By, Brent Booher
The second round of group stage play continues today in the Champions League, with several tantalizing matchups to pick from, including the headline match of the day between Barcelona and a Ronaldo-less Juventus squad.
Eight matches in all are on today’s schedule, here are the Best Bets we have found from the Wednesday slate.
Basaksehir FK vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Turkish club Basaksehir FK welcomes the 2020 Champions League runners up Paris Saint-Germain to the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium for the second group match for both sides.
PSG seems to be back to their standard form, at least in league play, as they have rattled off six straight wins in Ligue 1 after starting the season with a pair of losses to freshly promoted Lens and Marseille. During their winning streak, Les Parisiens have tallied 20 goals while conceding only a single goal.
Paris Saint-Germain enters today’s UCL match not necessarily in “must-win” mode, but a 2-1 loss to Manchester United leaves the Parisiens with a small margin of error going forward, particularly in a group that is dangerous with the aforementioned Manchester United and Bundesliga heavyweight RB Leipzig also a part of it.
Despite the loss to Manchester United in the opening Champions League match, there were quite a bit of positives to carry forward from that match for PSG. PSG led the match in ball possession (61%), created five shots on goal, and had 11 corner kicks. They very easily could have left Old Trafford with a draw or outright win, but just could not get a timely goal when they needed it. The lone goal of the match for PSG was an own goal scored by Anthony Martial, but the chances were there for more.
Meanwhile the Parisiens opponent today will be facing PSG for the first time in its club’s history, and it is about the worst conceivable time for Basaksehir to face a potent squad like Paris Saint-Germain, as the defending Turkish Super Lig champions are in particularly poor form at the moment, falling 2-0 in their opening UCL match against Leipzig and sputtering in league play where they are currently 11th in the table.
In today’s contest, Basaksehir will have their hands full with four key injuries (Caicara, Sengezer, Chadli, and Ucar are all injured and will not play today), leaving them precariously bare with goalscoring creators.
It’s unlikely that Basaksehir claims more than a few points in this loaded group, and it’s even more unlikely that they can get a point out of today’s match. Look for a focused Paris Saint-Germain team to dominate from the opening kick and cruise to their first victory in the group stages.
Prediction: Basaksehir 0, Paris Saint-Germain 3
Best Bet: Paris Saint-Germain -1.5 (-155)
If You’re Feeling Spicy: Paris Saint-Germain to win 3-0 (+700)
Manchester United vs. RB Leipzig
In the second of two matches from Group H, Manchester United plays host to the current Bundesliga leaders, RB Leipzig, from Old Trafford.
Both teams come into their second group play match with wins in their first match, with United defeating Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 and Leipzig posting a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Basaksehir last week.
Manchester United enters today’s match showing modest signs of improvement following a very shaky beginning to the 2020/21 season in which the Red Devils began the Premier League season getting outscored by a combined total of 9-2 by Crystal Palace and Tottenham, and they currently find themselves at 15th in the Premier League table.
United is notorious for beginning the season slowly and gradually improving as the year goes on, so Ole Gunnar Solskjær hopes the improvement is coming sooner than later.
Manchester United, no matter what their form may be, does have some of the best players in the entire group, it’s just a matter of putting it all together in key moments, something that has evaded Solskjær during his entire tenure. Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Paul Pogba all figure to play key roles in today’s match against a very dangerous Leipzig side, with Edinson Cavani likely to see the pitch at some point as well.
Meanwhile on the other side, unlike Manchester United, Leipzig has begun the new season in phenomenal form, as they have a current seven-match unbeaten streak with six wins in those seven contests. Leipzig is currently atop the Bundesliga table with 14 points, and they remain undefeated in league play as well.
Leipzig had a solid 2-0 opening victory in group stages last week against Basaksehir, but it was far from the form they are capable of showing, as the German side almost seemed content to let the early two-goal lead ride throughout a match in which they were never really threatened.
That likely will not be the case this afternoon, as Manchester United on talent alone will give Leipzig a much better match, and subsequently, we should anticipate Leipzig’s motivation levels for this match to be a little bigger while playing at Old Trafford for the first time in club history.
While Ole’s squad showed a lot of good signs of improvement in Saturday’s 0-0 draw that looked like it was played in a monsoon, there are still a lot of reasons for concern when backing the Red Devils. Leipzig has been in superb form ever since the new season began, and we’re going to back them here to get another 3 points at Old Trafford.
Prediction: Manchester United 1, RB Leipzig 2
Best Bets: RB Leipzig ML (+230); Over 2.5 Goals (-142)
If You’re Feeling Spicy: RB Leipzig ML and Both Teams to Score Parlay (+440)
Juventus vs. FC Barcelona
In the marquee match of the day, Juventus plays host to Leo Messi and Barca from Allianz Stadium in Turin.
Unfortunately for footy fans, Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be sidelined as he currently is positive for COVID-19, otherwise we could have had one more Ronaldo vs. Messi moment to take in as each player’s career enters the final stages of their career.
Juventus enters today’s match on an eight-game unbeaten streak, including three draws in their last five matches. The biggest issue concerning Juvy at the moment is their depth, as they are currently dealing not only with the loss of Ronaldo, but also Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro, Giorgio Chiellini, and Leonardo Bonucci leaving the Juventus defense in very dire straits and dangerously thin, particularly when they’re about to face a Barca side that’s still heavy on talent.
Juventus is coming off a 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in their first group play match, but Barcelona is a much different animal they will have to deal with later today.
Meanwhile, after a horrific ending to the 2020 Champions League and subsequent summer with the saga of Leo Messi’s contract, Barcelona finds itself playing in mostly solid form, though they did fall 3-1 to bitter rival Real Madrid last weekend in the latest installment of ‘El Clasico’.
Barcelona won their first match of group play 5-1 over Hungarian side Ferencvaros, and due to the current state of Juventus’ defense, figure to have another wonderful opportunity to take one step closer to the knockout stages.
To add to the good news for Barca, the much-maligned board of directors and President both resigned after how everything transpired this offseason in regards to Leo Messi, so perhaps this good news can provide a lift to the team with that black cloud that was hanging above them since losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich finally passing by.
It’s rare to find a situation in which a side like Barcelona has this much value in a single betting match, but that’s what we have here. While Juventus has played admirably in the wake of the many big losses to their back end, this could be the time where they’re stretched a little too thin.
If Juventus were at full strength for this match, we would favor the home side. Considering how many injuries Juventus is dealing with, in addition to not having Ronaldo available as he continues to recover from COVID-19, and we’ll take Barcelona to score a road win. We also fancy both teams to score in this contest.
Prediction: Juventus 1, Barcelona 3
Best Bet: Barcelona ML (+145)
If You’re Feeling Spicy: Barcelona to Win & BTTS (+310)