The football season is in full flow, and there's a European midweek feast to get stuck into
Champions League Qualifiers
20 teams remain in the Champions League qualifiers, with just 10 spots in the group stages and a whopping great big cheque up for grabs. There’s plenty of UK and Irish interest as well, with Manchester City, Celtic, and Dundalk (!) all in European action and a couple of real meaty contests as Roma travel to Porto and Villarreal go at it against Monaco.
To celebrate the midweek action, and take advantage of Paddy Power’s Acca Insurance offer (Money back as a free bet if one leg of your five-fold or more lets you down) we’ve pieced together a tempting looking punt which returns more than £475 off a tenner.
Ajax v FK Rostov, Tuesday 7.45pm, BT Sport Extra
Ajax haven’t lost a competitive game at home since going down 2-1 to Dutch rivals PSV in October 2015 and they can put one foot in the Champions League group stages with victory over Rostov at 4/6. They are actually unbeaten in competitive games in 2016, winning 14 and drawing seven, and 18-year-old striker Kasper Dolberg comes into the game on the back of three goals in four matches since stepping up with the senior team. Russian side Rostov were 2-0 up away to Zenit St Petersburg at half-time at the weekend, but a second half collapse saw them lose 3-2 and any similar lapses in concentration will be punished in the Amsterdam Arena.
- Ajax to win:
Steaua Bucharest v Man City, Tuesday 7.45pm, BT Sport 2
Pep Guardiola is more used to winning Champions League titles than having to qualify for the group stages, but that is the task that awaits his Manchester City team this season. But it doesn’t look like it’ll all be plain sailing for City, who are still getting used to life under Pep’s regime. They dominated Saturday’s clash at home to Sunderland, but it took a fortunate late own goal to swing the tie in City’s favour. Steaua Bucharest haven’t lost a competitive match at home since Astra scored a 90th minute winner against them in the Romanian league. Bucharest have actually only lost one of their last 22 competitive games, and while the Romanian league is clearly much weaker than the Premier League they still have the tools to frustrate City. Bucharest have lost just two of their nine European home games against English sides and they can pinch a draw on home soil.
- Steaua Bucharest and Manchester City to draw:
Celtic v Hapoel Beer Sheva, Wednesday 7.45pm
Celtic suffered a minor European scare when they lost 1-0 to Lincoln Red Imps in July – but they bagged three goals in six minutes to kill the tie in Celtic Park before going on to beat Astana. The Hoops can boast a mighty Champions League record on home soil, having won 13 of the last 17 matches at Celtic Park with their only defeats coming against European giants Juventus, Barcelona, AC Milan and eh… Maribor. Israeli side Hapoel Beer Sheva will have raised a few eyebrows when they beat Olympiakos in the third qualifying round but in both qualifying rounds so far they’ve drawn the two away ties 0-0. Brendan Rodgers’ side have won both their previous clashes with Israeli opposition at home and they can oblige again at odds-on.
- Celtic to win:
Dundalk v Legia Warsaw, Wednesday 7.45pm
Dundalk are just 180 minutes away from history as they aim to become the first Irish team to reach the Champions League group stages, but Polish side Legia Warsaw are good value to spoil the party in the Aviva Stadium. It took a minor miracle for Dundalk to beat BATE Borisov in the third qualifying round, but Stephen Kenny’s side have followed up their heroics with away league defeats to Galway and Bray Wanderers – two sides in the bottom half of the table. It’s hardly great preparation for this tie against a Legia Warsaw side that beat Saint Pat’s 6-1 on aggregate in the second qualifying round two years ago. The Polish side are hardly boasting great from coming into the game (winning just one of their last five in the league) but they should have enough to dent Dundalk’s dream.
- Legia Warsaw to win:
Villarreal v Monaco, Wednesday 7.45pm
Villarreal made the semi-finals of the Europa League last season, and now The Yellow Submarine have the chance to reach the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2011/12. While they are yet to meet Monaco in a competitive game, Villarreal’s record against French sides reads won two, drawn two, lost none – while in stark comparison Monaco’s record away to Spanish sides reads won one, drawn one, lost seven. Leonardo Jardim has guided Monaco to back-to-back third place finishes in France, but started the season in dramatic fashion having to fight back from 2-0 down to draw with Guingamp who only narrowly avoided relegation last season. Villarreal lost just three La Liga games at home last season – beating Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid as well as drawing 2-2 with Barcelona – and can round off our accumulator in style.
- Villarreal to win: