Getting a place in the group stage of the Champions League is not just about the prestige, but also about the money. That’s why each team will do their utmost to defeat the playoff opponents on Wednesday! The player quality might be the decisive factor in these games, while some teams will rely on the support of the fans. Who will win?
FCSB (Rou) vs. Sporting (Por)
Three-Way: 1: FCSB +340; X: +250 Draw; Sporting +104
Spread +0.5: FCSB +104; Sporting -104
Total +2: Over -132; Under +127
After 0:0 in Portugal, FC Steaua București welcomes Sporting at the largest stadium in Romania, the National Arena. The 55-thousand-seater is the place where FCSB is without a defeat since March! In fact, this team is known for being superb when playing on their turf. Last season in the Romanian Liga 1, Steaua lost only 2 games at home. Both of the defeats happened in 2016.
It’s similar when it comes to their home performances in the Champions League. Apart from the 5:0 disaster when they hosted Manchester City, FCSB did pretty well on their stadium. But, playing at home is not going to be their only advantage over Sporting. What really gives hope to their supporters is the recent form of their players.
FCSB is without a defeat this summer, winning 4 out of 7 league games in the new season. Their striker, Gnohéré is the top scorer in Liga 1 at the moment, with 4 goals in total. Apart from him, Steaua has a number of other top-class players, including the well-experienced Portuguese midfielder Filipe Teixeira, and a promising youngster, Dennis Man. Unfortunately, Steaua will be without two important players, Balasa and Pintilii, who are injured.
If you compare the players of these two clubs, Sporting CP needs to be considered the favorite. Still, they missed a chance to secure a Champions League spot last week, so a very difficult task awaits them on Wednesday.
The good news for Sporting CP fans is that their side has started playing very well, at least in the Portuguese Primeira. This Saturday, they thrashed Vitoria Guimaraes by 5:0 in an away match! The best thing is that all of their key players impressed in that game.
Bast Dost scored two times, as well as Bruno Fernandes, while Adrien Silva scored once and made one assist. All of them are expected to feature on Wednesday evening, as there are no injury worries in the Sporting CP squad.
What’s not giving their fans hope is the fact that Sporting CP has been terrible in away matches in the Champions League. In fact, they haven’t won an away game in this competition (counting both playoffs and group stage games) for nearly a decade!
FCSB (Rou) vs. Sporting (Por) – Match Prediction
Neither side can be considered a clear favorite in this game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if we saw the game going to the extra time. If betting on 0:0 seems too risky, perhaps putting your money on the draw is a better solution.
MY TIP: Draw (+250)
Liverpool (Eng) vs. Hoffenheim (Ger)
Three-Way: 1: Liverpool -137; X: +350 Draw; Hoffenheim +450
Spread -1: Liverpool +112; Hoffenheim -114
Total +3: Over -122; Under +112
The Reds have been in a pretty decent form recently, both in the Premier League and in the Champions League qualifiers. Actually, they played only one game in the CL playoffs so far – last week they beat Hoffenheim 2:1 in Germany.
What this means is that Liverpool has a huge advantage over Hoffenheim, who would need a massive victory on Wednesday evening. I’m pretty sure Liverpool will not allow that, especially not at the Anfield. Playing at home has always been a thrill for the Reds. For example, last season, Liverpool won 12 out of 19 home matches in the Premier League.
The things are not so impressive when it comes to their stats in the Champions League. In fact, even the massive support from their fans wasn’t enough to help Liverpool stay undefeated against Real Madrid the last time they played in this competition. It was in 2014, the same year when they played draw with Basel at home.
Three years have passed since and their squad has changed quite a lot. Nowadays, Liverpool’s crucial players are Mane, Firmino, Salah, and so on. The good news is that most of them will feature in the clash with Hoffenheim. The players who will probably miss this duel are Lallana, Coutinho, and Clyne.
On top of that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Klopp decided to rest a couple of players, given the fact that they have a tough fixture list ahead. After the match with Hoffenheim, Liverpool will take on Arsenal and Manchester City.
Same as their opponent, Hoffenheim also has a few very tough matches ahead. After the playoff duel with Liverpool, they will play against Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, and Hertha. This means that their thoughts are probably already focused on those games.
Still, you shouldn’t think that Hoffenheim won’t try to make a surprise on Wednesday. They have good players, who know how to play big matches. On top of everything, they will be extremely motivated. The stake is high – playing in the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history!
Speaking of motivation, you can expect Andrej Kramaric to give his best in this match. After all, he missed the penalty in the first leg. The same goes for Havard Nordtveit, who scored an own goal in that game.
Luckily for Hoffenheim, they have only one injured player in their team – Florian Grillitsch. But, even his injury is almost gone, so if needed, he might come in as a substitute.
Liverpool (Eng) vs. Hoffenheim (Ger) – Match Prediction
This is surely going to be an entertaining match, as the visitors need to go for a win from the very start. On the other hand, Liverpool will want to provide their supporters with a nice performance. All considered, I would go for a home win and hopefully we’ll see plenty of goals on both ends.
MY PICK: Liverpool to win (-137)
Slavia Prague (Cze) vs. APOEL (Cyp)
Three-Way: 1: Slavia Prague -145; X: +315 Draw; APOEL +550
Spread -1: Slavia Prague +112; APOEL -120
Total +2.5: Over +112; Under -118
In the first duel with APOEL, Slavia allowed two early goals that ruined their plans completely. They did play well, especially in the second half, but APOEL managed to keep a clean sheet. The Czech side will have to do much better in the attack if they want to advance to the group stage of the Champions League.
It seems that they do have a team that’s capable of doing that. Slavia has a number of very talented players, unfortunately, none of them seems to be in a good form. This is especially true for their attackers. Slavia has scored only 3 goals in the previous 5 matches.
Another bad news for Slavia is that they will be without a few important players in this game. Bilek and Deli are out for sure, while Danny is struggling with match fitness. The thing that gives them confidence that they can make a good result is that they’re playing on home turf, where they’re without a defeat since April.
APOEL did great in the first 10 minutes of the last week’s game with Slavia. They scored two goals, after which they decided to protect their net with all they got. That decision proved to be the right choice, as they’re now just a step away from booking a place in the Champions League. All they need to do is defend ferociously for another hour and a half!
That should not be too difficult for this team. They have a superb defense, something which they’ve proved already in Champions League matches. APOEL managed to keep a clean sheet in 7 out of previous 11 CL games!
Although APOEL still hasn’t played a single game in the 2017/2018 season of 1. Division, all of their players seem to be very much in-form. This team travels to Chechia without any major injury worries. Actually, only one player is sidelined – Nicolas Ioannou. But, even if he was match fit, he probably wouldn’t feature in the first 11.
Slavia Prague (Cze) vs. APOEL (Cyp) – Match Prediction
APOEL came to Prague to defend their net for the entire game. But, will they be able to keep the sheet clean remains the question. Still, one thing is certain – they won’t allow too many goals! Even if they defenders don’t put on a superb performance, it seems that Slavia’s attackers won’t be able to take an advantage of that.
MY PICK: Under 2.5 goals (-118)
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