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The best bets for APOEL, Dinamo Zagreb and Crvena Zvezda

APOEL 2.40 v Rosenborg 3.30; The Draw 3.50
Tuesday, 18:00

Rosenborg were 24 minutes from completing the perfect home first-leg performance last week, leading 2-0, only to concede an away goal that threatens to be costly.
They have lost four straight Champions League qualifiers on their travels, while APOEL showed in the last round that they only need one hot half to progress, offering nothing for the first 143 minutes of the double header before firing three times in the space of 37 minutes to crush The New Saints.
The best punting option might be to oppose both teams to score though as this has paid out in ten of APOEL's past 13 contests as hosts in the competition, including five of the latest six, and four of Rosenborg's last six overseas in it.
Recommended Bet: Back both teams to score? No @ 2.04


Dinamo Tbilisi 3.70 v Dinamo Zagreb 2.20; The Draw 3.60
Tuesday, 18:00
Live on Betfair Live Video

Dinamo Zagreb have a pretty snug cushion at the halfway point of this third qualifying round tie thanks to first-half goals by El Arabi Hilal Soudani and Ante Coric in the Croatian capital, but in all likelihood they didn't even need such a strong result to set them on course for the play-off round.
Zlatko Kranjcar's men are exceptional away performers, going 12 qualifiers abroad without suffering a defeat, a sequence which now spans a few weeks shy of five years. Ten of the most recent 11 were victories, seven of those were achieved to nil and they scored two or more in eight of the last nine.
Dinamo Tbilisi have lost two of their previous three Champions League home games without netting, being shut out in four of their past seven over a wider period, so the stage is set for the Zagreb's finest to triumph again, quite possibly without leaking.
Recommended Bet: Back Dinamo Zagreb to win @ 2.20


Crvena Zvezda 2.42 v Ludogorets 3.30; The Draw 3.50
Tuesday, 19:30
Live on Betfair Live Video

This clash is wide open after a 2-2 first leg in Bulgaria during which Ludogorets broke the deadlock, found themselves behind and salvaged a draw. This column won't guess which side is going through, as the standout wager instead appears to be over 2.5 goals at 1.95.
This bet paid out with 34 minutes to spare last week and was a winner in all five of Crvena Zvezda's 2015/16 fixtures to date, with the latest three clearing 3.5 goals for good measure. Their final four matches last season served up a combined 17 strikes, demonstrating the sustainability of such form.
As for Ludogorets, there have been three or more goals bagged in six of their past eight Champions League encounters.

Recommended Bet: Back over 2.5 goals @ 1.95



Europa League Tips tonight

Hertha Berlin 1.51 v Brondby 8.40; The Draw 4.50
Thursday, 19:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

Germany's premier capital club went from looking almost certain to claim a Champions League spot in late March, sitting third, six points clear of Borussia Monchengladbach in fifth with seven Bundesliga fixtures to play, to being grateful to cling on for a Europa League berth in seventh after earning only two points from a possible 21.
Whether they are over that isn't yet apparent, though Brondby's five past failures to reach the Europa League group stage coupled with near-elimination at home to Hibernian last week, getting by on penalties, will leave Hertha confident of progress.
They are a short price for victory, so consider selecting under 2.5 goals at 1.83. It paid out in six of their past eight continental contests, as well as both legs of Brondby's tie with Hibs, which delivered a mere two in total.
Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ 1.83


Away in Europe last season, West Ham beat Andorra’s Lusitanos 1-0 and were felled 1-0 by Malta’s Birkirkara before exiting with a 2-1 loss to Romania’s Astra Giurgiu."
Recommended Bet: Lay West Ham to win at Domzale @ 1.61
Domzale 6.80 v West Ham 1.60; The Draw 4.30
Thursday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2

West Ham are strong favourites to win the away leg of their double header with the side who finished third in the Slovenian PrvaLiga, but there are several reasons to suspect that they are worth the lay at 1.61.
The first is their unconvincing travelling displays in last season's competition despite entering two rounds earlier and therefore theoretically facing less taxing teams. They beat Andorra's Lusitanos 1-0 and were felled 1-0 by Malta's Birkirkara before exiting with a 2-1 loss to Romania's Astra Giurgiu.
Domzale should be more prepared for the task at hand than their guests after blasting through two rounds, prevailing in both home encounters, and playing two league games. The Irons by contrast have won just one of their five friendlies, being turned over 3-0 in two of those.
Recommended Bet: Lay West Ham to win @ 1.61

St Etienne 1.72 v AEK Athens 6.00; The Draw 3.90
Thursday, 20:00
Live on Betfair Live Video

Whereas the two showdowns above pit a club already up and running against fresh entrants, both of these clubs are kicking off their campaigns with this third qualifying round clash.
St Etienne were granted their participation for taking sixth place in Ligue 1 and AEK Athens for coming third and lifting the cup on their return to Greece's top tier.
The hosts appear to be deserving frontrunners at 1.72. Their tally of ten Ligue 1 triumphs in front of their fans was bettered by only four rivals, while they won three and drew the others of their most recent five Europa League matches in France.
AEK Athens on the other hand have lost a substantial eight of their last 12 European road trips.

Recommended Bet: Back St Etienne to win @ 1.72




Celtic have lost seven of their last 11 Champions League road trips

FC Astana 2.46 v Celtic 3.50; The Draw 3.20
Wednesday, 15:00
Live on Premier Sports

Brendan Rodgers did a good job of summing up the challenge confronting Celtic in Kazakhstan, quipping that: "It's a six-hour flight, five-hour time difference, 35C+, a plastic pitch with no water, but apart from that..."
FC Astana are unbeaten in 15 home games, winning 12 of their latest 13, and it isn't just in domestic competition that they dominate. Their six Champions League fixtures in front of their fans last term delivered victories over Maribor, HJK, APOEL and draws with Galatasaray, Benfica and finalists Atletico Madrid and not a single defeat.
Celtic have lost seven of their last 11 Champions League road trips, with the first reverse in that sequence occurring 2-0 against inferior Kazakhstani opposition in Shakhter Karagandy and the most recent being inflicted by Gibraltarian adversaries in Lincoln Red Imps.
Recommended Bet: Back FC Astana to win @ 2.46

Astra Giurgiu 3.40 v FC Copenhagen 2.42; The Draw 3.35
Wednesday, 18:30

This is a clash between Champions League debutants and veterans of this qualifying process, with the latter fancied to put their experience to good use, even though it has only seen them through to the group stage once in their past four attempts.
A better option than investing in the outcome is betting on a high-scoring contest, especially with the odds on over 2.5 goals as appetising as 2.58.
Astra Giurgiu's final four Europa League matches last summer against West Ham and AZ Alkmaar served up 14 strikes, with three of those breezing past the 2.5 barrier. The opening encounter of their domestic title defence at the weekend produced five as they fell 4-1 to Dinamo Bucharest.
As for FC Copenhagen, they fired nine times past Northern Ireland's Crusaders in the last round, with their previous double header in the competition against Bayer Leverkusen delivering the same number of goals. Their last five league outings also shot past 2.5, usually by a distance.
Recommended Bet: Back over 2.5 goals @ 2.58

Fenerbahce 2.88 v Monaco 2.88; The Draw 3.25
Wednesday, 19:30

Punters may struggle to pick a winner from a showdown which, at the time of writing, has co-favourites, but there is an interesting trend indicating that the advantage is with Monaco.
Fenerbahce haven't scored a single goal in their last four Champions League assignments and, proving that it wasn't a result of facing vastly superior sides, each of those blanks was incurred in the qualifiers, with Arsenal shutting them out twice in 2013 and Shakhtar doing likewise last year.
Monaco have won three of their previous five away days in the tournament, with the Gunners one of their victims, yet even more surprising is the fact that they have conceded less than a goal per game on average across their past ten on their Champions League travels.

Recommended Bet: Back Monaco to win @ 2.88



Champions league third round qualifying tonight

3: Olympiakos v Hapoel Beer Sheva (Over 2.5 goals) @ 1.70 (7/10)
To Europe's elite club competition now for our final two selections and I think we could be in for a few goals when Olympiakos take on Hapoel Beer Sheva.

The Greeks are an experienced side at this level and they should cruise through this tie. I expect them to put the Israelites to the sword and rack up a few goals in the process.

Olympiakos are typically big scorers in front of their own fans and they have played a number of recent friendlies to get back into the groove ahead of the new campaign.

I wouldn't rule out Hapoel Beer Sheva from netting themselves though as they are used to winning and therefore have that winning mentality.

Obviously nearly all of those matches were played at a lower level than this, but their first leg in the last round saw the ball in the net five times as they won 3-2, so it's not like they adopt a defensive strategy early on.

Bet 4: Fenerbahce v Monaco (Under 2.5 goals) @ 1.53 (8/15)

To a slightly more glamorous Champions League fixture now as Turkey take on France in the shape of Fenerbahce against Monaco.

Neither of these two clubs will have wanted to draw each other at this stage of the competition but unfortunately for them they have done and they now need to be on the top of their game to have a chance of progressing through to the final qualifying round.

I expect a lengthy feeling out process early on with Monaco being very cautious given the fact that they are away from home and have a few injuries to contend with.

Fenerbahce have strengthened their defence over the summer with the likes of Martin Skrtel signed from Liverpool for instance, so I wouldn't be overly concerned with them in that respect.

Keeping a clean sheet will be important for them as they won't want Monaco grabbing a potentially crucial away goal, so if they do go 1-0 up, I wouldn't imagine that they will be gung-ho in trying to kill off the tie.


Champions League second qualifying tonight

Lincoln Red Imps 21.00 v Celtic 1.18; The Draw 9.20
Tuesday, 19:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Brendan Rodgers might be new to Parkhead and to the Champions League qualifying process, but the squad that he has inherited are absolute veterans, with this their fifth straight exploration of the preliminaries and the fourth year in a row that they have kicked off their campaign in the second round.
Their three previous entries at this stage all saw them get underway with a win to nil regardless of the opponents or the venue, prevailing 3-0 at Cliftonville in 2013/14, 1-0 at KR Reykjavik in 2014/15 and 2-0 at home to Stjarnan last term.
Gibraltarian hosts Lincoln Red Imps have scored three times in four prior Champions League outings in front of their fans, with two of those goals coming from the penalty spot. They have fired two blanks in three, while three of the aforementioned four contests featured two strikes exactly.
Recommended Bets: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30


The New Saints 6.40 v APOEL 1.67; The Draw 4.00
Tuesday, 19:00
Live on S4C

The New Saints' reward for dismissing San Marino's title holders Tre Penne home and away in the first qualifying round is a double header with APOEL. The Cypriot side were surprise quarter-finalists in 2011/12, yet haven't been beyond the group stage in their three participations since.
However, they haven't failed to get through the second qualifying round in the past decade, keeping clean sheets on their travels on two of their last three clashes at this phase of the competition. The Welsh champions have fallen at this juncture in four successive seasons and in three of those they were shut out as hosts.
Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30

Rosenborg 1.65 v Norrkoping 5.80; The Draw 4.30
Wednesday, 18:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

Sweden are higher than Norway in UEFA's coefficient rankings, but Rosenborg appear the more likely victors of this all-Scandinavian collision.
Whereas Norrkoping last sampled the European Cup in the early 1960s and haven't played in Europe since 2000, the Norwegian club haven't sat out a season for a decade, clearing at least one round of whichever competition they landed in first for eight consecutive years.
Rosenborg's final four continental home fixtures in 2015/16 each served up two goals or fewer, as have three of Norrkoping's last four Swedish league assignments.

Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30



Cruzeiro v Atletico PR : Hurricane to blow through Cruzeiro

Cruzeiro v Atletico PR

Cruzeiro have conceded at least once in each of their first six home games of the Campeonato season.

Tuesday 00:00

HJK Helsinki 2 PS Kemi 0 in yesterday. Not quite the big Finnish Kev was looking for, but he remains in black for the year. 
Our quest to get back in the black begins in Brazil. Cruzeiro have conceded at least once in each of their first six home games of the Campeonato season. The Mineirao faithful have at least seen the Black Beast score twice themselves on each of their most recent two appearances there.
Visiting tonight, Atletico PR have struck twice in 2/3 away games just recently, while failing to keep a single clean sheet themselves in any of the campaign's first six road assignments.
With attacks looking potent and defences unstable, we like the odds-against price on both teams to hit the back of the net at least once this evening.


Recommended Bet
Back Both Teams to Score @ 2.06 in Cruzeiro v Atletico PR


Portugal need to do something

Nobody understands the pressure that France are under in the Euro 2016 final better than two of their opponents on Sunday, Ricardo Carvalho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The pair started for Portugal at Euro 2004 when they were the last host nation to participate in the final of a World Cup or European Championship. They would also become the first side to lose the final of one of those tournaments on home soil since Sweden at World Cup 1958, being beaten 1-0 by Greece.
Twelve years might not seem like that long to wait for a second chance, especially for a country who had never ventured that far in a competition before that summer, but there have been several near misses since, most notably runs to the semi-finals of World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012.
So now that they are back in the position that they assumed in 2004, one match away from glory, are they going to be able to atone for their error? A 13-match undefeated streak in competitive games since hiring expert international boss Fernando Santos and odds of 2.98 to lift the trophy say yes.
However, the historical precedents suggest that it is far more likely that France succeed where Portugal failed earlier this century and triumph in front of their fans at 1.50.
Four other European nations have fallen short in their first ever World Cup or European Championship final and later been granted a second shot at silverware. None of them took it.
Czechoslovakia followed up their 2-1 extra-time reverse to Italy at World Cup 1934 with a 3-1 loss to Brazil in Chile the next time that they reached a final at World Cup 1962.
Admittedly, there was a fairly hefty gap between those appearances, with them being represented by an entirely different generation of players in the second showdown, but the three other examples all involved countries progressing to two finals in the space of 16 years, as Portugal have done.
Hungary also had first challenge thwarted by Italy at World Cup 1938, with West Germany taking responsibility for ruining their rematch at World Cup 1954, edging past them 3-2 despite Ferenc Puskas and co racing into a 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes.
Yugoslavia were denied twice in the space of around eight years in the 1960s, and both times at the Euros rather than the World Cup, whereas all the other instances occurred at the latter. They were seen off in extra time in the first ever final against the Soviet Union in 1960 and then beaten in a replay by Italy in 1968.
The most famous runners-up of all time were perhaps the Netherlands side of the 1970s, who surrendered an advantage against rivals West Germany at World Cup 1974 and were then outperformed in extra time by Argentina four years later.

So Portugal are confronted with a zero-from-four strike rate when it comes to European teams seizing their second opportunity at tournament victory, though they will pinch consolation from being the first ones in this position in 38 years, perhaps creating distance between them and the past double failures.


Germany v France : Germany have problems in defence, France have a full squad

Germany v France
Thursday 7th Jul, 20:00
Live on BBC1


Introduction

France have a full squad to pick from. Coach Didier Deschamps has two major selection decisions to make: whether to recall Adil Rami in place of Samuel Umtiti after the Sevilla centre-back missed France's 5-2 quarter-final win over Iceland through suspension, and whether to recall N'Golo Kante (also suspended against Iceland) in midfield. A linked and even more important question is how will France set-up: in a 4-3-3 formation that would give their unconvincing defence greater protection, or in the 4-2-3-1 formation that has seen them score seven times in their last 135 minutes, and brought out the best in four-goal tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann?
Germany have problems in defence, midfield and attack as Mats Hummels (suspended), Sami Khedira (injured) and Mario Gomez (injured) are all ruled out. Bastian Schweinsteiger is an injury doubt. The spine of the side is clearly weaker without those three and possibly four players. After using a three-man defence in the quarter-final against Italy (1-1, penalty shoot-out win) Germany are expected to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation.


Under/Over 2.5 Goals
Unders 1.62, Overs 2.58

They say semi-finals are often cagey affairs but the stats don't actually stack up that way: eight of 16 (50%) European Championship semi-finals since 1984 have featured Over 2.5 Goals. On that basis the real odds on this game featuring three goals or more should be evens.
Most factors ahead of this game point towards a high-scoring encounter. France are the highest-scoring side (11 goals) in the finals and have netted seven goals in two knock-out games. Their defence looks vulnerable as there are ongoing concerns over the quality of their centre-back partnership and Patrice Evra.
Germany also have defensive worries, with Hummels and Khedira ruled out. In the circumstances Overs, as underdog, looks the better bet.

Both Teams to Score
Yes 2.16, No 1.86

'Yes' in this market is the best bet on the game. France are the tournament's top scorers (11 goals), have scored seven times in their last two outings and the only game where they failed to score (0-0 v Switzerland) didn't really matter as they needed only a point to top the group. Throughout the tournament it has been obvious France's attack is better than their defence so they are likely to play on the front foot here. The absence of Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira in the Germany ranks merely increases France's chances of finding the net.
Germany will draw confidence about their own chances of scoring from the fact that France's defence looks so vulnerable. Even without being prolific so far (seven goals in five matches) Germany will believe they can find the net against a France side with an uncertain centre-back pairing and where Evra has looked like the weak link in defence in every single France match.

Recommended Bet


Both Teams to Score @ 2.16