Second qualifying round rematches of the most prestigious European soccer team competition, UEFA Champions League, will be played during the week and we’re all looking forward to find out the names of the squads that will get one step closer to the group stage of this competition.
Winners will be joined by the clubs like Ajax, CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos in the third qualifying round before the final play-off round that will give us the names of 32 teams that shall play in the group stage of the Champions League. Top teams are starting their seasons and finally, we all have the right to expect high-level soccer performances on the screen.
FC Astana (Kaz) vs. Spartaks (Lat)
Three-Way: 1: FC Astana -556; X: +700 Draw; Spartaks +2500
Spread -2: FC Astana -111; Spartaks +106
Total +2.5: Over -137; Under +122
In the first leg FC Astana team managed to pull out a crucial road win over the Latvian team, thanks to Patrick Twumasi who scored the only goal in the game in 73th minute. It’s still not the time to celebrate but this result puts the Kazakhstani team in a big advantage before the rematch. There have been known cases when the teams that recorded a road win in the first matchup got eliminated but it happens very rarely.
During the offseason, nine new players have arrived and six guys left the national champions, all on a free transfer basis. Most notable acquisition was midfielder Ivan Maevskiy who came from Russian ide Anzhi. On the other side, right-back Konstantin Engel left the team to sign for VfL Osnabruck. Backs Igor Shitov and Dmitri Shomko are unavailable for the rematch because of the red card suspensions.
The Latvian champions Spartaks Jurmala lost the first game at their home venue Sloka and now they face a very difficult assignment if they want to advance to the third qualifying round of the Champions League. To be fair, their opponent is a far stronger squad and anything besides Astana’s advancement to the next stage would be a big surprise. Nevertheless it would be nice not to exit the competition with no goals scored and I’m sure that the Latvian team players and fans have the same thing on their minds.
During the offseason, team was not very active in the transfer market as only three new players were signed, including striker Aziz Ibragimov who came from Machine Sazi team on a free transfer while only one player left the team (Rostyslav Rusyn – free agent). Polish manager Marek Zub has his entire roster available.
FC Astana (Kaz) vs. Spartaks (Lat) – Match Prediction:
Another win by the Kazakhstani champion is a big possibility and that’s the safe bet I would recommend in this clash. They are simply far stronger squad at the moment.
MY PICK: Astana -2 AH (-111)
Alashkert (Arm) vs. Bate Borisov (Blr)
Three-Way: 1: Alashkert +384; X: +262 Draw; 2: Bate -108
Spread +0.5: Alashkert +102; Bate Borisov -108
Total +2.5: Over +134; Under -139
The Armenian champion, Alashkert team still has a positive result against the opponent that was predicted to be a big favorite in this matchup as they managed to snatch a draw with one goal scored by each team at Borisov Arena in the first leg. Two goals scored by Bate’s Alexei Rios (one goal and one own goal) where enough to extend the excitement and raise hope of advancing to the next stage of the Champions League competition.
Three new players were signed during the offseason as including right-back Mladen Zeljkovic, Bosnian national who came from Radnik Bijeljina on a free transfer basis. Four players left the team and most noticeable departure was defensive midfielder Irakli Kvekveskiri who signed for the Ararat Moskau team, also on a free transfer basis. Manager Abraham Khashmanyan will be without of midfielder Artak Grigoryan who has a cheekbone fracture.
Thirteen times champions of Belarus, the Bate Borisov team has a very active result before the rematch at Alashkert Stadium on Tuesday. The draw at home (1:1) puts the team in a great disadvantage having in mind that they conceded a goal at home and even if the rematch game on the road ends with a goalless draw, the Bate team will be eliminated.
That is why they must play very aggressively in Alashkert and score at least one goal if they want advance to the next stage of the Champions League.
During the offseason five players got back from a loan spells and one new guy was signed (midfielder Stanislav Dragun from Russian side Orenburg) while only twenty five years old defender Milos Ostojic left the team as a free agent. Head coach Aleksandr Yermakovich will have entire roster available for Tuesday’s game.
Alashkert (Arm) vs. Bate Borisov (Blr) – Match Prediction:
The result in the first leg was a big surprise but I’m not convinced that the Armenian champion can stay undefeated in the two games against this opponent. That is why my bet here would go to the visiting team. Additionally, I expect the Belarus champion to tighten their back line and keep their net untouched.
MY PICK: Bate Borisov (-108)
Additional Pick: Both teams to score NO (-111)
Vardar (Mac) vs. Malmo FF (Swe)
Three-Way: 1: Vardar +324; X: +247 Draw; 2: Malmo +104
Spread +0.5: Vardar -112; Malmo FF +104
Total +2: Over +131; Under -147
The Macedonian champions Vardar Skopje team also managed to get a very good result as visitors against higher ranked opponent as they played 1:1 with Swedish champion Malmo FF in the first leg at the Swedbank Stadium.
Boban Nikolov sent the Macedonians in front with a nice goal in 63rd minute of the match before Franz Brorrson scored an equalizer in 75th minute. This result gives a solid advantage before the rematch on Tuesday but it’s still far from being wrapped up.
Two new players were signed during the offseason as including twenty two years old defender Visar Musliu who came from the national league rivals Renova while four guys left the squad, all on a free agent or free transfer basis. Boss Goce Sedloski has entire roster available for Tuesday.
The Swedish champions Malmo FF entered the second qualifying round of the Champions League with great expectations having in mind that getting Macedonian champions in the draw was presented as a mismatch but those assumptions quickly faded after the first leg in which they recorded a skinny 1:1 draw at home.
Malmo squad is packed with more quality than their opponents but they’re just not showing that on the field and if manager Magnus Pehrsson fails to find the winning combination, next stage might be in jeopardy.
During the offseason two new guys were signed, including midfielder Kingsley Sarfo who came from league rival IK Sirius on a transfer fee worth 1.45 Million Euros while left midfielder Tobias Sana left the team for Danish side, Aarhus GF on an undisclosed transfer fee. Defenders Felipe Carvalho (Achilles tendon rupture) and Rasmus Bengtsson (Meniscus) will not be in rotation for Tuesday.
Vardar (Mac) vs. Malmo FF (Swe) – Match Prediction:
I’m not sure that the first leg score was not just a fluke and I think that the Swedish side can advance to the next stage of the Champions League but a safer bet in my opinion would be over 2 goals in total.
MY PICK: Over 2 goals (+131)
Samtredia (Geo) vs. Qarabag (Aze)
Three-Way: 1: Samtredia +290; X: +276 Draw; 2: Qarabag +102
Spread +0.5: Samtredia -108; Qarabag -101
Total +2.5: Over -132; Under +120
The Georgian champion Samtredia’s debut in the UEFA Champions League didn’t go very well as team recorded a 5:0 loss on the road in the first leg. Their lack of experience was obvious as the first time national champions squad looked pretty lost on the field and couldn’t do anything right.
This level of competition is often proved to be very unforgiving for the newcomers and that was certainly the case here. The Azerbaijan champions is a better team but not that much better and I expect the Georgians to show some magic from the last season.
During the offseason, team signed four new players including two wingers from Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes and Mirandela (Inters Gui and Bacar Balde), while three veteran players left the team. Manager Giorgi Tsetsadze will have his entire roster available for Tuesday’s rematch.
The Azerbaijan champions Qarabag recorded the most dominant win in the first leg of the second qualifying round as they sent their opponents home with five goals in the sheet. Two goals by Dino Ndlovu and one each by Afran Ismayilov, Wilde Donald Guerrier and Michel were probably enough to secure the next stage. No team has ever been eliminated in the European team competition after a 5:0 win in the first leg.
During the offseason four players returned from loans while four new guys strengthened the roster including new goalkeeper Anton Kanibolotsky who came from Shakthat Donetsk and Wilde-Donald Guerrier who came from Alanyaspor on a free transfers. Five, mostly older veteran players left the team after the last season ended. Head coach Gurban Gurbanov doesn’t have any injury woes before the rematch.
Samtredia (Geo) vs. Qarabag (Aze) – Match Prediction:
The team that will advance to the next stage is already decided but this rematch smells like the game that could feature a big number of goals scored. That is why my safe bet here is over 2.5 goals in total.
MY PICK: Over 2.5 goals (-132)
Additional Pick: Both teams to score YES (-145)
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