With the first hurdle of the Champions League round one cleared by the teams vying for qualification, it only gets tougher from here, as they will face newer and comparatively better teams than before, who will be equally motivated to move towards the next stage.
Qarabag will welcome the Georgian club Samtredia, while Salzburg will be visiting Hibernians in Malta. On the other side, the Serbian club Partizan will be entertaining Montenegro based club Buducnost, while TNS from Wales will be travel to Croatia and go face-to-face with Rijeka. All matchups promise a lot of entertainment and we surely are going to see a lot of action due to the prize in stake.
QARABAG (AZE) vs. SAMTREDIA (GEO)
Three-way: 1: Qarabag -345; X: +509 Draw; 2: Samtredia +1520
Spread -1.5: Qarabag -106; Samtredia +110
Total +2.5: Over -105; Under -105
Qarabag will go into this match on the back of a very good league season. They won the league with a massive 10 points gap over the second placed team. They had the best defense in the league, conceding just 14 goals, while scoring 46 at the same time.
They have conducted some shrewd business in the transfer, by bringing in some experienced players, like defender Jakub Rzezniczak from Legia Warsawa and goalkeeper Anton Kanibolotsky from Shakhtar Donetsk, both on free transfers, while also bringing back four players who were loaned out.
Prior to this Champions League game, Quarabag has ščaed 4 club friendlies and lost all four games (3away and 1home) scoring only 3 and allowing 13 goals.
Like their opponents, Samtredia had a very good campaign in the domestic league as they put in a very good string of performances to finish 1st by seven points. They had the best defense, with just 9 goals conceded in 12 matches, while scoring a massive 27 in the same number of matches.
The club has strengthened various positions by bringing in different players across all positions. They have signed left back Bacar Balde, along with local players Ilia Sturua and Nikoloz Sabanadze.
Samtredia has not played any club friendlies going into the Champions League matchup with Quarabag. Their last official game was back on June 20th, when they defeated Dila Gori with 3:2 in the domestic league.
Qarabag (Aze) vs. Samtredia (Geo) – Match Prediction:
Even though both the teams have been in decent form of late, it is a very tough task for Samtredia to go back with three points. Qarabag has made better signings, and in general, has a comparatively better squad. Moreover, the home team has been in better form than the away team. So, my prediction will be a comfortable home win for Qarabag, with a high possibility of 3+ goals scored.
MY PICK: Quarabag AH -1.5 (-106)
Additional Pick: Over 2.5 goals (-105)
PARTIZAN (SRB) vs. BUDUCNOST (MNE)
Three-way: 1: Partizan -526; X: +741 Draw; 2: Buducnost +2420
Spread -2: Partizan +100; Buducnost +100
Total +2.5: Over -137; Under +121
The club had a successful end to the last season, as they finished 1st in the Serbian Top flight, even after they had to face the deduction of 36 points, the second most in the league last season. They had the best defense in the league with just 22 goals conceded, while conceding an impressive 78 goals in 37 matches.
They have signed two new players for the season. Nemanja Miletic has joined to shore up the backline, while talented youngster Danilo Pantic has joined on a loan from Chelsea.
The Serbian team has taken this Champions League campaign very seriously as they have played 5 club friendlies in which they have recorded 3 wins and 2 losses with a 6:6 total goal differential.
Like Partizan, Buducnost also had a great finish in the league last season. They had the best attack in the league with 52 goals scored in 33 matches, while conceding only 28 goals. However, their league win wasn’t easy as they won only on matches won, as they were tied on points and goal difference with second placed FK Mladost.
They have been active in the transfer market, as they have already signed local youngsters Balsa Sekulic and Ilija Tucevic to strengthen the attack, while also adding defender Dominique Correia and keeper Milan Mijatovic to help shore up the backline.
Buducnost has played only two friendly matchups going into the Champions League qualification rounds. They have recorded 1 loss and 1 draw with a goal differential of 2:3.
Partizan (Srb) vs. Buducnost (Mne) – Match prediction:
With both the teams eager to continue from where they left off last season, we can expect a match where the teams won’t hold back. However, Partizan has a better squad and were much more authoritative when they went for the league title. So keeping these factors in mind, my expectations are +2.5 goals over, with a high possibility of both the teams scoring.
MY PICK: Over +2.5 goals (-137)
HIBERNIANS (MLT) vs. SALZBURG (AUT)
Three-way: 1: Hibernians +1567; X: +632 Draw; 2: Salzburg -476
Spread +2: Hibernians -104; Salzburg -104
Total +3: Over -137; Under +125
Hibernians capped off a truly dominant league campaign by winning the league title with a lead of 7 points off their second placed rivals Balzan. They were second best in both attack and defense in the league last campaign, with 64 goals scored, and 31 conceded, in 33 matches.
They have been steady and efficient in the transfer market so far, as they have signed defender Martin Kreuzriegler and midfielder Marco Sahanek, both on free transfer, in hopes of continuing their good form from last season.
Hibernians had to play the opening qualification round of the Champions League, where they faced the Estonian team Infonet Tallinn and won both game (1:0 and 2:0), thus making it into the next round of the Champions League.
Salzburg maintained their position of dominance at the top of the table in Austria last season, as they finished off the league campaign with a massive 18 points lead ahead of their nearest rivals to win the league. They were the best in both ends of the pitch, as they scored a massive 74 goals and conceded just 24 in 36 matches en route to the title.
They have been very intelligent in the transfer market, as they have already pocketed 8 million and 7 million Euros from the sale of Wanderson and Konrad Laimer, while spending just 1 million of it to sign the young defender Marin Pongracic from 1860 Munich. Joining him will be the PSG youngster Mahamadou Dembele, who was signed on a free transfer.
Salzburg was pretty busy during the offseason, having played a total of 5 friendly games prior to their first game in the Champions League. They have recorded 3 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw with a goal differntial of 16:6.
Hibernians (Mlt) vs. Salzburg (Aut)- Match Prediction:
Even though it is a home match for Hibernians, it is going to be a very difficult match for them. Salzburg is high on confidence, having made promising signings, and possessing comparatively better players, at least on paper. Salzburg is a much better opponent, but the home team should not let their guards that easily. Therefore, I expect a tough battle and not too many goals scored, which is why I am taking the under 3 goals.
MY PICK: Under +3 goals ( +125)
RIJEKA (CRO) vs. TNS (WAL)
Three-way: 1: Rijeka -1000; X: +1235 Draw; 2: TNS +5000
Spread -3: Rijeka +136; TNS -139
Total +3.5: Over +104; Under -116
Rijeka enters this first leg tie after a thrilling end to the season, where they won the league in the last match of the league campaign, which gave them a final two point lead over the second placed Dinamo Zagreb. They have been the best in attack and defense, as they had scored the highest number of goals 73, and conceded the least, just 23 goals, in 36 matches.
They have already earned 4.25 million Euros from the sale of midfielder Andrijasevic to Gent. They have used this money to buy Lazio defender Josip Elez, along with attacker Heber and midfielder Tomislav Gomelt.
Rijeka has succeeded to finally take down Dinamo Zagreb from the throne of the Croatian top league and now they are more than determined to make their mark in the Champions League as well. How seriously they are taking this competition best proves the fact that they have not suffered a defeat in 4 club friendlies (3W and 1D) in which they have scored 10 and allowed only 3 goals.
The New Saints are coming to this round on the back of an absolutely storming season in the Welsh Premier league. They won the league title with a massive 22 points lead ahead of Connoh’s Quay. They scored a whooping 80 goals while conceding just 17.
Both of their new signings have been signed on free transfers. Defender Blaine Hudson and former Swansea youngster Tom Holland have been brought in by the board to strengthen the team for the future.
TNS managed to pass the Champions League first qualifying round opponent Europa FC from Gibraltar with a sensational winner in the 104th minute of the extra time in the return fixture, after going 1:2 home loss in the first game and 2:1 win in the away game. Their Champions League campaign won’t get any easier as they face even tougher opponent on Tuesday night.
Rijeka (Cro) vs. TNS (Wal) – Match Prediction:
On paper, this match looks like one where Rijeka will almost definitely be grabbing all three points. They have made much better signings compared to their opponents. Moreover, this is a home match for the Croatian club, which makes a victory all the more easier. The total is set at 3.5 goals, and although I expect the home team to win this game, I am not sure that there will be more than 3 goals scored, so I am taking the under in this one.
MY PICK: Under +3.5 goals (-116)
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