A 4-0 win for City is a 9/1 shot at bet365 and I think that is a decent bet.
Tottenham v Olympiakos (Tuesday 8pm)
After a poor start in the group, including a 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich, Tottenham now just need a win over Olympiakos to ensure their place in the Round of 16. New boss Jose Mourinho probably won’t get a better chance to make an immediate impact against an Olympiakos side that are not the best travellers in Europe. Spurs put Red Star Belgrade to the sword emphatically in their last two games in Europe and I expect a similar result to those games here. Back Tottenham to win 3-0 at 7/1 with bet365.
Valencia v Chelsea (Wednesday 5.55pm)
Things are very tight in Group H with Ajax, Valencia and Chelsea all on 7 points heading into the last two games. Valencia have the toughest task, facing Chelsea then Ajax but this is a crucial game. A win for Valencia qualifies them (as they’d have a better record than Chelsea), a win for Chelsea qualifies them (as they have a better record over Ajax). A draw is a better result for Chelsea and would mean everything still to play for in the final games in the group. This will be close and I think the draw at 13/5 is the best option.
Liverpool v Napoli (Wednesday 8pm)
After losing in Naples on the opening round of action, Liverpool have won all of their next three games to sit atop of their group and a win at Anfield on Wednesday would confirm Liverpool as the group winners and also earn them a place in the last 16. Anything less and Napoli would be favourites to win the group and Liverpool could face a very tricky tie with Salzburg on the final matchday. With the Reds having a massively hectic schedule over Christmas, where they will play two games in two days, I expect the Reds to work hard to get the job done at home on Wednesday. Back Liverpool to win this one 2-1 at odds of 7/1.
FC Astana v Manchester United (Thursday 3.50pm)
Astana have lost their last two games in this competition 5-0 and 6-0 to AZ67 Alkmaar and I expect Manchester United to inflict more misery, despite their long trip to Kazakhstan. Astana made life tough for United at Old Trafford, but I think the visitors will win this one more easily. Back United to win 2-0 at 7/1 with bet365.
Braga v Wolves (Thursday 5.55pm)
Braga earned a good win at Wolves on the opening round of games and have yet to be beaten in the group to sit atop the group, a point ahead of Wolves who bounced back from that loss to win their next three games. I feel these two teams are very well matched and much like the first game, this could well be a very close match. Wolves have drawn a lot of games this season and I feel the 2/1 on them doing so here is a solid option.
Feyenoord v Rangers (Thursday 5.55pm)
Rangers have picked up a very useful point away to FC Porto in this group and if they can do the same at Feyenoord, they will feel they have a great chance of reaching the next round. This is a tough ask against a club managed by former Rangers and Netherlands boss Dick Advocaat but I think Steven Gerrard’s side are growing into their campaign this season. Back Rangers to pick up a draw here at 23/10.
Arsenal v Eintracht Frankfurt (Thursday 8pm)
Arsenal have not won in several games in the Premier League, but they have been in better form in Europe and they will want that to continue here against a Frankfurt team who badly need a win here to improve their chances of reaching the Round of 16. This will be a battle and I think Arsenal will just edge it, but I am also confident both teams will score and that is a 9/4 option with bet365.
Celtic v Rennes (Thursday 8pm)
Having already earned a place in the next round, the pressure is off Celtic in their group after two brilliant wins over Lazio. Rennes have yet to win in the competition this season but they are better than their lowly points total suggests. Celtic won’t have everything their own way at Celtic Park, but I still feel they win this game. Back Celtic to win and both teams to score at 21/10.