Chelsea out for revenge as Champions League gets tasty
With three British teams in action on this week's second night of Champions League football, it promises to provide some tense, exciting, play featuring teams knowing that they need a win, and with William Hill - the Home of Betting, you can bet pre-match and in-play on a wide range of markets across all Champions League games.
After drawing at home to Juventus, Chelsea knew that it was important to pick up as many points as possible in their two consecutive away games, but after losing two weeks ago in Ukraine, they now sit second in the group, facing a must win match against Shakhtar.
That draw to the Old Lady was the first time Chelsea failed to win at home in the competition in six, and in their 88 European matches at Stamford Bridge, the Blues have lost only five, however having won only one in their last five Champions League matches (dating back to their semi final second leg), Chelsea may struggle to fire themselves to victory. Whilst not scoring in the reverse fixture in October, it was Armenian sensation Henrikh Mkhitaryan that ran the game. Averaging almost a goal a game this season, he is priced at 6/1 to net the first goal, 7/4 to score anytime.
Yet, Chelsea possess a constant attacking threat, and after dismantling Spurs at White Hart Lane immediately after their loss in Ukraine, Roberto di Matteo has reason to be confident heading into this game. Whilst his team looked strong at the Liberty Stadium for the first 80 minutes last Saturday, they succumbed to a late equaliser, and will bemoan two dropped points, but were without the domestically suspended John Terry and the injured Juan Mata.
The Spaniard, who is expected to make the squad for this game, has asked for his teammates to treat this game as though it were the final, showing he is all too aware of the fragile position Chelsea find themselves. If Mata is to influence the game (15/8 to score anytime), it may be in his support play for the wealth of Blues attackers. Oscar, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres have all looked dangerous in this competition, and will be out to secure a win early (7/2 Chelsea score within the first 15 minutes).
Whilst Chelsea lost the lead in their domestic league this past weekend, Shakhtar continue to dominate theirs, picking up 14 wins in 14 games, averaging 3 goals each game, and conceding only 6. I think, even at this stage of the season, Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu can already consider his team to have won the league. The Donetsk manager has a lot of experience for big games (he was the youngest captain at the 1970 FIFA World Cup), and will consider this trip to London as a huge occasion for his team, who have failed to progress as far as he would have liked in their previous Champions League campaigns.
With coverage of all three games on Sky Sports, Chelsea vs Shakhtar Donetsk can be found on Sky Sports 3, kicking-off at 19:45.
When Manchester United went behind 2-0 to Braga at Old Trafford, it would have been foolish for anyone to think that Sir Alex Ferguson didn't have a plan to rectify the situation. The Scot had been in that position before, and with little time remaining; we were barely surprised to see Javier Hernandez latch onto a great Tom Cleverly delivery to score the winner.
And now, off the back of a confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford, they travel to Braga knowing that victory in Portugal will all but confirm their progress to the knockout stages, which in itself will be an improvement on last year's shock early exit. Of course, Ferguson and his team will be all too aware of the talent that Braga possess, and will be able to use that early Braga performance in Manchester to their advantage.
Already missing Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic from the centre of defence, United face further injury concerns, as Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes failed to make the trip to the Iberian Peninsula, whilst dynamic Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa remains on the sideline. The return of Chris Smalling will go some way to helping United's health worries at the back, yet if United get out in front early on, it may be their attacking line that write the headlines on Thursday morning.
Of course, scoring twice at home to Braga, Hernandez may be in line to get the start again, and is 8/1 to grab another brace. However, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will also be in Ferguson's mind considering both are on a good run of form.
So, whilst Man Utd have a wealth of attacking options, it is hard to deny that, whatever option Ferguson decides is best, his team will provide a threat for 90 minutes. With Braga showing they are no stranger to a strong counter a couple of weeks back, over 3.5 goals in this game at 21/10 offers good value, whilst Man Utd to win both halves at 11/2 is worth a punt.
With coverage of all three games on Sky Sports, Braga vs Manchester United can be found on Sky Sports 4, kicking-off at 19:45.
At 1-0 up in Barcelona, Celtic looked in a great position to take some points away from the Camp Nou, but with seconds left in either half, the Catalans managed to get the job done, taking all three points, and almost sealing qualification to the knockout stages of the tournament.
And now, Neil Lennon and Celtic host the European giants at Celtic Park knowing that a win would provide one of the greatest scalps in Champions League history. The Bhoys sit 2nd in the group after a great away win in Moscow consolidated the initial point they got at home to Benfica, and whilst a win isn't the most realistic result, Celltic would relish a point at home to Barca, and that point could go a long way to securing further European football past Christmas.
If Lennon's side were to prove a shock, it may be on the back of English striker Gary Hooper, who for the Hoops, has often shown to be the difference up front, latching on to crosses and providing a lethal touch in front of goal. Hooper, who is the centre of William Hill's Anytime Wincast enhancement to 12/1, is at 2/1 to score against Barca, who continue to miss some key personnel at the back.
Without Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets, Tito Vilanova's side have struggled to contain the flow of goals against them, and although they have the magnificent ability to outscore almost every opponent, they will know that their defence is an issue that must be rectified, but will travel to Glasgow with only a handful of defenders fit, and are again likely to field Marc Bartra, the young full back who made his continental debut against Celtic at home.
Oh, and if Celtic were to manage to get ahead again, they still have to negotiate the game with Leo Messi, Andreas Iniesta and the host of attackers Barca boast. Messi, only 9 goals away from Gerd Muller's all time record for most goals in a calendar year, looks likely to terroise defenses for years to come, but is always a threat in this competition, yet it is influential Spaniard Iniesta who has been enhanced to 4/1 to score in a Barca win (from 10/3). After just scraping past 2.5 goals last time out, these sides are unlikely to struggle again, and at 5/4, over 3.5 is well worth a punt.
With coverage of all three games on Sky Sports, Celtic vs Barcelona can be found on Sky Sports 2, kicking-off at 19:45.